Yesterday I had chai with Doctor and Auntie. They had some friends visiting, a man and his grown daughter. This man had lived in the states for several years, studying and working. Not to generalize, but a lot of South Asians are knowledge seekers, and he was typical in that regard. He was very intelligent, and told me all about Europe and the foundation of different languages. He even told some American history, and if you know me at all, you know I love history. So he's telling me things that your average American 6th grader would know, like that New England was the early colony of the British and the original US flag had 13 stars representing the 13 states. I was so impressed that he knew so much about a country that wasn't even his that I nodded along happily, encouraging him. Then he said, "Of course, now there are 52 stars because there are 52 states." My nodding stopped. Since both he and Doctor are elders, they are to be highly respected in this culture, so I didn't correct him. But Doctor looked at me and asked, "Is he right?" and I said hesitantly, "Actually, there are only 50 states..." and this man shook his head and said, "No I am positive there are 52 states. Hawaii was the 51st, and Puerto Rico was the 52nd." I felt like I was talking to Joey on Friends when they were playing that name-all-the-states game and he was convinced there were 56 states, South Oregon being among them. Anyway, back to the scene at Doctor's house. After some pressing from Doctor I had to say that no, Puerto Rico is not a state. I did say that Hawaii was the last state, so then that got us talking about Alaska. They both told me they remembered Alaska becoming a state long before the 1940s. (not true, but I didn't correct them because they didn't ask) I just found it humorous that they were so arrogant about their knowledge of America.
However I think it's pretty cool that they knew so much. I can name maybe 15 of the 28 states here in this country that I live in. Maybe. And I just now had to google how many states there are total. :) If you were to ask me about their history, or which one became a state last, forget it. So considering a few extremely minor details, their knowledge, if not their ability to concede to an American's firsthand knowledge, is pretty impressive.
And that makes me think of the arrogance we have in the states about other countries. How many times have you heard this statement: "Well, if they would just eat the cows, they wouldn't starve." Even I've said this growing up! Religion views notwithstanding, a cow provides so much more nutrition left alive than killed for the meat. And besides, knowing that cows eat this here, would you want to eat their meat anyway?
I didn't type that to criticize America; on the contrary, I wrote it so that this wouldn't seem as if I'm making fun of Doctor and his friend. Even though they, and the countless other South Asians, believe that they know more about America than I do, we ourselves have lots to learn about other cultures as well.