Today, I was reminded of how much I love my country. This is because elections are coming up and I visited every candidate’s website in my state. Why did I do this? Well, I did it this week for business purposes, but really, I’m the kind of person who does this kind of thing, anyway. I’ll happily fill out inane surveys or call a company’s 1-800 number just because. I am also the kind of person you go to if you want to know the minutiae of something usually irrelevant but occasionally very important. I am the person you come to if, for example, you are wondering how to do something obscure on your iPhone or want to know where to get the best price on poop bags. I am weird this way. Which leads me to why I think the U.S. is a great place to live.
America is filled with truly strange people; not only is this considered acceptable, it is culturally desirable. Americans are encouraged to be loud and stand out from the crowd, to be different. I’m not just talking about Libertarians or the guys who stand on the street corner warning everyone about the impending apocalypse. I’m talking about people who seem perfectly reasonable, but quietly own a cache of military-grade weapons in their house for no reason whatsoever. They don’t event hunt; they just want to have guns because a decaying piece of paper written over 200 years ago says they can have guns. I like that brand of logic, that petulant inflexibility. I love that this illogical logic applies to people of all stripes in all fifty states.
I like that there are conservative Republicans in the Pacific northwest who believe in global warming.
I also like the guys who look like they belong on “Mad Men” but ride a unicycle to work. I like that people with horrible spelling and grammar are allowed to go on feminist websites and promote “pro life” ideology. Most of all, I like that Americans are not really expected to have ideologies.
When the world doesn’t expect a lot of you, it’s very easy to impress people.
This happens a lot when I travel to foreign countries. When I’m in France, people are very impressed that I am not fat. They tell me this. Out loud.
When I was in Spain, I learned how to ask “where is the bus station?” and people were so pleased with my horrible Spanish that they walked me to the bus station and gave me snacks, after warning me (in Spanish) about the 8-hour bus ride I was about to take. This happened to me on two separate trips. One time, a woman even held my hand.
In Tanzania, they were really impressed with me because my country has a black president.
In Peru, the children were impressed with my money and made me pay to take pictures of them.
In England, they were not very impressed with me to be honest. The Brits, like the French, also felt compelled to congratulate me for not being fat. Did you know they sell Cadbury Creme Eggs year-round there? Insane.
In Austria, they were impressed with me because they thought I was Swiss.
In Greece, people were impressed with me because I climbed Mount Olympus wearing Doc Martens and a backpack made for a 6’3″ man. Just kidding. No one was impressed with me about that because by the time I got down, it was 9 PM and my flashlight had died hours before and it was clear to everyone that I had no respect for the mountain. I also never learned how to say anything other than “hello” and “thank you” in Greek, which I’m sure contributed to their feeling of apathy about me.
In America, people don’t usually seem very impressed with me unless it benefits them directly. America is a capitalist country; I get it. Notable exceptions include my family, my boyfriend, and my dog.
Yet I somehow manage to persevere, content with the knowledge that even though I may not be consistently impressive, I can be consistently loud and opinionated, which will garner me respect among virtually all groups of Americans, regardless of whether we have anything in common.
Americans may not have cohesive ideologies, but we do have similar philosophies. We believe in the right of everyone to be heard, even when we’re telling each other to shut up. And this, my friends, is pretty impressive.