Ignorant American

Posted: February 11, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Right now I’m one of those Americans who doesn’t know what’s going on in another country. I know there are major events happening elsewhere in the world and I catch the occasional headline but I quickly move on, forget about it and concentrate on my own problems and location. Worst of all, I take a certain bit of pride in it, as if ignorance is something to be admired and applauded.

The country I know so little about at the time is the United States.

I’ve been to Cape Town four times now but this is the shortest trip, by seven days. I left on a Tuesday, arrived on a Wednesday, will leave the following Tuesday and arrive back in New York City on Wednesday. Five full days in Cape Town. Because of this quick turnaround I’ve had little time to sit around and read anything online beyond catching the major headlines. The only TV I’ve watched is some movies in a hotel room. I haven’t had a chance to really read up on my homeland and instead South Africa–at least for this week–has felt more like my home country. I read about a big blizzard approaching New York but I still haven’t seen what actually happened. Should probably check and see if there’s still a city to fly into.

This obliviousness can prove freeing. While our 24/7 news world means we know about more things than ever as they happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean we understand more things than ever. The constant coverage on TV and the Internet can distort reality, as everything becomes more prominent because we can read about it on a thousand sites every minute of the day. If we’re reading about bad news, it can add anxiety, as we become convinced whatever bad things are happening in the world are going to happen all the time, simply because we’re reading about them all the time. You can become a prisoner to your screen, unable to escape your own mind and unable to fight off the intruders that come in the form of nonstop opinions from everyone who’s online. To combat this, some people do choose to live in a type of information bubble, where bad information is kept out.

In South Africa I don’t really have to make a conscious decision to unplug. My schedule and the technology available to me takes care of everything. The killer cop roaming in California — or someplace else — reads like a terrifying story, yet I’ve only read the basic headlines and a few paragraphs about the tale. I’m oblivious to other tragedies. But it’s not just bad news I’ve cut myself off from. I haven’t read any celebrity news business news, and haven’t looked at any stories involving the Lakers. I saw they won a game, lost a game, but I don’t know what the latest soap opera is involving the purple and gold. The latest political fights in Washington are meaningless to me because I don’t even know what the combatants are arguing about, though I could certainly hazard an educated guess.

Instead I immerse myself in South Africa. We attended my brother-in-law’s wedding during this trip and we spent two days celebrating, enveloped in a world of family, friends, booze and roses. The only papers I’ve read are South African and the emotions I feel when reading the big stories of the day are similar to the ones I feel when reading the big stories of the day back in America. A brutal gang rape that resulted in a young woman’s death dominated headlines here and when reading about it I feel the same outrage shared by those who spend 365 days a year in this amazing country instead of just seven. A major political story features the potential ouster of a high-ranking minister, caught up in an old story of sex and money. I knew nothing about the story until I landed in Cape Town but having read about it for a few days it feels as familiar as any States-side scandal, probably because the details are the same, even if the names are different.

As always, I find myself now caring about cricket and rugby results, though I still pass over the soccer scores.

The only time America really enters my thoughts is when I get to talk about it with (fellow?) South Africans. People love asking about New York City, and I love answering questions about New York City. It’s during those times — when I’m talking about the subway or our apartment or the craziness of the city or even the Super Bowl — that I do miss the U.S. But for one week at least, not even those moments are enough to change the fact I’m happy calling my adopted land home — while ignoring life back home.

  1. […] SOUTH AFRICA I took another trip to Cape Town in February, although that one was only for a week. I learned what it was like to have no idea what was going on in the United States. Then I went to my brother-in-law’s wedding on the beach and took some […]

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