Claude Khalife: The danger of ‘Merica

Cloyd Rivers is a lanky, mulleted white man with a love for guns and beer. With more than 600,000 Twitter followers, Rivers rivals the popularity of people like François Hollande and Wolf Blitzer.

Employing what can only be described as an “Americentric” point of view, Rivers uses his 140 characters to comment on general topics of interest to the nation’s youth: the Olympics, our frigid weather, “white girl problems.” Almost every one of his tweets either begins or ends with the word “’Merica.”

Cloyd Rivers is not a real person. Yet in a way, this online avatar has become some sort of twisted Uncle Sam, an ill-dressed beacon inviting readers to partake in a warped vision of the U.S.

Some consider this type of behavior, and the tweets from accounts like Cloyd Rivers, to be a tongue-in-cheek satire of “redneck” culture. Despite being hidden under a veneer of humor, elements of jingoism, xenophobia and extreme neoconservative are still alive.

When America becomes ‘Merica, we should keep in mind that the satire has a sad reality.

We should be wary of how slippery the descent from good-hearted patriotism to jingoism and prejudice can be. Even at a progressive school like GW, my olive skin and odd last name often lead others to ask me if I was born in the U.S. –  as if somehow my throwing in of “wicked” after every other word doesn’t confirm the fact that I was born and raised in Boston.

With our large international student population, it is even more crucial that we remain keenly aware that one’s nationality does not define him or her as a person. When I traveled to Europe, I often encountered those who believed the familiar stereotype of Americans as fat, dumb and lazy. This is partly the reason why I shudder when I overhear the far too common generalizations that are directed towards Asian and Latino students on campus.

No, I’m not just taking a joke too seriously. Too often today, the line becomes blurred between what is a joke and what we actually offensive. At a school with people from all different backgrounds, it is our job as students to be more conscious of the subtle racial slights we occasionally joke about.

Twitter accounts like Cloyd Rivers advocate a dangerous sort of American exceptionalism. We don’t take it seriously – until it starts to affect our own group.

Also, let’s not be lazy: If you love this country, the least you can do is pronounce its name correctly.

Claude Khalife is a freshman majoring in international affairs.

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