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American Sarcasm and Resentment

I was born in the USA. I lived there till I was about 42. Since then I haven't spent much time there. But those 42 years were emotionally toxic for me. My family might have been worse than average, emotionally speaking, or it might have been better than average. I don't really know. But I would say that either way, the average family in the USA is emotionally dysfunctional.

What I want to write about though, is not the average family in the USA. Instead I want to write about my own personal experience. I titled this "American Sarcasm and Resentment" because I learned to be sarcastic and resentful in the USA and I think a lot of what I am writing about applies to many American families and many Americans. No doubt there is also a lot of similar sarcasm and resentment in other countries.

Here are two small stories from my life.

From my Journal in 2005

Last night I was walking with my partner Laura. She was walking more slowly than I wanted to. This happens a lot. I thought to myself, "Can you walk any fucking slower?" lol

I can laugh about it now. And I can see that it would not have been a very helpful thing to say. Obviously, my thoughts were a product of sarcasm and resentment. Resentment can sometimes be helpful, when used in a productive way, but I can't really see how sarcasm ever is. It is deliberately being hurtful.

This reminds me of the day Laura asked me if she knew were her shoes where. I said, "I don't know, it's not my day to watch them." She gave me a surprised, confused look. She didn't understand. And it wasn't because of my Spanish. I explained to her that this is the kind of thing that I learned when I was young. I explained to her that this was sarcasm and resentment. I explained that when someone is tired of something happening again and again, they say something sarcastic like this in the USA and probably other countries.

All too quickly she learned from this little lesson. Later when I asked her where something was she said, "I don't know, it's not my day to watch it." We laughed but it's really not very funny. Fortunately she has never said that again and neither have I.

I feel pain now from all the self-destructive and relationship destroying things I learned when I was young. I am continually becoming more aware of them and trying to unlearn them and re-learn new, healthier ways of managing my emotions.

While my experiences are personal and it is possible that they are not representative of life in the USA, I would say they are all too typical. Look at the success of the TV show, the Simpsons, for example. The show is not only popular in the USA, but in many countries around the world. Here in South America it is so popular that there is a Spanish version of it. When something is not very popular, there are just sub-titles in Spanish. But for the Simpsons, it has all been dubbed with Spanish.

Last night Laura said to me, "Look at how much concentration that little boy has when he watches the TV set." So I looked. And I saw that he was watching the Simpsons. I said to her, "I feel sad to see that he is learning American sarcasm as he watches it so intently." She understood, but only a little, since she hasn't lived in the USA and doesn't know how much of a problem sarcasm and resentment is.

I think it is fair to say that in South America the people are more open with their feelings. They are less likely to keep things guarded away. Perhaps this helps explain why there is less sarcasm. I'm not sure, but it would make sense.

Anyhow, the USA is a land of what I call emotional pollution. The movies and television shows from the USA are watched around the world, so the emotional pollution is being spread around as well.

It took me a very long time to start to learn about things like sarcasm and resentment. One of the first things I remember reading about sarcasm was that it was "anger in disguise," or we could say it is resentment in disguise. There is a lot to learn about resentment and sarcasm. A lot we could be teaching. This reminds me of the difference between emotional intelligence, emotional knowledge and emotional skill. It also reminds me of something I heard about related to awareness and consciousness. It was something like this:

First we are unconsciously incompetent. Then as our awareness increases we become consciously incompetent. The next step is consciously competent and finally unconsciously competent. In other words, we do healthy things without having to think about them before doing them.

I am probably at all levels at different times. Last night when we were walking I'd say I started out a the unconsciously incompetent level. My mind came up with the "Can you walk any f*ing slower?" quickly, without planning. Then I quickly shifted to the consciously competent level.

I feel good about what I did next. I realized that it wasn't iimportant if we arrived where we were going 1 or 2 minutes earlier or later. So instead of either trying to get Laura to walk faster, or feeling judgmental, critical and resentufl about it, I simply stopped and gave her a big hug. She smiled and we kept walking with our arms wrapped around each other.

These are small changes I would like to see in the world. As Gandhi said, "Be the change that you want to see." I am trying to do that. Little by little. But to be honest I also just write about things sometimes and don't actually do them!

S. Hein
Salta, Argentina
March 8, 2006


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