"You're unAmerican". The phraise would upset almost anyone. That is, if they were proud to be one. It would make them feel out of place, out of time and most of all, out of touch with their community. Yet, for me, it's a welcome phraise, a phraise that I wear like a badge of honour, or is that honor?
Imagine a child playing. What comes to mind? Do you think of a boy playing ball, of a girl playing with a doll or of any child playing with a video game? Now where do you see this child? In America, in Europe, in China, in Australia? Why is it that an African child with very little money wears a shirt with an American's team on it? Why is it that children in Greece listen to American-style music but barely know anything about traditional Greek songs? Why can't the girl play with the ball and the boy with the doll? Would that be wrong? Where did all these concepts and passtimes originate in modern times? When I was very young, I was in school. I forget the day, the grade or even the subject. All I remember is that I mentioned that I didn't like cartoons and an adult, probably a teacher, replied "that's so unAmerican". Instead of being offended, I rejoiced! I knew, as if the information were planted in my brain, that this is what I wanted to be, but why, I couldn't say just then. As I grew older, I became more and more disollusioned with the things they taught me in school. Everything was about America. But what about Europe and Asia and all the other peoples and continents? Why, now in high school, weren't they teaching me philosophy. All my life, I'd heard the name Plato, but never learned anything about him until college. Why was it that when I wanted to take a foreign language, the only two that were offered in my high school were Spanish and French? The Spanish wasn't even from Spain. It was from Latin America. And while we're at it, why is everything in Spanish anyway? Shouldn't English be the language of America? And if not, then why don't other nationalities receive the same treatment with regard to their language? All of these questions bothered me. And then, in 2001, I went to school one day. It was a day just like any other, until the world came crashing down. At first, it was like a fly with a voice that came blaring out of the pa system, so I paid no attention to it. Then, it grew more insistent, buzzing ever louder until even I was forced to listen to the words, planes hit New York. But in order to understand my seeming obliviousness, it's necessary to hear my story.
I didn't grow up in the era of the Western film craze, but I knew their basic plot. The good cowboys against the bad Indians. The god-fearing men against the pagans. And they expected me to cheer while they took land away from the natives and while they killed them. I read, both in high school and in college, how the white men purposefully infected the Native Americans with small pocks, how they forced them on the Trail of Tears onto reservations, where many stay to this day. Today, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, without knowing the real story behind it. How could I be proud of that? How could I stand up and say "I'm proud to be an American"? But that was in the past, you might say. Surely, America has learned from it's mistakes. Surely not. The one thing that September 11th brought home to me was the arrogance of the American people. They truly believe that they're superior. They believed that although they may go out and fight wars abroad, no one would dare harm the "good ole USA". They were wrong. And why was it harmed? For the same reason why those Africans where American sports team shirts. Americans have an inherent desire to spread their culture, their way of life, regardless of what others, including the new students of this culture, may think. But what, exactly, is American culture. Does it stretch back for thousands of years? Does it inspire great minds to build, to come up with new ideas, to push the boundaries of human endurance? Maybe, in it's early stages, it did some of these things. After all, it was America which created the radio, the telephone and the light bulb. But today, they create pollution with their automobiles and factories and they drain the environment of valuable resources. America is a large country, but not large enough to explain the huge amount of resources that Americans waste, all the time turning their back on renewable, safer and cleaner sources of energy, all for the sake of the almighty dollar. Their young plug themselves into the internet and shut themselves out from the rest of the world, while the ruling parties decide to fight needless wars and invade other people's territories, claiming they need to free them from one thing or another. In Vietnam, it was Communism and in Iraq, it's Sadam Husein. In Vietnam it was really helping the French and then not looking bad and in Iraq it's getting oil for their machines, revenge for a past war and money for their pockets. On the 11th of September, I was wracking my brain, trying to figure out answers to an English quiz. On the 12th, I was wracking my brain, trying to figure out the answers to life. It seemed that my philosophy class had come early. I was thrust from a world of Romanticism in the literary sense to one of confusion, but I knew why it had happened. It all goes back to culture and education. When I was in high school, aside from philosophy, I'd ask about grammar. The teachers would politely knod and smile and leave me to figure everything out with my dictionary. In college, I was constantly praised for being a straight A student, for having wonderful diction. And yet, I felt that it was nothing more than I should have had from a decent education. When most Europeans leave school, even a high school equivalent, they know several languages. When Americans leave, they're lucky if they know English, not counting Eubonics, which some actually call a language. But this cultural void extends far past the classroom and enters into the kitchen as well. When you think of American food, what comes to mind? Do you think of regional specialties, of Southern food, of New England Food or do you think of MacDonalds.? Let me put it another way. When you go to a foreign country (which many Americans never do) what do you see, a plate of hush puppies, some peach cobler or a big fat wapper? Odds are the wapper, maybe by a different name, with soda on the side. When you ask an American what Italian food is, do they tell you something authentic or do they say pizza? Should beer be drank hot or cold? But enough about that. If you consider yourself an American, how do you see yourself when you look in the mirror? Tell the truth. Someone said it, I'm sure. I'm fat. I'm overweight. I'm ugly, I have pimples... I don't look like the model in the $1,000 dress on tv. Why? Who said that being fat, wearing plain clothes, or even having pimples, was a crime? America did, through their constant portrayal of "perfection" or at least, through their view of it on television. That's why people will kill one another, not for bread, but for a pair of brand-name sneakers and why others will starve themselves in order to be "beautiful" and "thin enough" to meet this ideal. merica has made material possessions so valuable in people's minds that a regular pair of jeans isn't enough. They have to have someone's name on them. And it's not good enough to have a car, you've got to have the latest sports car. So what's an American to think when he/she walks into a simple place with simple people, especially if they follow a nonmainstream religion? Why, they must be changed of course, made American! And that's why September 11th happened. That, and the fact that bush and his friends knew about it all along. Come to think of it, how did he get in again anyway. Oh, right, lack of education and caring on the part of Americans. Now do I support terrorism or would I hurt my American friends? Absolutely not. Do I think Americans need to wake up, step down from that pedistol and start being real people again, for themselves and then for their country. Yes. I also think that if they don't at least try to fight against outsourcing, they'll lose more jobs and become poorer.
But how do I fit into this you may ask? Do I consider myself an American? The answer is no. Ever since that day with the cartoon, I knew that I didn't want to be part of it. I've never felt myself to be an American. I was born here, yes. I wouldn't harm America, unless it was against Greece, because I have no reason to do so. But I also wouldn't go out of my way to defend or protect it. If, for some reason, it was in the right, I'd argue for it, but mostly so I could prove my point. My mother came here an Italian immigrant and a child. She had nothing in her language, as the Hispanics do today. She had to learn English. She tried to pass her love of America onto me, but I would have none of it. While it's true that America does have women's rights, gay rights and other civil liberties, these are about the only really good things that they pass on when they needlessly get involved in other country's battles. and I see even these slowly getting stripped away. Think of your area. Can people smoke tobacco freely in it? Can people say the word nigger or fuck or whatever the new "bad word" is this week without being sensored? If America is the country with freedom of speech, why is their so much sensorship? Since when did compassion turn into political correctness? Since when were Americans afraid to speak up? Is this what people think of when they hear the word democracy? . My country (Hellas or Greece if you prefer) may be at the bottom right now, but we're picking ourselves up. We may never be the proud and glorious nation that we once were, but at least I can wear the blue and white with pride. If we hurt ourselves, we have only each other to blame, and the world can't hate us for anything. The things that we have given the world, from science, to drama, to literature, to culture, to democracy itself will last far longer than a Big Mac and a video game. So please, if you see me on the street, call me blind, foolish, obsessed, lazy etc, but don't call me an American.