Jul 4, 2012

Posted by in Blog, Featured, Personal | 20 Comments

I Love America. So What?

When did loving America stop being cool?

One of my most frustrating moments traveling abroad is when I find myself at a hostel, sitting with a few Americans and people of other nationalities.

Somehow, the conversation always turns to America. One person will start bashing our foreign policy, our obsession with Wal-Mart, or our disdain for walking. It doesn’t bother me that other people have issues with our country. I do, too.

Small town 4th of July

My town's adorb 4th of July Parade

But, I represent my country, and I feel like part of my job as a traveler abroad is to shed some positive light on an oft-criticized nation.

Apparently, most other American backpackers don’t share this opinion. Inevitably, one or more of the other Americans will join in on the bash sesh.

“Yeah, America sucks, man.” “Our country is so f-ed up.”

What? Yes, there are things about our country that are messed up, but aren’t you here supposed to be representing us, showing people that we aren’t a nation of ignorant, slovenly, Cheeto-eating Tea Partyers addicted to “Keeping up with the Kardashians”? (Though I can’t exclude myself from the Cheetos and Kardashians parts…)

And so what if we are?

I love prom. And I love throwing "80s prom" birthday parties long after I graduate high-school.

Why is it okay for people from every other country to have boundless pride for their country and their people, but not for Americans?

Canadian backpackers proudly flaunt flag patches on their bags. Have you ever seen an American with a flag patch? No. That’s because many Americans even pretend to be Canadian when they’re abroad. I’ve never been ashamed to say I’m American, and I’ve never had any negative reactions from locals. People in other countries are more open-minded than you think.

Even here at home, it is hipster to hate on the States. Patriotism is soo uncool.

Building with American flag in Washington, DC

Patriotic-looking building in Washington, DC

Yes, our economy has crashed and many people are struggling to make ends meet. We often make questionable foreign policy decisions. Our health and education systems need serious improvements. Our silly fights about (in my opinion) “duh” issues like gay marriage and abortion waste valuable time and resources. Factory farming is disgusting, and our oil sucking ways are problematic. The list goes on.

America is, of course, an f-ed up country. But, it’s my country. To me, it’s like family. I see its flaws, but I will be here through tough times. And I will defend it to the bitter end.

I don’t believe in blind patriotism, but I also don’t believe in blind unpatriotism.

Rusted red Chevy S10

This was one of my first cars. I feel like it's very American. Note the log that served as an e-brake.

We shouldn’t forget how lucky we are, just for the purposes of being cool and fitting in with all those Eurokids in skinny jeans talking trash about the States.

So, I’m here to say that I love America.

Michigan beating Michigan State in 2004

Michigan Stadium. My happy place.

I love blue box macaroni and cheese. I love “The Bachelorette.” I love Willie Nelson. I love Bell’s Oberon. I love trick-or-treating on Halloween. I love Wall Drug. I love Elizabeth Warren. I love “Magic Mike” (the previews, at least). I love Target. I love Elvis Presley. I love Pontiac GTOs. I love college football. I love the Naked Cowboy in Times Square.  I love that we have The World’s Largest – Frying Pan, Ball of String, and Santa Claus.

The World's Largest Frying Pan

Can check that off the bucket list now...

I love Oprah.. and Jerry Springer. I love “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Of Mice and Men” (had to put something in there to make me sound smart). I love opossums. I love girl scout cookies. I love flip cup. I love Denny’s. I love Abe Lincoln, especially now that I know he slayed vampires. Did I mention I love Twilight? Team Edward AND Jacob, bitches. I love Thanksgiving. Hello, I love electricity!

The vampire sign in Forks, WA

I love that this exists at the border between La Push and Forks, WA, home of Twilight.

How about the ipod? Toilet paper? Internet? Artificial heart? Airplanes? Telephones? Soft-serve ice cream? Snuggies? And LASERS? Don’t forget about lasers!

Good shit comes out of America. I’m not saying it’s a perfect country, but none is.

You’re thinking of Switzerland. Of course you are. We have had some dark times in our short history, but who hasn’t? Maybe we don’t run as smoothly as the Swiss, but that’s because of our size, and our diversity. And because nothing runs as smoothly as the Swiss.

People walking in Central Park in NYC

Central Park in NYC. Smell the diversity!

With so many different voices adding to the mix, it’s hard to harmonize.

But, that’s the beauty of it.

Umm, hi. This may or may not inspire my desire to do a USA chant later today. *This is, unfortch, the only photo not taken by me. I would love to give credit to whomever took it (and find this man), but I don't know where it's from.

I love that, in spite of everything, I still feel like this is a country, where, with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, you can accomplish your dreams.

I also love the fact that we are free to hate America. We are free to form Tea Parties, live on communes, and save the whales. We’re allowed to be carnivores, vegans, and freegans.

Girls and American flag

We're also free to wear camo jackets to parties when we are freshmen in college. Not advisable, but allowed!

All I’m saying is that I’m glad I was born here, and that, despite certain things in our history I am ashamed of, I am not ashamed to say I love this country.

I’ve traveled to more than 35 countries, and there is none I’d rather live long term in than in the States.

That’s because I love this land. I love that I can get into a car and drive from the ocean to desert to forests to mountains to plains to swamplands. For those seeking adventure and beauty, look out your back door.

Open road in America

No country is better for road trips.

The thing I love the most, however, is our people. I love our friendliness, our openness, our fearlessness, and our craziness.

This IS diversity, folks.

For any American who travels, and who thrives on different cultures, don’t forget about where you came from.

Girls riding a jackalope in Wyoming

How can you not love a place with giant statues of fake animals called Jackalopes?

I love that here you can hear different languages, see people of all different shapes, colors, and sizes, and find foods from every corner of the earth.

And, I love that the one thing we do have in common is that we call America home.

I’m sure many won’t agree with this adulatory epistle to the USA. Maybe I’m naive, maybe I’m blinded by my upbringing, maybe I’m just delusional. But I think that this place is pretty cool.

Happy birthday, Amurrrica. I love you.

  1. Rick Pollack says:

    Great post Susan! Keep up the good work, I look forward to reading them each week. Have an extra helping of Salmon for me. Where are you off to next?

    • Thanks, Rick! That is so kind of you. I am thinking about going to work in New Zealand at the end of this season, but we’ll see!

  2. GREAT post! I love America, too, and am proud of it. Yes, there are Ugly Americans out there, but I try not to be one when I travel. Yes, we have lots of stuff to be ashamed or embarrassed of, but lost to be proud of, too.

    It seems like I’m always traveling somewhere over 4th of July and also feel a little twinge that I’m not home celebrating with a flag and fireworks. And then I remember that part of the reason I’m able to be gone abroad on the 4th of July is because I’m American…and so, so fortunate.

    • Thanks, Juliann! We are extremely fortunate, and I try to be thankful every day for that. Hope you had a happy 4th, wherever you were!

  3. I think Canadians put flags on their backpacks because they don’t want to be confused for Americans. When I open my mouth, people do a good job of correctly guessing I’m American.

    I haven’t run into any Americans pretending to be Canadians. Or maybe, I’ve just run into the wrong people.

  4. Just wondering, would you say America is the best country in the world? If such a place exists…

    • Hmm, I don’t think that such a place exists. I would say that America is the best country for me, but that may be simply because it’s home. There are plenty of other countries that I think are amazing — I just don’t foresee myself settling long term in any of them. I’m more than happy to visit as many of them as I can though!

  5. Great post. I used to always feel sad meeting Americans while travelling as they always felt like they had to defend themselves and explain why they aren’t so bad.

    It’s terrible to have to be that way. I like what you say it’s a traveller’s job to let the world know what you are truly like. There are some f upped Australians out there and our country is messed up at times and has done some bad things, but I’m always proud to say I’m an Aussie and prove to the world there are plenty of us who are decent.

    Craig and I LOVE America probably as much as Americans do and often find ourselves having to defend y’all about how wonderful you really are and how great your country is. And we’ll keep on doing it. If we could just get a bloody green card we’d raise our children in the States! ( could you imagine the flack we get for being Aussies and wanting to live in the States!!!)

    • Thank you, Caz! It means a lot to hear that from someone who’s not from America. I try to love and respect people from all countries, and I don’t think my own should be an exception. Thank you for the kind words, and for helping defend us while abroad. We’re lucky to have you guys in our corner!

  6. Susan, great post on this “I Love America” stuff. Travelers are usually confused with me initially because 1) I’m Filipina 2) but I grew up in NYC so I have the “American” English accent as they so like to point out. And after finding out I’m from the US, they then proceed to bash the living hell out of our country! Which I then love to argue right back and mention all the other F’ed up countries out and there, and pointing out how, if USA is so F’ed up, then why does half the world want to come and live there?

    • I think people from all over the world want to come here because they like American popular culture and they think they can make a lot of money.

    • You are a perfect example of why I love America. You: a Filipina Brooklynite (with a lovely blog). Love it! Me: a half-Jewish, half-Japanese girl that lives in Alaska. We are worlds apart, but we are both American. How cool is that?

  7. Wondeful Post, Susan.

    You might be interested to know that on the Fourth of July every year I make the pilgrimage to the place where I think the quintessential Independence Day experience is to be had: Hamilton, NY!

    Again, it was a really thoughtful post and you pretty much “covered all the bases.” I might add that one of the great things about America is baseball.

    • Thanks, Fred! It’s so nice of you to stop by and comment. I really appreciate it. I agree that the 4th of July is best celebrated in Hamilton, NY, and next time, I will definitely add baseball to the list. Thanks again and take care!

  8. I’m late to this, but I love this post. Sometimes when I’m traveling, people will say, “You’re not a typical American!” as a sort of backhanded compliment. A few people have taken it as the opportunity to bash the U.S. because they think I’ll agree with it.

    I also noticed that you posted on the 4th of July–I’ve been abroad for the past 2 and I’m SO excited to celebrate at home this year!
    Kristine recently posted..Unconventional ways to save $$ for travelingMy Profile

  9. But really… we all wish we were Belgian.

  10. There’s no such country as ‘America’, that’s a continent. Do you mean the United States? :P
    Johnny Ward recently posted..4 Amazing Things To Do When Visiting JapanMy Profile

    • Haha, Johnny. Good point, but I mean America! It’s an accepted colloquial term that is much easier to say than the United States. If I’m in Latin America, I say “Los Estados,” but here — I say ‘Murica!

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