Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day

Today is the 4th of July. On the way to school the girls and I recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang America the Beautiful, which I have always preferred to the more somber National Anthem. I got choked up, of course, and teary. It feels weird to walk around, having a normal day, privately aware of what is a major holiday back home.

I've never felt more American than I do living abroad. It is one of my most defining characteristics here, and an inevitable part of every conversation I have when I meet someone. In experiencing New Zealand culture and attempting to define it, I am simultaneously defining what it is for me to be American.

When I first got here, I felt very apologetic about being American. I felt the need to apologize for the way the world seems to be going down the tubes, in large part because of decisions Americans have made. But slowly creeping in is a sense of pride.

For all the criticisms that can be made of America, people are also in awe of it. There is so much America right here in little New Zealand, but I don't think people even know how much of is borrowed. American culture, because it is so vast and prolific, has seeped in to every nook and cranny from the movies and music, to the magazines (Obama was on the cover of the TV Guide in the checkout lane the other day) and nightly tv shows and news. I get to watch the Daily Show and Lehrer Hour on a nightly basis if I choose.

While so much of popular culture, at least, I find to be rubbish, and makes me cringe to think that my home country is being judged by it, there must be something to it if it can survive in translation across borders and cultures. There is something universal in the American experience that everyone can appreciate and relate to.

So I'm getting used to saying I'm American without cringing and not hoping to get by as a Canuck, like we used to joke about doing. In part it's because I know it's just one part of me, and in part because I think people, if only on a subconscious level, know that for all it's faults, and despite the George Bush(s), Americans are well-meaning. We are hard-working, we stand up for justice, and we don't take "no" for an answer. So Happy Birthday, America, from sea to shining sea!


Dr. Cathy Ezrailson said...

Wow, How well put, Joanne...and tastefully expressed. I know you must be homesick and I wish I was there to give you a hug and tell you how proud I am of you and Steve and the girls. Your adventure is so amazing, your fortitude so incredible....I stand in awe and admire you for taking such giant steps to live and experience life. Good for you.
Love you so much,

JPL said...

Here Here. Happy 4th! I've enjoyed reading your adventures on the other side or the world since I stumbled upon them a month or so ago.
The United States is a great county, but not a perfect one. I often wish our reach was no so broad so our mistakes would not be writ so large upon the world stage
Good luck with your life down there.

Patois said...

I kept singing "God Bless America" yesterday, but that was just to stop saying God d*&$ when putting together a pirate ship model for Youngest. But I did remember it was the 4th, and I missed being there.

As for going undercover as a Canadian, I did add "eh" to the end of my sentences while in France. And I think about putting a note on the back window saying "Watch Out! Canadian Driving" to explain my ineptness of driving in England.

Love to you and yours, lady.

ParagonX said...

love ya all.

-Joe, TIM, Ruth, Alex, Ember, Roman
(mostly Alex)

live long and prosper