IN my youth growing up in Limerick I was led to believe, as were most of the young men and women of Ireland at that time, that most Americans were lazy, and because they were so lazy they had to wear Hawaiian shirts to cover their bulging waistlines.
When I finished school, I became a bartender at the Anner Hotel in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. From time to time a tourist bus filled with Americans would pull into the hotel parking lot, and out of these coaches would emerge the worst dressed people that you could ever imagine seeing.
It seemed to me then that Americans had either no taste for style, or they simply were just too rich to care. Of course, back then I was also of the idiotic assumption that there was no such thing as a poor American.
Water was all that these American tourists seemed to care to drink. Was this because they were too cheap to order a real drink? (we all certainly thought so).
We nonetheless filled their glasses with iceless water (straight from the faucet), and we painfully listened to them complain with disdain about the fact that we had no ice to offer them. But of course we did have ice to offer them, but ice was only for paying customers.
For as long as I can recall I had wanted to come to America, but I must admit that my primary reasons back then for wanting to be here in the land of dreams was solely to make money, get rich and then return to Ireland with all that money and buy myself a simple little mountain-side cottage.
A place where I would hopefully live out the rest of my life in peaceful bliss. There was a Lassie dog thrown into the mix somewhere there too.
Now that I have lived in New York for just over 20 years, I sometimes feel both ashamed and embarrassed by how small my thinking was before travel broadened my mind.
America is a much different place than what I had perceived it to be (childish thinking), and American people are just like any other race of people with their mixture of personalities and their individual ideals, but all of them trying in their own best way to carve out a decent life for themselves.
Today, I consider myself to be just as American as my two sons who have grown up as proud Americans, and if some foreign figure attempts in any shape or form to either demean or insult the very fabric of Americanism, then I too take deep offense to such rhetoric. America is my home, and a home that I would gladly give up my life to protect.
Travel is a great educator, and I believe that more Americans should spend at least one year of their life traveling abroad. Most Americans are a very proud people and they love their country with all of their heart.
But most Americans are also guilty of being small-minded, especially when it comes to the cultures and ways of their world neighbors.
If Americans want the world to better understand them, then I suggest that Americans do a better job of understanding the world around them.
In this time of fragile world borders, it's not good for any of us to be belligerent in our way of thinking and foolishly believing that we are better than our neighbors. We can all learn to change together.
Brooklyn, New York