I remember traveling to London as a teen and being branded an "ugly American" during the height of the Watergate scandal.
Decades later, that collective reputation still sticks when Americans show their bad manners. Obviously stressed, some major celebrities are losing their cool and practicing what I call the art of self-sabotage. And these meltdowns aren't serving the nation's reputation well, either.
Despite his talent, West appears to have lost his mind. Angry that she trumped Beyonc at the weekend awards show, West bogarted 19-year-old Taylor Swift's microphone during her acceptance speech for best female vocalist on the MTV Video Music awards.
It's not the first time West has lost it publicly. Remember when he blasted President Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Although his criticism of Bush for neglecting New Orleans during the natural disaster was valid, the way he expressed himself was totally inappropriate.
After throwing her racket and later being penalized for a foot fault during the women's finals at the Open, Williams was thrown out for unsportsmanlike conduct. Williams accused the line official of making a third unfair call. After cussing her out and threatening to ram the bleepity-bleep tennis ball down her throat, the judges awarded her opponent an extra point and handed a 6-4, 7-5 upset victory to the unseeded and unranked Kim Clijsters (who went on to win the Open). Williams, refusing to apologize, was booed off the court.
Wilson issued an apology that was too little, too late the day after he snarled at Obama and called him a liar during his address to Congress about health-care reform.
"I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health-care bill," Wilson said in a call to the White House the next day.
Wilson faced outrage at his behavior from both sides of the aisle in Congress. Several members blasted his rude outburst and think that he should be censured. Now, according to Sunday's Philadelphia Tribune, the National Newspaper Publishers Association has changed the venue of a meeting scheduled to be held in South Carolina. The move by the NNPA, a federation of more than 200 black community newspapers across the U.S., could potentially harm Wilson's chances for re-election.
Over in Showbiz World, West not only faces the wrath of his colleagues, but perhaps his fans, too. And Williams apologized yet again yesterday for her profane tirade.
But celebs, athletes and pols aren't the only ones who are showing off their bad tempers.
Raucous protesters at town-hall meetings this summer have prompted heightened security for Obama, who's been threatened more than any other president. The uproar over his address to the nation's schoolchildren, and the angry meetings on health care seem to me like hate-fueled, anti-American and possibly racially-tinged outbursts that could eventually backfire.
Who in their right mind has a problem with the POTUS asking American children to take personal responsibility for their futures by studying hard so they can lead positive adult lives?
A recent report ("Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study") shows that American students rank far behind other major industrialized nations including China, Japan, Hungary, England and Slovenia. The only way for the U.S. to prepare the next generation for global competition is to decrease high school dropout rates and increase college graduations.
YES, AMERICAN democracy does mean making all of our voices heard.
But we can have a meaningful discussion about important issues without angry and hostile protests, shout-downs and disrespect for those who disagree with us - including the president of the U.S. or officials who serve as judges during sporting and entertainment events.
Fatimah Ali is a journalist, media consultant and an associate member of the Daily News editorial board.