Monday, January 21, 2013

I love America (surprised?)

Capital Preparations

So, I've been known for not being particularly patriotic. Scratch that. Downright angry might be a better description of my attitude sometimes (and, never fear, I am still disgruntled by many things). And so the title "I love America" sounds like it's going to be snotty, because most readers know that I'm not the one likely to write a blog post how wonderful our great nation is and end it with "God Bless 'Merica."

But you know, even if I still have this weird identity thing going on where I don't feel ownership or belonging here, I really do love this place, and I thought a lot about it in the Fall as Isaac and I explored small-town Texas and I watched all the hubbub around the elections.

Memphis Food Truck Rodeo

I love that when I go to most American cities, I can find not only pizza and burgers, but also Ethiopian, Thai, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Mediterranean, and Vietnamese food. I love that our cities are filled with neighborhoods that reflect immigrant influxes from places like Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Ireland, Sweden, India, Japan, etc. I love that this place is a collage of people and cultures and languages. I am thrilled when I board a city train and find myself surrounded by foreign languages. I'm taken aback when I find people attempting to homogenize our culture, because the variety is my very favorite thing about this place.

I am incredibly proud that the US resettles more than twice the number of refugees than any other country in the world. That, my friends, is caring for the poor and homeless of the world. I love that we give them government assistance when they arrive, and mandate that the resettlement organizations take steps to help them with cultural adjustment and finding a job.


Country DinerOn the other hand, I also love much of the culture of small town, rural America. I love the rusty pickup trucks and diners that serve an egg and pancake special. That Friday Night Lights and the movie Bernie actually reflect reality is an amazing thing. I love the wrinkled and heavily accented grandparents who have worked hard their whole lives for not much. I'm a huge fan of bluegrass and country music, and it's become a part of me.  I love the drive across those "fly over states" that reveals vast open spaces of land speckled  with small towns. And folks, Wranglers and cowboy hats and boots are a beautiful thing, even if I am a bit of a city girl. Sweet tea, biscuits, and apple pie? What's not to like? Just like visiting tiny towns in other countries reveals quirky rural culture, so do our small towns, and I appreciate them now much more than I did before.

Picture 106I love the hippie culture of places like Portland and Austin, where ramshackle is intentional and things like fine coffee and natural foods are not considered pretentious but simply good, and I know we are privileged but I love it. I love the different kind of artsy with tattoos and dreads and creativity, and deep inside I think I'm still 22 and and a hipster.

And oh, this country is beautiful. It's a shame we don't travel more here, because it's sunning. The white sands and old beach houses of Cape Cod, the wild Appalachians, the cliffs and sunsets of California, the pine forests of Oregon, the layers of beautifully barren rock rock and sun in the Southwest, and best of all the unmatched mountainous glory of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Seriously, ya'll, visit Glacier National Park. We value the outdoors and beauty, and even in the city we keep corners of green and more space than the rest of the world expects, so I find there's always room to breathe.

Sperry Trail, Glacier National Park - Montana USAI love that we value exercise and activity, that we have bikers and hikers and runners and campers. Perhaps some of that living-off-the-land pioneering spirit is left in most of us, despite the generations of suburban living. It's in me, this wandering impulse and the need for space.

Everything is a generalization, but I love that we are frank and casual, blunt and forthright and expecting others to be the same. We are the country that promotes jeans and having a beer on the White House lawn to make peace. We do less state dinners and more family gatherings. We say too much about our personal lives in blogs, and it's pretty obvious that my blogging and barefoot wandering around a formal office indicate that I am a part of this casual and frank culture.

Thomas JeffersonSpeaking of blogging, free speech and the freedom of religion? Yeah. The ideas behind our constitution that build a governmental system that represents the people and balances power? It's amazing. Our founding documents are stunning, and when I read Wild Swans and saw the heart of a Chinese woman reading our founding fathers for the first time, I appreciated it all so much more deeply. We haven't been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I love the American government system, and I love that we can publicly discuss and even protest every part of it and every current leader.
And, since today is providentially both Martin Luther King Jr. day and the inauguration of Barack Obama as President for a second term, let me say that I am also deeply proud to be a part of the nation that elected him. I personally know very few others that join me in this, but truly I am leaving this country proud of the man representing us in the world, and what it means to be the country that elected him. He makes it easier to be an American in the rest of the world.


And, since Brad Paisley pretty perfectly exemplifies someone that sings about the beautiful small things in American life and yet also shows the variety and the world and simultaneously makes me laugh.... this, ya'll.

See also Brad Paisley's "American Saturday Night" and ... okay fine, one more. "Southern Comfort Zone." Bryanne, this is one you might vaguely appreciate!



Anonymous said...

I love this post! I resonate with everything you've written. :-)

Daniel Peckham said...

Well thought-out and written. As a fellow MK I resonate with this. It has taken me a while, but I have finally come to realize the same things you articulated about what makes America great.

Stephanie said...

Girl, this makes my heart smile :)

Stephanie said...

Although I disagree vehemently about country music.