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Five beautiful words that never cease to bring me joy: “But you don’t seem American.”
It’s true. Like many beings that explore the unbeaten path, I don’t. Granted, over time the pace of voices slows, the accents fade, tones and intonations change—but these things are sounding American. Not seeming American.
What is seemingly American to most outsiders? To those who don’t have individual human examples to demonstrate otherwise, an American is loud, demanding, rich and self-centered. (In fact, an American might even use the label American in an international context without taking into consideration that North, South and Central America comprise half of the globe.) You can find an American almost anywhere in the world by searching for a fat blonde person with too many belongings and an oversized water bottle; however, regardless of where you are, you will need to be able to speak clear English to communicate with one because they sure as hell didn’t bother to learn your language.
Perhaps it’s true that we, the United States, used to be something great—a playground of freedom, intentionally “created” (i.e. conquered) and explored, but to those of you who never physically or empathetically leave the states, please understand that we’re not the superpower we supposedly once were.
We’re not the best country in the world.
There is no best country in the world.
When we leave the institutional systems that we are familiar with, we witness the ways that other countries take care of their citizens, providing them with things like accessible education, healthcare, financial security throughout pregnancy and—imagine this—old age. We experience the patriotism and solidarity of other nations who, by our convoluted standards, have nothing to celebrate. We visit communities who have an intrinsic pride based in culture, in cuisine, in tradition, in music and in dance (yes, dance!), and after years away from the states, our country begins to feel empty.
Of course, there are incredibly aspiring and innovative things happening in the U.S., but to stumble upon them or an expression of our “culture,” one must navigate a labyrinth of strip malls and green highway signs, fast food and slow food, Democrats and Republicans, supermarkets and organic supermarkets, Facebook and Google and pop culture. The poor impressions that others have of us are nothing but a reflection of how we have projected ourselves throughout modern times; we invented the products whose packaging litters the streets of towns around the world who don’t have waste disposal systems and we justify treating the rest of the world with disrespect under the guise of “freedom.”
What is a’Murica to me? It’s an incredibly beautiful and diverse land full of my family, friends and millions of other kind-hearted people who are raised with the idea that we can all do whatever we want and therefore have the potential to make positive changes in the world. But first, we need to own up to the fact that we need to change.
If you’re celebrating this Fourth of July, great—I hope it’s for a good reason. Summertime, close company, barbecues, fireworks, a day off of work and the fact that the majority of our country shares a sentiment are all things worth drinking a few over.
Happy Independence Day.
But, let it be said, I’ve never met a Canadian who considered it a compliment to be mistaken for an a’Murican.
Author: Rachel Markowitz
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editors: Caitlin Oriel; Emily Bartran