I went to college in the mid 2000’s and the negative stereotype of the “douchey frat-guy” was well-established. So it would always kind of baffle me when I would sit down in class behind a guy that was, wearing three pastel polo shirts with popped collars entirely without irony. Often times, the guy was otherwise perfectly nice and intelligent. Was this person unaware of the message they were sending? Is there some group of people that knows about the stereotype but just doesn’t care? Did they not get the memo on popped collars?
This is roughly the feeling I’ve had when visiting various Middle-Eastern democracies like Bahrain or Oman. The people there were extremely friendly and welcoming. They have skyscrapers and taxi cabs and Coca-Cola – you could take the malls and drop them into middle America and the only thing out of place would be the one store that only sells burqa’s and hijab’s – sandwiched right between H&M and Macy’s and across from the Coldstone Creamery. And then I’d see a mundane newspaper article about the latest “Sultan’s Decree.” How can this place still be a monarchy? Did they not get the memo?
I was reminded of this when I read this article about a Thai-born American sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for translating a book critical of the Thai monarchy. I’ve never been to Thailand but have heard great things about it as a liberty port and vacation spot. For Americans abroad, though, it’s important to always remember – you’re not in Kansas anymore.