A Proud American

I’m proud to be an American, but just not proud in the way that you would think.

I am not proud of American Politics. I appreciate the accomplishments of the Founding Fathers. What they created in the Constitution is something in which to truly marvel. It is a loose frame that has kept America together longer than most democracies. Yet our two party system is drifting to extremes and is clearly no longer working to keep the country in the Center.

I am not proud of American Imperialism. I am not looking to “Make America Great Again.” I appreciate that the United States wanted to help out on the world stage when human rights were threatened and democracies were at risk. Many noble men fought elsewhere to protect the rights of the innocent. Yet there are many cases in which America’s need for resources and dominance has only led to destruction.

I am not proud of American Commercialism. I will admit that I have a small obsession with reality television. I will admit I will forever be wed to my iPhone and other Apple products. Yet at the same time I despise the throw away culture that was created by those American commercial geniuses.

I am proud of where I’m from. I mean the place, the location, the landscape.

Summer 2013 189

It doesn’t get much better than this.  Cheesaw, Washington.

I could talk your ear off all night of what it is like to drive from Seattle to Boston. The vista of wide open spaces, dotted by farms gives way to massive expanses of forests that gently reach up to touch the Rockies. Over the Continental Divide are the Great Plains, the great expanse of the Bad Lands, and then tamed Midwest. As you drive through the heartland you eventually reach the oldest mountains in America, the scrappy low lying Appalachians. Slowly you descend into Old New England as she clings to the edge of the continent, fighting back the storms that always seem to come her way.

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Campfire on Sandy Neck Beach. Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

As you move from West to East our dialect changes, our words are different, and our culture morphs. The ecosystems are many, leading to a diversity of plant and animal life that is mind blowing. That is the America I love. That is what I am proud of.

Living abroad as an American can be difficult sometimes.  So when I get caught in a conversation with others that turns toward America, or when I overhear a group of locals talking about die Amerikanen, I get a bit anxious.

There are many things in which we can agree that America clearly needs to work on. I’m not a big fan of the Common Core or the AP History and English curriculum. I totally hear you about the Trump thing!

But America is my home. It is family.

And just like my family, America is full of things both equally awesome and things I would rather not ever see again. I live far from my family but it doesn’t mean that I don’t love my family. I can complain about my family; it is my family. But if you aren’t part of my family, then you have no right to really complain. And if you aren’t part of my family, if you haven’t truly lived with us, become one of us, then how can you even have an opinion?

For all its faults, American is who I am. I choose not to live in America. I choose not to raise my child in America. That is the choice I make for my own reasons. And I think my little arrangement with America works quite nicely. America and I do well when we only see each other once or twice a year.

What I find difficult are all of the opinions people have about said Americans. I might be one, but we are a ridiculously diverse family.  One American is not all Americans.

What I find difficult is the word “American” used to describe anything loathsome.

“I hated working at that school because it was too American.”

“That policy is clearly American.”

“The way he dresses is soooo American.”

“Whenever I eat there, I feel like I just stepped into America.”

I get your point, really I do. But I don’t really want to be a part of that conversation. You are talking about my family. And when you use “American” as a swear word, ultimately you are swearing at me too.

I am American, not America. I am part of that rich, diverse, and somewhat annoying cultural family.  But it is my family.

I am proud to be an American, just not proud in the way that you would think.

 

Are you ever judged because of your nationality?  Do you ever get frustrated by the talk around the lunch table when it turns toward what people hate about where you are from?

 

 

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11 replies

    • I know our friends, colleagues, and neighbors don’t mean to be insulting. We live and work in a multicultural environment because we love the diversity of all we interact with. But some days the comments are too much for me.

  1. I actually used “American” the other day, but to describe Sony as a workplace. What I meant by that was that there are loads of employee benefits to be had, sick leave is paid, and that you are trusted to control your own work. I would say that Nintendo is very German, with lots of rules and constraints, and not much room for change. Hitachi is Japanese. Racist, sexist and horrible to work in. So, in contrast, Sony is very American – a happy place to work.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always enjoy reading them. Looking forward to sharing with you later this summer.

  3. I’ve never been judged for my nationality, but I’m judged for my region of birth nearly every single day. (I live in the American South and was born north of the Mason-Dixon Line, thus making me a [insert term for deplorable human being here]. Thankfully, those judgments are not universal and only occur at one particular place I can’t choose not to frequent.

    • Interesting how our great big country has those who are also judged. Depending on where you are from, you don’t see eye to eye with specific regions. Our dialects, our histories, our citified ways, or back woods gun racks. Why can’t we all just love each other for all our quirks. That is what I love about America though. The crazy diversity. The countries within a country. Germany has its regions too that are picked on because of history/accent. And it just happens to be the south. A Hoch-Deutsch speaker will be totally lost in deep Bayern or Schwabia.

  4. Hey, being American is amazing (I guess :D). It gives you access to so many resources, possibilities, so many great books written in your language, so many countries you can travel speaking you mother tongue (and with no visas needed!), so many inspiring people around! I have moved a lot, and believe me, there is no such thing as a universally liked nationality. Celebrate the great things you countries gives you – and commit to sharing these things with others.

    • Sending you warm fuzzies from across the ocean. Not looking forward to this summer when the election ratchets up. Will have to tip toe around my friends on the other side of the platform.

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