Saturday, May 14, 2016

What's Wrong with America

When you go overseas, everyone has an opinion about the United States. Not many of them are positive. I find it ironic that everyone has something bad to say about the United States and yet at the same time may envy our country. I don't think anyone has earned the right to pass commentary on a country or a people unless you are one of them or have spent a significant amount of time walking in their shoes; I would never presume to tell a Brazilian what is wrong with Brazil or why their president is facing an impeachment trial; they know better than anyone. As I would never presume to tell an Indian what is wrong with India; again, they see the flaws of their homeland clearer than most; they are closer to it and live it daily.

Campaign seasons can be exhausting. This one, I imagine, more exhausting than most, if not the most exhausting political spectacle to ever unfold. But campaign seasons are particularly exhausting because you have to hear over and over again how crappy America is. It's demoralizing, because America is not all that bad, people. In fact, it's pretty darn great. Sadly, I think it takes going overseas and living in different lands to see it. 

There is constant conversation about how divided America is. Elise asks me often if our country has ever been this divided, if the strain is enough to rip it asunder. Lest you forget, America has been much more divided, so much so the bloodiest war in its history was fought because of its differences. Again, not until you go overseas and get out of America do you understand that liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, left-wing and right-wing, were really not all that different and we have way more in common than we don't. I know a lot of people don't see or understand that. 

When I ride the train to and from work, my fellow passengers come from all walks of life. Public transportation in DC is unique perhaps in that it attracts the middle and upper-middle classes, as well as those less fortunate due to its convenience and efficiency (bad mouth the Metro and its 40 year record of lousy maintenance all you want, I still think it works pretty well). I am always impressed by the common decency riders on the Metro show to one another. They offer their seats to the elderly and those with broken legs and everyone does their best to accommodate persons entering or exiting the train. I am sure they all have their own ideological differences based on race, gender, income, politics, or religion, but they seem to get along together well enough to stand shoulder to shoulder in a confined metal cylinder rocketing through a claustrophobic tube underground. 

There is a lot to love about America. I truly believe that collectively we mean to and can be a force for good in the world. 
Of course, the United States isn't perfect. I'll only offer one example, though I'm sure there are others. The fact that we don't offer paid maternity leave to mothers is embarrassing. There's something strongly hypocritical when we call for economically empowering women in other cultures, but fail to do so domestically. 

We've been back in the United States almost six months now. Long enough, I think, to be properly reassimilated to  American culture and moors. The one thing about America I think that really bothers Elise and I are all the unnecessary rules and laws. 

For example, it's against the law to idle your car for more than three minutes in DC. Why three minutes? Who decided four minutes was too long to sit in an idling car but that two minutes was okay?

Yesterday, we took the kids to the park. Next to the playground was a sign stuck into the grass, "Don't climb the trees." Why not? It's a park. With children. That's what kids do. They climb trees. 

In Virginia, it's a law for children under the age of 14 to wear a bicycle helmet. I completely agree that this is a good practice but does it need to be a law? Should I be arrested or fined if Sam goes out for a bike ride and forgets to put his helmet on? 

I read an article the other day that the members of a high school lacrosse team somewhere in the middle of the country were being charged with animal cruelty because they killed a guinea pig ceremoniously before a big game. Some of the players smeared the guinea pigs blood on their faces like war paint (lacrosse did evolve from a Native American game), and one boy may have even drank some of the guinea pig's blood. So that's gross. I agree that this is sick and somewhat despicable, but on the other hand they're kids. Should they have this on their record for the rest of their lives? The law specifies the animal has to be a vertebrate? Why would it have been okay if it was a snail?

I could go on but I think you get the point. I also think that no one would evernotice if  a transgender person used the restroom respective to the gender with which they self-identify. Living in a rule-based society is good, but you know what they say about too much of a good thing.  

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