Give ‘Merica a chance
Erin Thomassen | Tuesday, September 30, 2014
My friend told me she wanted to date a lumberjack. She wanted a country-loving, plaid-clad Minnesotan; extra points for Notre Dame grads with banjos.
Anyway, I became friends with this girl because I knew we’d never fight over boys. I didn’t like all-Americans who chewed grass and played bluegrass. I didn’t even like America.
See, before I spent the summer abroad, I hated on America. I wasn’t outright mean to America (remember: I am a girl.) Instead, I talked behind America’s back, calling her fat, uncultured and hypocritical.
When America invited me shopping with Labor Day sales, I would condescendingly suggest she try on a bigger pair of jeans. She had just eaten at McDonalds, after all.
When America tried to pronounce French, Russian or Chinese, I sniggered. She couldn’t even get a British accent right.
When she went all #earthdaybirthday, I was pretty skeptical. Sure, she celebrated Earth Day by biking to school, but she celebrated every other day by blasting AC in her Range Rover.
Then I spent six weeks in France and realized America was pretty awesome. As a hostess, she cared for her residents and visitors. She had toilets of a reasonable size and didn’t charge people to use them. She had amazing contraptions called water fountains for hot and thirsty tourists. Her public transportation staff didn’t go on strike every other week.
I started wondering why I wasn’t a fan of America. I tried to remember the most ‘Merica thing I had done in my life, which was going to a Red Sox game in my youth. Actually, it was two years ago, but I’d like to pretend it was longer ago, since I embarrassed myself by cheering for Elderberry instead of Ellsbury. It’s more acceptable to make those mistakes as an eight-year-old in pigtails.
Anyway, even though I attended this very ‘Merica event, I failed to be a true American. I didn’t get choked up while singing the national anthem. I sang it loudly and obnoxiously because I wanted to improvise a harmony part. I decided I wouldn’t try out for American Idol.
I had a better chance of getting on TV if I looked particularly patriotic, so I put my hand over my heart when everyone else did. I was dripping in fake devotion. I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy inside while thinking about those ramparts “we” watched. Did I watch them? I don’t remember doing so.
I don’t even remember watching the State of the Union. I do remember being upset that The Bachelorette was cancelled.
In sum, I realized I was a pretty bad citizen. Plato would not have approved of my priorities.
I felt bad about judging America so quickly, and I didn’t want Plato to disapprove of me, even if he was dead. I decided I should give America another chance.
I started thinking about all America had to offer. She let me say and write whatever I wanted, for better or for worse. She tried to make sure everyone had an education, a house and enough to eat. She didn’t always succeed, but it at least she cared.
She was a touch schizophrenic, for she had two main voices in her head that always bickered. Her two sides rarely compromised, so sometimes she would lie paralyzed, unable to make a decision and act. Once for a month or so, she simply shut down. She was criticized a lot in the press for that.
I wish America would say what she really meant instead of circumventing controversial topics. I understand she doesn’t want to offend anyone, but when she talks she sounds as if she’s reciting empty words someone else told her to say.
America has some nice features, but she often covers them up with expensive treatments. I love her natural look, but there are only a few inches of her body she hasn’t waxed, exfoliated or coated in powder. I prefer fresh air to her perfume and I wish she would lay off the nose jobs; it seems she’s always under construction. However, she claims the “improvements” are necessary and will be better in the long run.
America is just a person, though, and I can’t expect her to be perfect. She couldn’t compete against those other people like France and the Netherlands whom I had never encountered. They seemed wonderful from afar, because I couldn’t see their flaws. Once I met them, though, I realized they had problems, too.
I have returned to America more open to friendship than I was before. Now, I understand why my friend is into American lumberjacks rather than moody European smokers. We won’t fight over anyone as long as we remember: ladies before lumberjacks.
Even if we fight, we will still agree on one thing: Those amber waves of grain make for some great Quaker oats.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.