Thursday, September 30, 2010

The U.S. in Brazil

Traveling outside the United States for the first time I expected everyone I met to be intimately familiar with U.S. current affairs and politics and to immediately quiz me about these subjects and share their opinions on these topics as soon as they learned I was from the US. Being a naive American this did not, of course, happen at all. By no means was it only an effect of social class either. From our well educated instructors and my college educated host family to the kids in the favela and random people we conversed with on the street, the fact that we were American was taken in stride as if we announced our favorite flavor of ice cream. It was no more interesting than any other of the introductory facts people collect upon meeting (name, age, profession, etc). Yet we had not totally escaped the influence of American culture. The McDonald's in Centro and Botafogo shopping had lines longer than other restaurants around them and people sported American brands like Hollister and America Eagle on a day to day basis. Antonio, one of my professors at BridgeBrazil, explained that Brazilians were enamored with American pop culture but wary of the military might that the US was known to throw around. As Brazil is a land rich in natural resources there is some fear that the US will one day decided that they have a right to the clean water, wood, and other goods in Brazil and simply occupy the country or take these things by force. Not being a military strategist I have no idea if this is actually feasible but I can imagine such thought among the Brazilian population do not bode well for US/American relations. In a time when the world is so globally connected it makes the most sense for the United States to forge friendships more frequently than it makes enemies. While ideally every nation would live in perfect harmony with one another we must be realistic about which countries we take on as allies. The especially powerful Brazil as well as our other South American neighbors should be a priority as the nearest source of ideas and resources and possibly threats. Positive, educated relations between countries should always be a priority and I hope to help foster this relationship with an understanding of language and culture and a desire to bring countries together.