In Defense of Rudeness

  • Share
  • Read Later
This just in: a lot of people think Americans are rude, obnoxious and badly behaved. According to a new study by the research group Public Agenda, 79 percent of us find our compatriots lacking in basic manners. Nearly 90 percent say they've at times encountered rude behavior. And 61 percent say that the problem has become worse in recent years.

Super. I say this is a very, very good thing. It's time for Americans to feel the joy that is rude.

Rudeness is something Americans have taken far too long to master. For two centuries we've been considered a stupidly cheerful nation, the land of opportunity, the folks who always reside on the sunny side of the street. It makes sense that niceness would be held in high regard here. After all, millions of immigrants came because they didn't like their treatment at home. But now I think it may be time for us to reevaluate our place in the world.

Why do we have to be polite? Who's going to make us? It's one thing to be pleasant, even friendly, to people we actually know and care about, but what about the folks who don't deserve anything less than a quick kick in the shin? Do I have to be polite to the guy who lives in the apartment next to me (thin walls, people!) and plays his trombone at 4 A.M.? Do I have to make nice with the woman whose dog inevitably leaves a little gift just outside the door of my building? No, I say. And if my refusal to grin and bear it makes me a bad person, so be it. But if this study is to be believed, I suspect it actually just makes me an all-American kind of gal.

It's not as if the rest of the world is so set on being pleasant. Take France. The French are self-satisfied in a way that makes most Americans uncomfortable. They love everything about themselves: their cheese, their art, their little cars. They don't give a flying figue what anyone else thinks of them, and they're perfectly happy to tell all of us precisely what they think of us. Sure, they're rude, but they're comfortable with their rudeness. They embrace it. They cherish it. It's part of their identity.

Or take the English, a special breed at once almost totally irrelevant and yet utterly convinced of their own superiority to the rest of the world. This allows them to treat the rest of the world's inhabitants shabbily without ever once acknowledging that we exist.

There are more examples — more, perhaps than anyone wants to admit — of countries whose rudeness is not shut away in a dark cellar but brought to light and celebrated as an attribute. The Germans? So rude that they even find themselves unbearable, hence all those holidays that involve drinking too much beer. The Swiss? Rude in a unique hodgepodge sort of way, combining the worst characteristics of the Germans and the French. If you haven't been told off by a grouchy Swiss chocolate maker, you haven't lived. Fantastic!

These countries don't suffer for being rude — they are celebrated for it, and their economies and tourist industries are booming. So why not learn from our foreign friends and make our own special brand of rudeness part of the "American experience?" It could be a real windfall. We can export t-shirts emblazoned with "America Says You're An Idiot!" decals. Or mugs that burp when you finish your drink. Or those foam fingers with one particular digit extended. At the very least we know they'd sell awfully well in France.