Location: the Universe, Earth, the western hemisphere, North America, the United States, New Jersey. The United States, and the western world on a whole, has spent a great amount of energy apologizing for historical blunders, while committing new “oopsies” along the way. On top of this, the U.S. currently has a rep for widespread obesity.
Global opinions of the United States seem to operate greatly on a series of broad generalizations. We are a land of cowboys who survive on Big Macs and MTV. Citizens are either flag-waving hillbillies or self-deprecating intellectuals, both of which perpetuate an us vs. them mentality—the former aware of global hostility and ready to retaliate, the latter sharing the sentiment and desperately wishing to assimilate into the “them” population.
But the stereotypes don’t stop there.
Within this land of fatties, is the moussed, fist-pumping, land of orange freaks —a nightmarish marriage of the population of Oz and Wonka’s factory— who travel from beach to beach along an industrial, smog -riddled road they call a “parkway.” New Jersey. Thanks to shows such as “Jersey Shore” and “Jerseylicious,” the perception of New Jersey’s population has been reduced to these caricatures who boast true-blue Jersey personalities. Of course, it matters not that Snooki is actually from New York. MTV has succeeded in making what was already considered the “armpit” of the U.S. into even more of a joke.
As part of a country and hemisphere that is already globally dislikable, for whatever reason, New Jersey is easily the most hate-able within both of these areas (see innermost circle in concentric circle).
There is just something inherently dirty about being from New Jersey (hence dirty Jerz? There is so much about my state’s “identity” that I fail to understand). You can feel it most palpably when commuting into New York City. Look at NJ Transit—not necessarily pristine—and the desire to escape is included in the title: transit. As in, passengers are in a constant state of “I don’t want to live here, but I don’t belong there.” Perhaps even more fitting are the gateways to this nebula, this continuous displacement: Penn Station and Port Authority. What better represents the perception of New Jersey and attitude of the reluctant resident than the manic waiting areas, standing room-only trains and buses, the unreliable schedules, the miserable closeness of other humans….? I exaggerate. Yet, it’s rare to come by a New Jersey born-and-bred who speaks of their “stomping ground” with unqualified pride, who doesn’t seem to be some breed of the MTV personas (which came first?). Perhaps, as a commuter state, shame is innate. As a half-Sicilian, almost-ginger who’s never been tanning, I try to do what I can to defy stereotypes (mostly out of necessity. Tanning would be ridiculous). I try not to sound like I’m apologizing when I say I’m from New Jersey.
I’m not sure the damage can be undone.