On Poetry and Culture Shock


Using the simplest and most hostile of stereotypes, Spaniards think that Americans are extreme conservative worshippers of Mr. Money. The image is mostly correct, although they don’t get two details right. One, there is a reasonable minority of Americans that don’t fall in that category. Almost everyone in Ithaca, for example. Two, Spaniards have no idea of to what extent religion is important to American conservatives. That is, maybe, because we identify conservativism in religion with the historical oppression from the Catholic church. Since we know the majority of Americans are not Catholic and there is no established, visible, purely American religious hierarchy, we don’t put the two concepts together. It has surprised me greatly to see (never first hand, I repeat that Ithaca is a very liberal place so this is something I just hear about) that American conservatives are almost always religious fanatics. Religious here meaning normally Protestant.

The weirdest thing that they do is all the fuss about Creationism, that is, believing that life appeared on Earth all at once and that life forms don’t descend from more primitive ones. When I was at school, we learnt about Evolution when we were about 13 years old, from two different teachers: the Science teacher told us the basics and the History teacher put it in the context of other discoveries of the 19th century. There was a brief mention of the historical controversy over Genesis as a thing of the past, and that was all. No one, as far as I know, seriously doubts Evolution in Europe. No one knows that Creationism exists! So, sometimes news such as a Midwest State taking Evolution out of the High School textbooks is taken in Europe like a sort of Village of the Fools joke (like Irish jokes or Polish jokes or whoever plays the role of the Nation of Fools in your culture). Putting Creationism in textbooks is to us an equivalent to putting the Flat Earth theory or the existence of fairies.

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