Thursday, May 1, 2008

Empathizing with Austrians

I think I can empathize a little bit with Austrians these days.

When the story about Wolfgang Priklopil keeping Natascha Kampusch in his basement came out a couple years ago, it seemed like an isolated incident. Now with Josef Fritzl, it is starting to look like a trend. The next time there is news about a man imprisoning a girl in his basement, Austrians around the world will probably be thinking "please don't let him be Austrian."

Every time I hear about an athlete who has done something stupid or (more significantly, but less frequently) a man who has gone on some crazy murderous rampage, one of my first thoughts is "please don't let him be black." I know it's self-centered of me, but I don't want everyone to think that blacks are either criminals or stupid. Most of the time blacks are in the news, it's because they are athletes or entertainers or criminals, or (quite often) a combination of these. (Having Obama in the news is a welcome change, but as I've said before: He's not black. He's African-American.)

Similarly, Austrians probably feel like the world sees them as deranged people. The International Herald Tribune's article called Dungeons and Austrians puts it nicely.

Austrians aren't like Josef Fritzl any more than blacks are like Pacman Jones, but we all cringe a bit when we see our "brands" being shaped by current events.

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