Friday, December 21, 2012

The America I Know

The America I know, the one that I arrived in for the first time at the age of 23, is not Fox news and Rush Limbaugh but NPR and Rachel Maddow; it is 'holiday' carols in an Episcopal Church filled with people of all faiths and none with a sign at the altar that reads "Everybody is welome here"; it is my daughter's elementary school teacher telling his class he has a husband not a wife without fear that this will cost him his job or the respect of his peers or parents; it is my son's middle school teachers sending home personal notes to each of their students in the summer break telling them how special they are; it is a kindergarten classroom where parents sit and read aloud to their children every single morning on the rug before saying goodbye.

The America I know is full of people whose earnestness sometimes makes me laugh. The lack of cynicism can at times seem naive and foolish - until you realise that their idealism is more often than not backed by concrete action that includes but often goes beyond simply writing a check.

The America I know is not perfect, but it is so very different from the America that the world sees. It is the reason I cringe a little when I see the world talking about Americans as if they are all gun crazed loons. These people and attitudes are as alien to me in Northern California as they are to a person sitting on the other side of the world.

The America I know is one that I often criticise fiercely for all the usual reasons; but at a time like this I think it is good to be reminded of the bright side of the American experiment; to recognise that in a land of optimistic idealists the forces of darkness that are eating away at this nation from the inside can be defeated. It will take courage, a leap of faith, a rejection of the cynical fear driven politics that the enemies of a peaceful and just society rely on to keep us in our place.

The America I know is not the America that the NRA represented at today's press conference.

The America I know is so much better than that.


13 comments:

  1. Well put! I have protested many things over the years here but in the end am proud of this country of ours - even if it needs a reality check from time to time.

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    1. Thanks Mark. I thought you would appreciate this post. It makes me so sad that the world too often sees the ugly side and assumes that this is the 'typical' mindset here. It isn't in my experience.

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  2. Beautiful Michelle. I must admit that This American Life (and subsequent NPR shows) revolutionised my view of America. I am glad the quieter, more intimate voices are getting out. So thankful for technology for that reason.

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    1. Thank you Penni (I am a huge fan of your writing btw). And thank god for NPR having reach beyond the US - it produces brilliant thoughtful radio that upends the stereotypes of the ugly American.
      Michelle

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  3. As an Australian who has travelled extensively in America, I agree with your thoughts here. Travelling the roads of the USA is one of the greatest ways to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the country, its culture and its people and I can happily endorse what you're saying.

    It's difficult, but necessary for a non-American to understand the culture difference when it comes to guns. Even allowing for that, for an Australian to go from walking anywhere in a city at home, knowing no-one at all on the streets will be carrying a gun, to then understand the difference in the USA, is confronting and incomprehensible.

    Decent Americans face huge difficulties in changing gun laws, but they are supported by an outside world which overwhelmingly sees the NRA for what they are, a nasty blot on the country.

    More strength to you and the overwhelming majority of decent Americans in their fight to overcome such bigotry, from someone who loves your country and its people.

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    1. It is actually incredible how aware the world is in what happens in America but not the other way around. I have a hard time wrapping my head around gun culture, even the less extreme parts of it.

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  4. Beautifully argued. Proud to know you! I also know & love the America you describe.

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  5. Well said, defended and said with heart and emotion without being argumentative. I'll be linking to yours when I finally find my words/voice about this whole thing ... being an American and still being proud, yet realizing there is SO much that needs to be changed and done ... especially when living as an American outside of its borders.

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    1. Thank you Naomi. And let me know when you do write. It is largely how I have processed this week. And America is a country full of amazing people whose voices need to drown out the ugly. X

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  6. You give a valued insight into life in America. It's important for us outside to hear this.

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  7. I have never been to America. I really only get the much filtered and distorted media perspective - which of course at the moment is a frightening one indeed.

    So I'm very very glad to read this. If you say it, then I know it is so.
    Leonie xx

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    1. America is in some ways like many different nations within one nation. So the ugly side is real but so is the sense of community and truly thoughtful and progressive individuals.
      M

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