In China, I would frequently browse popular online forums, where I discovered that quite a few people yearn for an American life. They believe America is the best place in the world, everything American is good and everything America does is correct. However, when I arrived in America, I realized a lot of the things I’d heard were misled assumptions.
Assumption One: A Prosperous America
Through some people’s processed imaginations, America has become a wonderland where all that shines is gold. In reality, poverty is a major issue in the United States. Poor districts of no small scale are in every city. In downtown Washington D.C., beggars with paper cups frequent both sides of the streets. Buildings are old and in disrepair. The schools are in terrible condition; chaos, robbery and murder occur to no end but never appear in the news; and the police are lazy. To live there means you will forever live in the lowest level of society. Moreover, almost all the people in these conditions are colored, so you can’t deny that there is racial discrimination.
Assumption Two: America’s Freedom of the Press
This is the deepest misconception and the biggest topic of debate. Typical news reports may come in all colors and divulge any information they desire. However, mainstream media reports about national interests all target the outside world the same way. Two invisible hands are operating American media: one represents political interests, and one represents economic interests.
Assumption Three: American Politics
America’s political structure is like a large theatrical stage. All kinds of people excitedly wait for one politician to leave the stage and another to take over. As a result, some of us Chinese are drawn into it too, with an impression that American politics really are transparent and clean. This is actually not the case. First of all, if you are poor, you cannot go into politics. People who become governors are supported by prominent financial groups. Don’t even get me started on the presidential election. Besides, those who resign from politics find better jobs or become advisers with better salaries. These people depend entirely on their history with political circles. America also has some groups that mainly depend on reaping political wealth, which is publicized and legalized corruption.
Assumption Four: American Education Does Not Spread Propaganda
First, I won’t talk about private religious schools, where students are brainwashed in daily religious classes. Using public schools as an example, starting from elementary school, whether you are an American, a foreigner with a green card or an undocumented immigrant, you must face the American flag and pledge allegiance to it and to the United States of America, all for the American code of indivisibility and liberty under God. Besides this, American high schools have democracy programs and Advanced Placement democracy classes, for which there are college entrance exams!
No country is a utopia. There will always be things that don’t work in people’s favor. However, a lot of people are willing to believe anything they hear, such as tales that everything in America is good. The root cause is the century-old self-abased psychology in the hearts of some Chinese people. Ever since the economic reform, people have even believed that the moon is rounder in other countries. People frequently compare other people’s advantages to their own disadvantages, and the more they do so, the worse they feel about themselves. When they hear something bad about America, they denounce it as a lie, reacting with the attitude of a tiger whose backside no one dares to touch, and becoming even angrier than when people insult China. Furthermore, for several years, some of our media organizations have talked about how advanced the West is, especially America, and how we should learn from them, giving us the impression that the entire U.S. is shrouded in roses.