I spent two years in the USA in the past, and just revisited briefly, but if I spent twenty years there I don’t think I’d understand the place.
It’s a country so prudish that the site of Janet Jackson’s exposed breast at the Super Bowl traumatised the nation, yet toddlers are exposed to guns and gun crime routinely and pre-teens are marketed sexually provocative clothing.
It’s a country where airport screeners unerringly detect and remove that lethal shower gel that you’re carrying. (I should have known, but forgot to check mine in, particularly as I had carried it days earlier on Air India — an airline not unaccustomed to terrorism — without demur.) Yet, in tests in Los Angeles, they failed to detect 75% of fake bombs.
It’s a country where racial discrimination was not only normal 50 years ago, but enshrined in the law in many states. Today it is socially unacceptable, not just to discriminate, but even to joke about it. That’s a remarkable turnaround, which I’m sure we could replicate in India, with respect to our disgraceful treatment of the “lower castes”, if we made the effort — but we refuse even to recognise the seriousness of the problem.
Some may argue that political correctness now goes too far — see this for example — but the achievements can’t be denied.
Yet, taking the subway (the “T”) in Boston, I saw advertisements saying (from memory): “Take the T to Salem and enjoy a haunted weekend.” I don’t think Americans would countenance tourism advertisements saying “Take a trip to Georgia and enjoy a trail-of-tears weekend”, or “Take a trip to Alabama and enjoy a weekend of lynching and cross-burning”. But an episode in American history that, to the modern mind, should seem just as disgraceful as those more recent episodes, is seen as harmless family entertainment. Is it because the victims were white women? Or because they were regarded as pagans (though they probably weren’t)? Or did it just happen too long ago to worry about it?
Here’s a thought-provoking post about the stereotypical witch (Misshapen green face, stringy scraps of hair, and a toothless mouth beneath her deformed nose. Gnarled knobby fingers twisted into a claw protracting from a bent and twisted torso that lurches about on wobbly legs) and why this image probably did describe the witches of the time.