I just returned from Europe, having spent 3 weeks there. In all the time I was there I was only met with rudeness and insensitivity maybe once or twice. As soon as I arrive back in the USA, there are customs control officers yelling at people where to go, what to do, without any consideration for the long journey everyone has just made. This behavior continues all the way through re-checking baggage. More security yelling at people about where they are going and what line they need to be in. Proceeding to security screening, it’s just more of the same rudeness and insensitivity – take off your hat, belt, jacket, shoes, empty your pockets, etc… I was never once asked in Europe to remove my hat, jacket, shoes or empty my pockets at any airports. They handle it differently and with some discretion and courtesy. Some foreign nationals seem confused and scared at US customs&screening. It’s no wonder with that kind of bully treatment. I am a bit embarrassed that this is how we welcome people to America. Me, I’m used to it – I just had to be shocked back into it. Keep ’em scared, Keep ’em movin’, shout and bully people. What’s up with that anyway?

Are we that paranoid that we must be rude and insensitive to have secure borders? This New World could take a lesson from Old World manners to be sure. I don’t wan’t to diminish how 911 has impacted America, but does it mean we have to abandon civility to be safe? Personally, and as an American, I don’t appreciate being treated as a would-be criminal terrorist and pushed around just to enter this country. I can only imagine how foreign nationals feel to experience this for the first time. It must be unsettling. What happened to our great constitution and government – what message does it send to people who enter here with the promise of freedom and the great principles that America is built on?

My journey home only deteriorated further when I finally escaped the airports. I stopped at a gas station to air up a tire that was half empty/full (depending on your perspective). I asked for change for a dollar to use the air machine. “We have no quarters,” I was told. Politely, and with good Don Quixote humor, I asked the attendant if she personally had any quarters as I really needed some air. “No,” she replied and turned her back on me to tidy the shelves behind her. She must be very sure of the change she carries or just didn’t care. I suspect the later. I found a guy on the street out front and asked if he had quarters. He said he had too many and gladly gave me 4 for a dollar. I told him the gas station was in need of some if he wanted to cash in. He walked in that direction. I filled my tire and got out of there. I felt ridiculous, like Don Quixote riding from the the Inn after being knighted.

Stopped at a store on the way home for a few food items. “Paper or plastic,” the bag boy said with little enthusiasm. I payed the cashier and she said, “Have a nice day”. Hmm, it’s 10 o’clock at night! What does it mean at that hour? Yes, I was back in America… I miss the Old World already – the mannerisms, the hospitality, the genuine good nature, the congenial optimism. I am in the New World again – the misbehaved child of European civilization.

Don’t get me wrong, the French and American revolutions destroyed elitist Aristocracy, separation of class and Monarchical tyranny. That was a good thing. I am not lamenting that. Somewhere along the way these revolutions diverged in mannerism. The French and the Americans have a funny cultural pride. Both say the other is rude, but it’s a matter of perspective – and something subtle. Jefferson and Franklin extoled the virtue of America – in government, science, art, agriculture and the philosophy. America will always have Franklin and Jefferson. France will always have Voltaire and Rosseau and deeper history of such great thinkers.

What is the problem then? Why has Old World and New World diverged in manner? What has become of the people that make each society? Perhaps it is that Europe is the older adult, America the child – grown to early adulthood, but still misbehaving… Trying to prove itself. I am not here to make a lecture or pass judgment. Go to Europe and see for yourself… There is something in the Old World mannerisms that this New World could learn from. I am just throwing it out there for discussion. Anyone care to express some thoughts?

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