Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ugly Americans

The term Ugly American has nothing to do with how rude Americans are when they go abroad, I've decided. It may have first originated as a book title and then later became a film starring Brando, it might be appropriately used to describe John McEnroe or Bode Miller's behaviors, or even used because of American refusal to adopt the metric system. These things are most certainly ugly and deal directly with Americans, but this is not the real reason for the phrase. It's nothing to do with Americans being rude, expecting everyone world wide to speak English, to complaining about food and customs, being ignorant and un-accepting of the ways of other cultures in which we are guests- nope, the term Ugly American just had to be coined because of Passport Pictures. That's it! Passport pictures are the true meaning of Ugly American.

Since my time in Pittsburgh with AmericaninIreland Sam, he has urged me to get a passport, even at his expense so I can come visit his adopted home- and visit as soon as possible I might add. So, I have gone through the Passport application process this week and just now await for mine to come in the mail- which seems to be rather speedy right now, taking only 2-3 weeks if there's no trouble, but the applicant should allow 8 weeks. And 2 weeks seems to be true, according to the US State Department web site, and my local court house clerk.

But passport pictures are very very ugly. We are not allowed to smile. The picture must clearly show eyes and facial features. The background must be white. The photo must be 2x2, head shot. We must look miserable in these pictures, unhappy, even angry or put out. I think my picture is terrible! I went to my local Walgreens to have the picture taken and when she told me to NOT smile I couldn't stop. We attempted taking the picture several times, before one was generated where I looked miserable and unhappy enough to declare it a "perfect passport pictures!"

Why should American looks miserable or even criminal in these pictures? Mine is most certainly no better than a mug shot. And I don't want to spend any time in a European prison, thank you very much? Why instigate such thoughts into the subconscious of the customs agents- they see these pictures where we look like a gang of thieves, then no wonder we are so mistrusted and thought of as ugly!

Now I don't know about you, but at the thought of traveling abroad makes me smile and jump up and down. I canNOT wait. I'm excited beyond belief and control. I'm happy as a lark- so wouldn't it be a nicer show of international friendship if we all were smiling at the thought of traveling abroad? Wouldn't a smile traverse all ill will? Turn that frown upside down for freedom?

Or am I just smiling because of Sam?

Your Smiling girl,

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