The “Ugly American” Keeps Getting Uglier
Stop me if you've heard this one; two American women in their early twenties walk into a two-thousand year-old Roman Colosseum. One says to the other, “Hey, wouldn't it be fun to tear up this old place and then take a selfie to commemorate our senseless desecration of one of the most iconic places on the planet?” Ha-ha-ha! Hilarious, right?
The two micro-brained miscreants were part of a tour group. But you know how boring those generic old tour groups are. So the pair decided to personalize their experience a little by slipping away and using a coin to carve their initials into walls erected by emperors two millennia ago that have withstood the ravages of time as well as attacks by hordes of the folks who literally defined what it was to be a Vandal. And then the pair of fools went the original sackers of Rome one better and proudly photographed themselves with their vandalism. Doesn't it just warm your heart that such idioti cazzo walk among us? The “Ugly American” keeps getting uglier.
Now before you go off on me for dissing these darling nieces of their Uncle Sam, let me acknowledge that they are far from the only ones to have done something selfishly senseless, ignorant, infantile, puerile, moronic, and numerous other pejorative adjectives on foreign soil. A Russian touron – that's a portmanteau of “tourist” and “moron” in case you were wondering – did something similar in the same place a few months ago as did an Australian father and son team of mindless vandals. Chinese officials are in a state of perpetual embarrassment over the conduct of their citizens abroad and Egyptian authorities are all atwitter over some Russian tourons making a porn flick amongst the Pyramids. So its not just an American thing. But as an American, it hurts more to see it because it so perfectly reinforces a stereotype that most other cultures already have of us. I know what these two cretins did is not on a scale with the wholesale destruction of historic and archaeological treasures being carried out in parts of the Middle East these days, but just because they used a coin instead of a sledgehammer does not make them less culpable for their blatant violation.
I don't know. I guess there's just something in the human psyche that compels people of a certain sort to immortalize themselves in this manner, whether it be by carving their initials in a tree trunk or by scrawling “Kilroy was here” on every stationary surface they encounter. However, just because I can rationalize it doesn't imply that I condone it. It's vandalism, pure and simple, and vandalism is vandalism, defined as “willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property.” And it's not “cute” or “silly” or “just harmless fun.” It's a disgusting criminal activity. And it's expensive. I recently read that the annual cost of cleaning up graffiti – the most basic form of vandalism – in the United States is around twenty-five billion dollars. But it's not just the money.
I was visiting the site of a historic cabin in the mountains of East Tennessee when I came across a woman nearly in tears with anger. When I asked what was wrong, she replied bitterly, “Look what they've done to it. This was my grandfather's home. He built it with his own hands. And look what these f***ing idiots have done to it.” The walls were covered with the names and initials of savagely ignorant people who felt compelled to preserve themselves for posterity. Vandals in the truest sense.
I was visiting Independence Rock in Wyoming. This huge granite monolith, a landmark for travelers along the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails, has been called “the Register of the Desert” because many of the emigrants marked their passage by carving names and messages in the face of the rock. Just goes to show, I suppose, that vandalism has been around for a long time. But worse by far are the vandals who continue to vandalize the historic site by adding their self-important scribblings to those left by the pioneers of long ago. In fact, the National Park Service says modern graffiti actually threatens to overwhelm the rock's historic signatures. But I guess as long as you get to carve “Billy and Betty were here” and take a picture of it, that's all that matters, because, after all, it is all about you.
When the Russian reprobate committed his reprehensible act of hooliganism in Rome, he was given a four month suspended sentence and a hefty fine. No word yet on what penalties the California girls may have to face. But we can all feel a little better about the whole thing because the girls now say they have learned the lesson of a lifetime. They didn't realize what they were doing was such a big deal until shocked tourists who possessed basic common sense and common decency pointed them out to security and they were met by Roman police who proceeded to charge them with “aggravated damage on a building of historical and artistic interest.” After which I'm sure they were photographed again and given another opportunity to practice their signatures.
I hear they're headed to the Louvre next. I mean like really, wouldn't that stuffy old painting of the woman with a goofy grin look positively outrageous with a mustache?
In the words of the immortal Forrest Gump, "stupid is as stupid does."