Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thoughts on the US of A

It's really strange being back in a western country after seeing how the East does things. It's hard to explain exactly how I feel after living in so many countries for the last couple of years. I guess I feel like a citizen of the world now more than I feel like an American. My patriotism has dwindled quite a bit. And I'm having a hard time convincing myself this is a bad thing. Just like I think that feeling pride in your state, which is an honorable and fun thing to have, should nevertheless never overpower your pride in being an American (Texans are sometimes borderline in this issue) I feel that patriotism for your own country should never overpower the essential belief that the world itself, all countries and their welfare are more important than the welfare of your own country only.

What's more, there are things that I have begun to realize that I don't have in common with American's values. That in fact, bother me quite a bit about America.

1. Guns

The average American honors and values gun ownership. America has a big violence/crime problem which is also glorified in a lot of the films and tv shows that you see. Most of all, the biggest heroes of America are those who fight in wars. No one is honored as much as those who fight in the military. Our military is the largest in the world by at least nine times. Americans value war.

2. TV

The biggest national pastime of America. I don't watch TV. Not that I'm morally opposed to it or anything, it's just not my thing. I do think a lot of TV is an empty wasteland.

3. Driving

I hate driving. I hope when we settle down I won't have to own a car. It's bad for the environment, it's one of the most dangerous ways to travel, and it's very costly. It's a pain to maintenance your own vehicle. It's also a very isolated way of getting around. And most of small town America is very spread out, with no way of getting around expect by...driving.

4. Franchise stores

More and more, I realize how much of America is made of huge chains. When we were in Morrow, Georgia, population less than 5,000, I saw: TGIF, Olive Garden, Best Buy, Walmart and others that could be found all across America. It feels lifeless, sterilized, and fake to me. I've grown out of Olive Garden. The only good thing about their menu is the salad. I hope that doesn't make me a snob. But chain restaurants have lost their charm for me. Give me a little start up where you can talk to the owner and the menu is fresh and changing any day.

5. Evangelical Christians

Much of the US is made up of people who believe the majority of people that they meet are going to hell. How unpleasant. Not all Christianity believes this, I hope, but I know in the South that there's a whole lotta Bible bashing going on and it's really very divisive.

6. Drugs

Americans are so rich that they don't have anything better to do than burn their excessive free time on drugs. Drugs that often cause a lot of civil violence in other countries to produce. It starts in school. It's not an environment I'd really want to raise kids in. The positive thing is that smoking cigarettes has lost quite a bit of popularity in comparison to other countries.

7. Consumerism

Americans are high rollers, from the day they are born till even after they die. Getting born in a hospital with all the medications and fancy doctors. Dying with a funeral that costs minimum $10000, with the nice tombstone and the carved coffin. And all the days in between, Americans value their possessions and often are swimming in them, always working towards the newest acquisition. Since coming home, I have constantly been amazed at the standard of living expected by even "lower income" kind of people.

8. Privacy

Americans value privacy more than I ever realized until traveling in the east. They prefer to live lives somewhat isolated in fancy homes driving in fancy cars. They often don't spend time with their neighbors. They often don't like to get too close to people physically. Americans value space. It's kind of a lonely way to live.

I know America has a lot of things going for it, too. Some of the best things are the ones you don't see but take for granted, like freedom of speech, business opportunities, free education, and top-notch innovation. Not to mention a passport that can get you into about any country you want. But this time, coming home, these things that never used to bother me, bother me. Dang.

I guess one of the points of this post is to assuage my fears. Will I be able to find a place in America with extremely friendly, kind, open-minded people, mild weather, personality, energy, and public transportation? Will I live in a place where I can make girl friends who enjoy other cultures, visiting art museums, and eating organic? I mean, if I'm going to call a place home after moving around for so long, it's gotta be pretty special. Is there a place in America that can make the cut? It's a blessing that with internet business, we will have complete free reign when it comes to choosing where we want to live--but that makes the decision difficult, too.

I'm thinking maybe the west or east coast, or maybe Austin...when Jacob and I stop traveling--and that won't be at least for another 1-2 years--we're planning on traveling through the States, looking for that perfect place. I hope it's there.


LJ said...

It does exist! I promise! It just isn't in a place, it is more of a subculture in the US. You can find it, but like all good things it takes time and effort to find your way. I have found that New England has a good amount of people with these beliefs and so does the North West. What is it about Northern people? I don't know, but I like it.
It is weird having a love and a disappointment relationship with your own country, but nothing on this earth is perfect. The nice thing is we get to pick and choose what we like and what we make apart of ourselves. More people would benefit from doing this rather than getting heavily stuck in one culture.

Anonymous said...

I have not traveled the world like you and Jacob have but in my short life I have moved 7 times and lived in 6 different states. I have found there are wonderful things everywhere you go but often its the attitude you have that can make the place perfect or not. There are pros and cons with EVERYWHERE, even the scriptures tell us there is opposistions in all things. I strongly belive that your attitude can effect if you like a place. If you like being surrounded by friendly people you cant expect that to happen without being a friendly person yourself. Im sure that where ever you guys settle is going to be perfect for you guys. I love your comments about America, we definately have our issues but there are so many wonderful things about America also! :D

Kimberly said...

My husband and I have lived in London and traveled about the world for the last 4 years. I love America and Americans, but generally agree with your sentiments. The American hubris is a double-edged sword.

Your site reminds me of our own--if you're ever wanting for new travel destinations, check out our site at: :)

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