In Which I Deconstruct a Listicle

American flags covering the national mall, from here.
American flags covering the national mall, from here.

I saw this listicle on Thought Catalog yesterday called 36 Depressingly Unfortunate Signs That You’re An American. (For those not in the know, Thought Catalog is a highly popular website with my age group – the late teens and twenty-somethings of the United States. If you haven’t heard of it, I’m not trying to make you feel bad. In fact, people who haven’t heard of it are probably smarter than seventy-five percent of Thought Catalog readers.)

This article annoyed me. Being that it wasn’t tagged satire, I’m assuming it was not meant to be satire. (Even if it was satire, it was not very well-done satire.) I am sure I’m not the only person who didn’t interpret it as satire. The worst thing about the whole article is non-Americans will read it and have it as their only impression of America, and think, “Wow, America and Americans suck.” So, I’ve decided to write a rebuttal, even though I don’t have nearly the readership Thought Catalog has on this blog. Maybe I can convince some non-Americans (and young, leftist, self-hating Americans) that this article is, quite frankly, rather stupid.

1. You know more items on the McDonald’s dollar menu than you do state capitals.

Um, no. I cannot remember the last time I ate at McDonald’s. I think it was in middle school, when my class was on a road trip at the end of the year. Believe it or not, there are lots of Americans that rarely, if ever, set foot in McDonald’s.

2. The last piece of literature you read was either The Great Gatsby back in high school or one of The Hunger Games books.

Please. I read a book a week, on average. I just finished Buying In by Laura Hemphill and am working on The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene.

3. You think it’s your god-given right to have a gun but not affordable healthcare.

No, I think it’s my legal right to have a gun. (I don’t have one, nor do most of my friends. This seems to be a common misconception among non-Americans, that we Americans each own five guns or something like that.) And my healthcare actually is quite good and affordable.

4. You think “socialism” is an evil word despite having no idea what it actually is.

Seriously? I’m a scholar of the Soviet Union, so yes, as a matter of fact, I am quite aware of what socialism is.

5. You’re oblivious to the fact that socialism works in other countries.

The only country in which socialism “works” (and I use that word dubiously) is Norway. Why? In a nutshell, the Norwegians never have to worry about running out of other people’s money to spend because they are so awash in oil. So yes, with huge amounts of money coming in, socialism can “work”. But in other countries, thievery would be a better description of their socialist systems – stealing hard-working people’s money and giving it away.

6. You live in crippling fear you’ll acquire a medical condition your insurance doesn’t cover.

No, I live in crippling fear that someday, when I’m older, I’ll develop a very serious (but possible curable) condition that I will not be able to get treatment for because I’ll be put on some stupid waiting list and will therefore have to seek treatment outside this country. (To be clear, the crippling fear here comes from not being able to get timely treatment at home, where it would be more convenient, or not being able to afford to travel abroad for treatment, not the actual traveling abroad to get treatment.)

7. When an athlete sexually assaults someone, you expect them to go without punishment because that’s just the norm here.

No comment, because I literally know nothing about sports.

8. You know somebody who is against abortion yet believes the underprivileged youth enabled by the lack of abortions should “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and don’t deserve any help.

I’m not sure what to say to this. I don’t discuss “the a-word” with anyone (because I am so, so tired of hearing politicians screech about it). I don’t even know what “underprivileged youth enabled by the lack of abortions” even means, so I cannot really respond.

9. You know the last 10 American Idol winners but not the last 10 armed conflicts the United States has been involved in.

I’ve watched American Idol once in my life, when a girl I babysat wanted to watch. I barely even know what the show is about, so no, I cannot name the last ten winners. I am well-aware of what the last ten armed conflicts the US has been involved in, though.

10. You believe Europe still “owes” the United States for saving it in WWII (even though it happened 70 years ago and you didn’t serve in the war).

“Owe” is the wrong word here. But the US did pay an incredible amount of money to help rebuild the continent after the war (Marshall Plan, anyone?), which was very nice of us and should be recognized.

11. You forgot that WWII started in 1939 and not 1941.

See, I don’t get this one. In school, it was hammered into my head for years (starting in elementary school!) that World War II began on September 1, 1939. The first time I encountered the idea that the war started in 1941 was when I began studying Russian. (Russians often date the war’s start from the date they began to fight the Nazis, which was in 1941.)

12. You believe America was chiefly responsible for beating Nazi Germany and not the Soviet Union.

It was a joint effort. The Soviet Union fought bravely in the east and the United States fought bravely in the west.

13. You either ignore or are ignorant of France’s contributions to the birth of the United States (hint: The U.S. couldn’t have done it without them).

The French didn’t help the US because they liked us; they did it because it would weaken their enemy, the British Empire. (And yes, I was aware of this fact.)

14. You learn about a cure for a medical ailment you have only to find out no insurance companies in the United States cover it yet it’s totally free in Europe.

It’s free in Europe because we subsidize medications over there. Of course, companies cannot afford to give things away for free, so we Americans have to pay extra to cover the cost of giving “free” stuff to Europe.

15. You’ve gone bankrupt from medical bills.

No. Just no.

16. You’re middle class and believe that the working class are your true enemy, not the super-rich.

My true enemies are people who are stupid enough to write articles like this one I’m rebutting.

17. You prefer vapid Internet lists to proper articles.

…Says the man who wrote a vapid internet list? Idiot internet writer, thy name is hypocrite.

18. You know more NFL quarterbacks than presidents.

See item 7.

19. You can’t name any presidents aside from Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Kennedy, and everyone from Carter through Obama.

History major here. I know the presidents like the back of my hand!

20. You think that buying a $2 “support our troops” bumper sticker from a gas station constitutes supporting the troops.

Again, I have no idea what this really means, so I cannot comment.

21. You legitimately believe that other countries hate us “because we’re free.”

Different countries hate us for different reasons. That is not a very hard concept to grasp.

22. You own more than one piece of american [sic] flag paraphernalia.

I have two flag pins. I guess that counts? I’m proud of my flag pins, though.

23. You’ve un-ironically used the term “freedom fries” to refer to french fries.

Note to any non-Americans reading this: no one, and I mean no one, actually calls French fries freedom fries. I have lived here my entire life and no one has called them that, at least not un-ironically. I’ve heard people say “freedom fries” as a joke, but that’s it.

24. You know more celebrities than you do foreign countries.

I don’t pay attention to celebrities and hate most celebrity gossip, so no.

25. You’re more familiar with Jennifer Lawrence GIFs than you are with the capitals of foreign countries.

I’ve never seen a Jennifer Lawrence GIF and I’m not about to start. I’m also willing to be that the sanctimonious writer of this piece does not know what the capitals of Latvia, Lithuania, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, or Azerbaijan are. (I tried to pick the most random obscure countries I could think of. The capitals of those countries are Riga, Vilnus, Tashkent, Astana, Minsk, Tbilisi, Yerevan, and Baku, respectively. And no, I didn’t have to look any of them up, except for Armenia because I didn’t know how to spell it in English.)

26. Your tax dollars have gone towards bailing out people who have more money than you will make in 20 lifetimes.

Weren’t those bailouts supported by the liberal politicians, i.e. those that the Thought Catalog crowd voted for?

27. You can’t fill in more than North America and a handful of European countries on a blank world map.

I’m bad at geography (I had to study an inordinate amount to pass the class in middle school – I’ve always been better with words than images) but I can fill in a lot of world map.

28. You think that trivial social justice issues like privilege shaming are more important than the abhorrent conditions of workers who mine rare earth metals in other countries.

I’m against all those stupid “social justice” blogs on Tumblr, so I don’t think this applies…

29. You think that Africa is just deserts, poverty, and roving bands of warrior children.

Well, isn’t it? I’m joking, I’m joking. You can’t deny it’s a continent with a high percentage of people in poverty and corrupt politicians who keep these people oppressed.

30. You think that every country that ends in “stan” is in the Middle East.

Duh, every Soviet scholar worth her salt knows that many countries with the “-stan” ending are in Central Asia (and some are a part of Russia, like Tatarstan, which is a federal subject).

31. You think that the demonyms “Mexican” and “Spanish” are appropriate to use for every person who comes from a South or Central American country

I feel like a broken record here. I know that a lot of countries in South America exist.

32. You use the terms “Indian,” “Muslim,” and “Arab” interchangeably.

Seriously? I know that “Indian” is a nationality, “Muslim” refers to adherents of a religion, and “Arab” is a broad ethnic group.

33. You were conned into going into debt for a piece of paper with the promise that it would get you a job only to have the same people who made this promise turn around and chastise you for going into debt for a piece of paper.

This is actually a fair point, to an extent. However, I’m not going to feel sorry for some “gender studies” major who can’t find a job due to her useless major.

34. You’ve lined up for a “door buster” Black Friday sale.

I don’t shop on Black Friday so I don’t even know what this means.

35. You’ve seen “Go back to your own country” used to refute any and all criticism against the United States.

I have seen this. Believe it or not, it can (but not always is) a valid point. If some British person moves here and criticizes the United States and hates it, isn’t the logical conclusion that this person should move back to Britain?

36. You have unprecedented access to information and art, but can’t think of anything to do besides read and write this kind of whiny crap.

Point taken. It’s like roadkill, though: once you start reading, you can’t look away, no matter how much you want to.

If you have made it to the end, I first must applaud your patience and willingness to put up with snark. Ultimately, my point is this: I cannot understand why so many young, liberal-minded people are so willing to criticize the United States, but not other countries. Should we not all be held to the same standards?

Yes, I realize the final point sort of implies that this article could be taken as satirical. It’s not very good satire, though. And I had way too much fun writing this rebuttal not to post it.

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2 thoughts on “In Which I Deconstruct a Listicle

  1. Jeez, reading this, you’d think think some Americans are the most self-loathing people on earth! But I think some of it is true to a disturbingly large number of people… I mean, just look at the amount of people writing dumb and nasty comments on youtube and twitter! I’ve actually gone to lengths to block these–there’s a great app that turns all comments on popular websites into cat photos. Just because some people are making the most noise, doesn’t mean they represent the majority. So I think I’m not losing out much by not reading/listening to such opinions.

    I’m also working my way through 48 Laws, but I intend to do a pretty deep reading of it and apply them to Russian political figures. What do you think of it so far?

    1. The young generation, i.e. my generation, are actually pretty self-loathing (though they don’t seem to realize it), which actually explains a lot about them psychologically, now that I think about it. 🙂

      That app sounds like a great idea. I love cat photos. Honestly, I don’t bother reading the comments on most websites. It’s usually a waste of time…

      I’m loving the 48 Laws. It’s very intense reading (I can’t read a lot of it at once, which is unusual for me) but I love it. I can definitely see how it can apply to Russian political figures. I’ve actually used some of the info in there myself.

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