Another Ugly American

Image of Janis Powers
Blogger and world traveler Janis Powers Image / Twitter – Fair Use

Just when I thought it impossible to be surprised by anything I might possibly read at HuffPo along comes this inane and awkward article by Janis Powers. Generally I avoid the Huffington Post like the black plague where the absurd and idiotic masks as clumsy attempts at actual journalism. I read the Powers’ rant only because someone forwarded me the link.

For the benefit of those who may choose not to read the actual article, while touring New Zealand by rental car, Janis Powers elected to ignore the posted speed limits and was consequently stopped for speeding by the New Zealand police which she attributed to the mere misfortune of passing through a “speed trap.”

Her characterization of the event suggests that she resented being stopped from the get go because she obviously considers speeding to be such a minor, inconsequential violation that she shouldn’t have been subjected to such an inconvenience in the first place. She never takes any responsibility for intentionally ignoring the law. Evidently she feels she has the right to exceed the speed limit wherever and whenever she chooses.

What Powers really took umbrage at however was that the police required her to submit to a breathalyzer test because she was speeding. She admits that the officer explained to her that this was normal procedure with drivers stopped for speeding. She states that “as a visitor in any foreign country, I never expect my rights as an American to supersede those of the nation where I am traveling” but then goes into a rant about how being required to submit to a breathalyzer test because she was merely breaking the law by speeding violated all her constitutional rights.

Evidently simpleton Powers is unaware that her constitutional rights cease to be operative once she departs the friendly confines of the United States and all the U.S. legal theories she appeals to in the attempt to rationalize her actions and explain why she was right and the New Zealand police were wrong are completely without merit. She concludes by accusing the New Zealand police of using “entrapment to catch drunk drivers.”

To add insult to injury, Powers goes on to boast that she didn’t pay the fine for the speeding citation she received nor does she have any intention of doing so, smugly noting that the United States doesn’t “extradite our citizens back to foreign countries where they have violated the speed limit.” In Powers case, in my opinion it is most unfortunate that we do not. Such an irresponsible and feckless person as Janis Powers should not escape the consequences of intentional and immature behavior while visiting a foreign nation that brings discredit upon all Americans. Perhaps like the Chinese government is now doing, the United States should start penalizing its citizens for wanton, ill behavior while abroad.

Let’s face it, Americans traveling abroad already have a particularly bad reputation. Perhaps only the Chinese have a worse reputation as tourists. Americans are largely considered by the citizens of many other countries to be loud and obnoxious. Americans are known for whining, complaining, and crying about things, mostly about how things are so different (read inferior) in whatever country they happen to be visiting in comparison to how things are back in the good old U.S.A. Perhaps worst of all, Americans abroad tend to make themselves…well obvious. Hence the existence of The Ugly American stereotype.

There are reasons for the ubiquity of this stereotype. First of all, there are a lot of us, some 318.9 million of us according to U.S. Census Bureau 2014 figures. Our relatively extreme affluence in comparison to the bulk of the world’s population means that a lot of us have the opportunity to travel abroad. Sadly, many of us, like Janis Powers, can but probably shouldn’t.

Ugly American, as defined by Wikipedia, “is a pejorative term used to refer to perceptions of loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric behavior of American citizens mainly abroad, but also at home. Although the term is usually associated with or applied to travelers and tourists.” (Source: “Ugly American (pejorative).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 28 July 2015.)

It’s undeniable that some Americans simply can’t appreciate other countries for what they are and fail to alter their behavior to match that of the place they happen to be. Too many fail to grasp the concept that just because something is different in another country than back home doesn’t mean it is improper or inferior to the way things are or are done in America.

While I’m heartened by the fact that the baton of boorishness has been passed along to the Chinese, now considered in most quarters the world’s ugliest tourists, thanks to the longstanding Ugly American stereotype perpetuated by people like Janis Powers, Americans are still best advised to be careful of appearing to be loutish abroad.

What motivated me to post on this topic is that I’m not only embarrassed as an American by what was written in Powers’ cringeworthy article concerning events that occurred during her recent visit to New Zealand but as a Texan too since she claims to live in Texas. In her bio she mentions having graduated from Yale and having a master’s degree from the University of Michigan so I take some solace in the fact that she probably isn’t actually a Texan which involves a good deal more than just moving to the state from somewhere else. At least most Texans I know were raised a good bit better than the ill-mannered and dim-witted person Powers represents herself to be in her article, evidently was.

So thanks for the childish, absurd article Janis Powers and for giving America another black eye with your ridiculously inflated sense of entitlement and immature ways. I for one hope your next trip abroad takes you to a country less friendly and courteous than New Zealand so that you actually do get a taste of what it means to have your rights violated. I hear North Korea is lovely this time of year if you are looking for a fun holiday destination. If you had even a modicum of decency you would not only pay the fine for speeding but would write an apology to the people of New Zealand for your crass behavior. But having since seen that you have only defended yourself on your Facebook page to those who rightly were critical of your article and your wrong-headed opinions, I’m not holding my breath.