I passed a trash can and saw this. Obviously this was the closest one to the designated smoking area for the building, and everyone who smoked on their break left their remains in this one spot. I am not a smoker nor am I going to pontificate on this habit. I did think about what we have done as a people with our inventions and leaving them to run their course.
Cigarettes were not invented in the U.S., yet our innovation and entrepreneurial spirit allowed us to manufacture them and distribute them worldwide. We sold them, made them sexy, got them inserted into movies, culture, advertising, and even made it a right of passage to smoke. For many areas of the country it is expected that you smoke in social situations even as the dangers of the habit flood the media. In some age groups smoking is declining, in others it is on the rise. It is a legally addictive stimulant that has become a natural part of life for many Americans. In the name of Capitalism and earning the all mighty dollar we then exported this addiction across the globe.
All this then made me think about the things I have ‘exported’ beyond my own world that have impacted others. My bad habits, my behavior when in new places, my kindness, my enthusiasm and my pride in being an American. Most stereotypes exists because there is a basis for the stereotype. Calling us ‘ugly Americans’ means that too many of us act that way inside and outside of our borders, hence the nickname and unfortunately it sticks to us all. One person’s lack of forethought or kindness tags us all as the same. One person doing something the wrong way labels all of us.
As I walked away from the trash can I thought long and hard about how I behave when I travel, how I represent our country, and how I represent myself. Being comfortable in your own skin is no excuse for bad behavior, nor is making money at the expense of the health of others. We all need to be aware that we represent our country, our families and ourselves in all things that we do and say.