I have two personal examples from which I would like to draw upon to exemplify the one-sided story that other countries have of America: one of ignorance and one of prejudice.
When I lived in Estonia, I interacted with locals and in conversing with one young man, I noticed that he only asked me questions about media, film, and movies. He knew that Hollywood was the home of the film industry and that it was in California, but was under the impression that people must travel to Hollywood in order to watch movies and that every major American city, such as Chicago and Miami, was also in California. I was shocked because I had thought everyone at least knew where the major cities were and hadn’t considered the film industry to be that large of a part of America. My story of ignorance shows that not only are other countries not always aware of what America really stands for or its organization because they are only exposed to one story of America, but it also shows that I was ignorant, or naive even, in thinking that all other countries studied America as intensely as we do here and in assuming that they had the same image of my country as I do.
Also in Estonia, I lived with a host mother of 65 years. She was originally from Russia with a Russian mother and Bulgarian father and had nearly always lived in Estonia. Therefore, she had much country and culture pride. She had never been to America so her only exposure to the US was through the Russian news media, which she watched a lot of with me. Often she would comment on the wonders of Estonian nature, only to follow with a jab at “America’s one rock and one tree.” Russian news portrays negatives of other countries while ignoring its own, so her negative comments towards America were simply a product of her one-sided story – she didn’t know any better of America.
I think the cause of one-sided stories is generally due to a lack of exposure to more than one story. Therefore, the best way to combat this unintentional ignorance and prejudice is to actively seek out connections internationally and information about other people and places. In this way, we are giving ourselves and others more than one story to consider.