We Americans have a lot of rights and freedoms that citizens of many other countries don’t enjoy. One of those is the freedom to criticize and insult our own country (or anyone else’s, for that matter). After all, we’re only one of the most free, most prosperous countries in the world. What’s there to be patriotic about?
So, what do some Americans do when they go overseas to countries where people are not so free, but somehow manage to be more patriotic? Something stupid obviously, like assume they have the same rights there that they enjoy here. Case in point: The band Bloodhound Gang in the Ukraine.
While visiting the Ukranian town of Odessa last Wednesday, bassist Jared Hasselhoff (real name: Jared Victor Hennegan) put a Russian flag down his pants, telling the cheering crowd “Don’t tell (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” and pulled it out the rear. The video went on YouTube and quickly went viral overseas.
Whether or not President Putin heard about it or not, we don’t know, but other Russian officials did, and were not pleased. When the band continued their tour to perform in the Kubana Music Festival in the Krasnodar Krai area of Russia they found themselves uninvited.
According to Rolling Stone, culture minister Vladimir Medinsky tweeted on Friday: “Bloodhound Gang packing suitcases. These idiots won’t perform in Kubana.”
But wait, that’s not all! The Russian people were also not amused, many of whom decided to give the band a truly memorable send-off:
The Times also wrote that locals threw eggs and tomatoes at the band as it headed out of Anapa, a town near the venue where their show was canceled. Later, as the band were being deported, Russian nationalists tracked the band down at an airport lounge and assaulted the musicians, trying to smother one band member with an American flag.
Police intervened, but the band’s troubles may not be over. Russia’s top law enforcement agency is considering bringing charges. I can only hope the band has benefited from their introduction into foreign culture. I know there are lessons for all of us in this example:
- Anything done anywhere at any time can show up on the Internet.
- Anything that shows up on the Internet can and will be seen by people who will not be happy about it.
- Some of those people may take legal action. Others may take illegal action.
- In spite of what you’ve heard, Americans are not the least tolerant people in the world.
- Freedom of Speech is not a universal right.
- American patriotism and fanaticism often pales in comparison to that in other countries.
What is most interesting, however, is something said by someone else in the band in response to Hasselhoff’s offensive act, and well before their trouble in Russia:
Not everyone in the band liked what they saw; the video also shows frontman Jimmy Pop telling the crowd he disagreed with what Hasselhoff had just done: “Russia is better than America,” he said, “so I disapprove of that.”
I wonder if he still feels this way now. Perhaps he’s only learned this:
- The safest place to be a Stupid American is in America.