I realize recently that I may have given the impression from some of my past posts that I have a critical eye when viewing my homeland, namely, my criticism of the American isolationist culture, and my personal illumination concerning the upper middle class suburban New Yorker in the context of rural South America. Yes, we may fall behind pretty much every other western developed country in terms of health, schools, environmentalism, and basic human rights, but I would like to remind all my non-estandounidense friends, who like poke fun at me and my country, of all the ways that we totally rock. Being that it is the fourth of July, I’m feeling patriotic, and I’d like to assuage any fears, and reassure all my readers that I truly am proud to be an American, as cheesy as that phrase may sound due to its overuse by country singers and politicians.
Point of Pride #1: Our music kicks ass.
- Go to any bar in any where in the world and I bet you they will be playing American music. Maybe just a couple songs, maybe 90% of the night. But the point is, our music is everywhere. We dominate. And even if it isn’t an American artist, our music has inspired the whole world.
- You like jazz? That was born out of blues, black church hymnals, swing, and ragtime, which were all born in southern black communities and developed in cities like New Orleans and New York.
- You like rock music? Maybe you’re thinking about the Beatles to yourself right now and how they have inspired pretty much all rock music today. This is true, but who inspired the Beatles? That’s right, we win again: Little Richard, Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Beach Boys, they’re all American. I mean, almost any early Beatles song is pretty much a white British version of Chuck Berry song. (I have the feeling I’m gonna be getting some hate mail for this one)
- You like that weird techno crap? Hip-hop created those techniques which were adopted, further developed and used with mixes of different sounds as oppose to samples of previously existing songs. And now the relationship between hip-hop and electronic music has become a symbiotic one, with the producers of both genres taking techniques and inspiration from the other, even jumping genres and trying their hand on the other side. And where is hip-hop from? Developed in the States and born in the Bronx.
- I could go on. And feel free to comment if you think you can challenge my claims.
- In conclusion… Proud to be an American.
Point of Pride #2: Racism.
- I’m proud of our racism? What does that mean, your probably thinking to yourself. Okay, here is my logic. There are racist people all over the world, no country is immune. But in the States, we are finally at a point where it’s not acceptable to be racist. I’m not say there isn’t racism, there is, but people are either ashamed by their own racist feelings, or else know that they need to keep it to themselves or face public disdain. Whereas overt racism is accepted and justified in the most ridiculous ways in most of the world. I am proud to come from a country where racists have to hide their nastiness away for shame.
- In Quito, with it’s lighter skinned population, it is not uncommon for people to insult the intelligence and the appearance of the darker skinned people of Otavalo and the coast. A fellow teacher and friend of mine who lived in Quito told me a story of a family she visited that had two daughters, one who through a random genetic combination was born with lighter skin and features then the rest of the family. In front of both their daughter, the parents would gush about what a wonderful blessing it was to have been given a white child, what it means for their family, and how proud they are of her for her skin color. This is not an isolated event. You find this open intra-group racism all over the world where people of color attempt to create an internal hierarchy based on how little melanin they have. My ethnic group, the Polynesians are not immune either.
- I recently read an article in the New York Times about a man who is struggling to find a way to read classic stories and comics to his child that contain racially unacceptable content. I found the comments from Europeans following the article to be especially interesting and in line with discussions and debates I’ve had here. If a comic book has a black character drawn as such a horrible caricature that a child doesn’t recognize it as a human being, I think it is pretty clear example of racism. The majority of the European comments were in defense of the drawing, accusing American political correctness of “having gone to far”, or as “plain orwellian”, or this gem: “What you can’t draw a black person in a funny way anymore?” Honestly… no you can’t. And you can’t draw a Jew with a hook nose either. Why? Because while those depictions are amusing to you, centuries and centuries of death, torture, persecution, and hate are what have given birth to and sustained those caricatures, and I’m glad I’m from a country where the general population is not down with that crap. I would bring up some more personal examples of this exact same point, but I don’t want to publicly call out any of my European friends on my blog, since I’ve already torn them new ones privately. We Americans don’t believe in double jeopardy after all.
- The existence of President Obama. Say what you want about him actually being mixed race, or about his election being lucky because we would have elected any Democrat in 2008, and think whatever you want about his politics. The point is that there is no other predominantly Caucasian country in the world that has elected a head of state who is of a minority race. And that says something about us that I think is fantastic.
- In conclusion… Proud to be an American.
Point of Pride #3: The actual country.
- So I’ve done a bit of world travelling now, and there are some intensely beautiful places in the world. Places where you almost can’t believe it’s real. And every country has it’s own special beauty. But the States is so vast, and so chock full of beauty of different forms. I love that within the same country, there are some the most gorgeous mountains and canyons in the world, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and some of the most beautiful rivers in the world. We have forests, and deserts, and wetlands, and hill country, and swamps. We have prairies, and valley, and enormous lakes. We have people who live their whole lives on the sea, and people who have never seen the sea in their whole lives. There is so much natural beauty, and not just one kind. Living in New York I learned to love the thick forests and rivers full of so much wild life and the autumn explosions of color. Living in Texas I learned to love the sunsets over the dessert that knock your breathe from you, the orange, golden mountains, the sweet musty smell of the rain hitting the dusty earth that hasn’t seen water since the year before. Living in Maine I learned to love the deep cold snowy winters turned the whole world into a storybook version of itself, and the stunning rebirth of spring. We have it all.
- The cities. New York is an amazing place. It’s not just the lights and shows and skyscrapers. It’s the feeling, the history, the culture that is a total mosaic of different places and times. I’m not going to say anymore. I leave that to better artists than myself. Just go watch a Woody Allen movie. That’s my city, but there’s D.C., Portland, Austin, San Francisco, Memphis, New Orleans, Denver, Chicago, Honolulu, San Diego, Anchorage, Seattle, Nashville. Places that are one of kind in the world, and we have so many of them! Yes there are many stunning, amazing, one of a kind cities in other countries, but we have so many to be proud of.
- In conclusion… Proud to be an American.
Point of Pride #4: The people.
- I have gone into my criticism about my fellow Americans directly and indirectly many times in this blog, and I will continue criticism us, but I am also intensely proud of American people.
- I love that we are so mixed. Part of the American experience is talking with your fellow classmates in school, or friends at work, whoever, about your ethnic background. We take this for granted, but living in another country has really opened my eyes to how special this is. Every single person has a family history that is either from somewhere else, or else they are one of the hundreds of rich cultures that make up our Native populations that cover the entire main land, and the Inuits and Hawaiians. There is no such thing as an American ethnicity, and I love that. The combination and mixing of cultures and foods and languages and everything that goes along with all those ethnicities give our country a spark, a special something that is truly unique in the world.
- In conclusion… Proud to be an American
So happy Independence Day to all my friends and family in the States who can be proud that they’re living in one of the most amazing countries in the world. And happy Independence Day to my fellow expatriates and travelers. I know you’re missing your homeland, but move through the world with pride of your roots, and I hope you are proud to tell whoever asks that you are American. (Unless you are trying to pay off a cop in South America. Then you might just want to say you’re Canadian.)