Tuesday, February 20

Paris musings revisited

I have received several comments on the previous Paris post and have been doing some further thinking of my own as well.

First of all I want to clarify something: I do not mean to suggest that America is the best nation in the world. How could any nation be deemed "best" anyways? What would you look at? Literacy? Infant Mortality? Poverty? GDP? In none of these categories does America rank as the best. Perhaps the strongest military? I would not rely on that as my measuring stick. How about civil liberties? Well, that is another argument altogether :)

Nor am I the least bit interested in what nation might be "best." Enjoying my time in Europe, discovering surprising things that I love about Holland and some things I resent, enriches my knowledge, my experiences, and my attitude. Understanding some similarities and differences between Holland and America does not diminish either nation; preferring one place for some reasons, and another for other reasons, these are simply observations. And it is these observations themselves that are are so valuable to me.

On to another topic...One thing I have been considering is the following: here in Europe it is the fact that I am American that is the most immediate and obvious difference between myself and my colleagues. But is it the fact that I am from America that makes me who I am? Definitely not. What I spoke of in the earlier post, independence and confidence, the ability to go places and do things without being afraid, these are things I possess not through having been born in the US but rather from simply being me, Abigail, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, transplant to Seattle, big time arguer, former athlete, trained in Catholicism, schooled and raised and evolved in a certain way.

Another observation: when I meet people abroad, they always ask about America. What is it like, what are the people like, etc. This question is so hard to answer. Impossible, really. In a nation of over 300 million, how to describe all of us? And how to capture all 50 states in one conversation?

Sometimes in Europe I meet someone who has traveled to the US, and who is excited to share this with me. I am awestruck when this person forms an opinion, as is perfectly natural, on all of America, and on all Americans, by traveling to Delaware. Or Florida (can you imagine?? Orlando as the only representation of America?) Or Manhattan? None of these places can possibly capture the variations of our huge country.

I feel so lucky that I have explored so much of the US, having lived extended periods in 5 states on two coasts. And I have driven various routes across our fine landscape 6 times thus taking in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Chicago, and many others. But I have never been to what might be the two most extraordinary states: Hawaii and Alaska. So how can even I explain what the US is like?

I do not mean to sound defensive, of either the US or of Europe. I suppose I mean only to encourage openness of mind and an exploratory attitude. And perhaps I suggest some introversion to my readers: when we feel as though we are different from others, or that others are different from us, what causes this feeling? Is it nationality? Skin color? Education level? Trust in the criminal justice system? Marital status of certain nearly-30-somethings? And what does it actually feel like to sense these differences? Do we feel superior or inferior? More lucky or unlucky? Happier or more sad? And why do we sense these differences? Is it because we like to see differences more than similarities?

I know the blog has taken an introverted turn, I promise more pictures and general silliness in the future!! Please respond with any thoughts :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"former athlete"?