Tuesday, December 25, 2012

America the Everything In-Between

Recent events in the US have made me reflective. I'm sure many of you have also been searching your souls for answers. I'm fairly sure I'm not going to be giving any in this post. I'm not even sure what I want to say yet. Thing is, I know people who own guns. I know people who like their guns, and I know people who are vehemently opposed to anyone anywhere having anything that even looks like a gun. I wouldn't call any of these people good or bad; they're just people. And before we go any further here, I fall into the latter category of people. I am an idealist who'd like to disarm, demilitarize and, well, soothe this hateful, irritated world. While we're at it, I'd like all the "races"--though we actually all belong to one race--to intermarry so that we're all just, well, tan and not so tall. I'd also like teachers to make more money than professional athletes and popstars do, and vegetables to be less expensive than junk food. I'd love to see a world without cars and stray dogs and feral cats. I'd vote for a benevolent king--or queen--any day of the week. These are just a few of my idealist ideas for making the world a better, nicer place.

In the last couple of years I've traveled more in the US than usual. My parents wanted to show me the Pacific Northwest and most of the states from Washington to Michigan, so I jumped on that. I'd never seen this area of my country. How could I call myself a traveler if I hadn't seen my own country? One thing that impressed me on that trip was the variety of personalities we encountered. We are, as the Chinese call us, měi ɡuó or all nations. We are a country made up of every persuasion, every religion, every opinion about everything. We are a country of extremes, but we are also a country of everything in between. I've been away from this country for almost 18 years now, and this distance has helped me see the US in new lights. America is not always America the Beautiful. America is America the Everything.

"We are a country of extremes, but we are also a country of everything in between."

We are America the Angry. We are angry at our parents, at our children, at our teachers and our doctors. We are angry most of all at our politicians, but we're also angry at our insurance companies and ourselves. We're angry at the guy who pulled out in front of us this morning. We flipped him off and called him a mf-asshole--because we are America the Angry. But . . .

We are also America the Altruistic. We give a lot to charity. We feed and clothe the homeless through our churches and our charitable organizations. We roll down the window and give the guy with the sign on the corner a fiver because we can see how Vietnam screwed him up (too). We give even when no one sees it. But . . .

We are America the Superficial. We live vicariously through the latest TV shows. We dance with the stars and survive with Survivors. Who knows when we last read a book, but we can tell you all you want to know about the Thursday Night line-up or Twilight. But . . .

We are also a nation of artists, of writers and designers. We are a creative folk, if we can be called one folk. We respect creativity more than knowledge. We don't care whether you can spell as long as you write something profound. And this is a great thing. (I provide editing service by the way.) And we are a nation that enjoys a good joke. We have great comedic timing. We have The Big Bang Theory.We love this sitcom for good reason.

Yet despite the efforts of The Big Bang Theory writers, we don't know squat about science. We are America the Dumb. It might comfort you to know that the world in general, with the (fairly large) exception of Asia is also getting dumber. It's no excuse, though. I read an article last week that predicted China would take over world leadership by 2030. Our children will no longer be able to compete for the tech jobs. This is bleak and systemic and, well, just really really bleak. But . . .

We are still America the Proud. We still think America is "the best country in the world." I guess it's just natural to think this, but we really should start asking ourselves the question why. Why do we love America? For the same reason we love our great grandmothers? Because it's really wrong not to? Because it's treasonably unnostalgic? Because if you criticize America, you're suddenly a communist? Actually, you'd probably be a communist if you couldn't criticize your country. We have the right and the privilege to form our own opinions about our country.

We are America the Conservative and America the Liberal. We are America the Prude and America the Porn Star. But, come on, we are also America the EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. We are America the Rich and America the Poor, but we are also America the Just Getting By and America the Doing Very Well, Thank You Very Much.We are America the Dunce and America Genius, but we are also America the Complacent and America the Average.

We are America the Deeply Religious and America the Luke Warm Christian. We are America the Buddhist, the Muslim and the Jew. Too. And please don't forget that. We are America the Atheist. Most of all, we are America the Misunderstood and the Misrepresented.

At the moment we are a giant in many ways but a dwarf in lots of others. We are America the Beautiful, America the Ugly, America the Confused right now but America the Hopeful.

It's Christmas today in a year that has been difficult for so many people. My prayer for America is that we don't lose hope, that we continue to foster diversity BUT ALSO respect for the everything-in-betweenness of our country -- it's a common ground we need right now.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type.