Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I Love America

Elections don’t always bring out my warmest feelings toward our country. Frankly, they make me think it’s broken. I feel pummeled by voices enumerating all the ways people running for office are going to fail and take America down with them. I worry that we’re headed for bad things. Right now, especially, when nothing seems to be going right (the economy is bad, we’re still at war, people are driving to Mexico to get their teeth fixed, and the fabulous shoes I bought online make my feet hurt), it’s easy to think there are better places to live.

Before I moved to Germany, I thought I might be more comfortable living somewhere else. I didn’t feel patriotic. I was frequently critical of my country and it seemed like my views didn’t fit with most of the opinions I heard were from “typical middle America.” I looked forward to escaping the advertising that seemed to hit me over the head everywhere I went. I thought the health insurance system had to be better outside my country’s borders. And I was ready to live in a place where religion wasn’t starting to encroach on the government. I knew I would miss my native language and all of my friends and family, but I was ready to take a break from American culture, including bad reality television, shopping as recreation, and the idea that our leaders must sound and act less intelligent than they are in order to get elected.

After three years away, I still think our health care system is broken, in fact it’s even worse than I remember. I wish my son’s diapers didn’t have Blue’s Clues plastered across them. And I am doing my best never to watch an episode of The Hills. But I’m so grateful to be here anyway.

America is the land of choice. At the grocery store, we get to choose from twelve different flavors of pickles, sliced five different ways. We can listen to talk radio where people argue about gas prices or we can switch the dial and hear heavy metal from the 1970’s. We can wear our clothing backwards and though people might stare, they’re not going to stop us in the street and tell us to turn those pants around, Daddy Mac.

Americans mean well. They want to be liked and so they begin and end conversations by being nice. They ask questions. They really want to know about you. They actually care (or they know it’s their job to care) whether or not you’re finding the organic whole milk you’re looking for. And they think your kids are cute.

Americans need to know why there are rules, and are careful about making new ones. They ask a lot of questions, and they expect answers. They want it like they want it. They don’t care if no one else eats peanut butter on the pancakes, they’d like some please and they’d like it on the side. And, usually, they get it, without argument.

Before I left, I thought America was without a singular culture. We don’t have a special hat or ethnic dance or anything except McDonald’s (which, incidentally, has moved waaaay past symbolizing America and now just means fried potatoes in your language of choice) and bad TV to distinguish us to the world. But we do have a culture, and it includes pride, openness, and high expectations. Like any culture, some members take the defining qualities too far. But at a basic level, they are good traits.

America feels like home to me. Before I left, I thought another place might feel more comfortable, but I was wrong. I realized that, no matter where I go (and I hope I visit many more places, because there are some fantastic ones I haven’t seen yet), I’ll always be a visitor anywhere but my own country. It’s a terribly imperfect place, but it’s the only one I know where I can drive thru and order fake cheese nachos at any hour of the day or night.

Cecily over at Uppercase Woman invited her readers to write about why they love America. I invite you to join me in my response. Tell me in the comments why you love our country. Or, if you have a blog, write a post and link to it here.

3 comments:

Katie said...

A very, very short list:
1) ice in drinks
2) high school sports
3) my family is there (as are you!)
4) Hebrew Nat'l's, lemonade, 4th of July
5) a nation of people who actually root for Brittney to 'make it'. That's good people.

Snooker said...

This was a great post!
Thank you for the effort.

I hope that America is all you remember it to be, and becomes even better in the future.

Anonymous New York said...

Excellent post.