Yesterday’s post about teachers visiting China from the U.S. was pretty negative in its tone. It’s not that having teachers come see China isn’t a worthwhile thing, but I’ve seen a dangerous trend in the U.S. lately that really bothers me. It’s the whole idea of being good “Global citizens”. Here’s the thing. We aren’t “Global citizens”. We are American citizens or Irish citizens, or Nigerian citizens, or Chinese citizens, or whatever country we belong to. If you don’t believe me, try getting into China without proof of what country you are a citizen of. The world is a big sandbox and everyone needs to play nicely but that doesn’t change the cultural backgrounds of the players in it. It doesn’t make us suddenly “Global” in our hearts and minds and it’s my opinion that it shouldn’t. As a U.S. citizen (I call myself American with no slight intended to any other country in the Americas), I’d like to elaborate a little.
We travel to other countries and see the great things and ideas they have to offer to the world and sometimes forget to look at what we have right at home. France has the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower and great cheeses and incredible bread. England has Big Ben and Buckingham Palace and the House of Lords. India has the Taj Mahal and Gandhi’s legacy. China has The Forbidden City (they call it the Palace Museum) and martial arts, and the legacy and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and cool-looking calligraphy that you can hang on your wall and call “art” even though you have no idea what it says.
But stop for a minute. Sure it’s a grand adventure to be able to travel and see all these things that other countries have to offer as experiences to the rest of the world. I would like you, as a fellow American, to take a moment and look at what you have in your own back yard. How many different states have you been to in the U.S.? I have been to enough of them to realize that each one has it’s own personality and flavor that it contributes to what makes us The United States. Have you seen the redwood forest in California? I don’t have a word that means “big” that is large enough to describe it. Have you lived in Oregon and figured out why the people who live there don’t appreciate the wild blackberries enough to go pick them and preserve them so they can eat blackberries every single day of their lives (that’s irrational to me!)? Have you been to the top of the Great Divide and looked out both directions across our huge country? Have you been to Texas and felt their marvelous independent streak that keeps them strong and big and unique? Have you been to New York City and felt the intensity that keeps people so focused there? Have you seen the Grand Canyon? Have you felt what it’s like to stand in Salt Lake City’s Temple Square amidst all the lights at Christmastime? Have you watched geysers erupt in Yellowstone National Park? Have you taken the “Underground Tour” in Seattle? Have you read the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution? Have you been to the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial? Have you tried panning for gold at Sutter’s Mill in California? Have you been to the Jelly Belly Factory? Have you been to Hershey, Pennsylvania? Disneyland? Your state fair? Have you voted in a minor election? Have you volunteered at a school or a hospital or a nursing home?
See, this is the thing. We have a lot of amazingness right in our own backyards if we just learn to open our eyes and see it. We need to be careful that we don’t let other countries woo us into such enamoration of them that we can’t feel when they may be reaching into our back pockets and stealing our identity. We can show kindness to other nations and try to sincerely learn about them and work with them to make the world a better place. We can do it without sacrificing who we are in the process. We can do it without making them sacrifice who they are. I hope China always has martial arts and the Great Wall and jade Buddhas; those are really neat things. But America is a land of bounty and abundance and its lower population isn’t the reason for that. The reason is freedom, and the more unfettered that is, the stronger our identity will be and the more able we will be to afford ourselves the opportunities of travel to see the amazingness that the rest of the world has to offer.
winner-winner, chicken dinner 🙂
Please. Feel free to share this. Maybe we can help each other have a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for the things we already have. Maybe we can lift each other and ourselves out of this self-castigating identity crisis that we have let ourselves slide into. Then we will start to get the other problems fixed that we are facing.
Can I add to your questions? Have you ever camped at the foot of the Tetons? Run the rapids of the Snake River? Visited Mt Rushmore and then participated in the nearby Passion Play? Have you ever been to Sturgis, SD during the biggest motorcycle rally of them all? Have you been to the Alamo and other great forts of this nation? Little Big Horn, Fort Custer, Fort Laramie? Have you walked the trails of the Pioneers? Lain on a beach in Hawaii or Savanna? Stood inside a redwood tree? Walked the mall in DC or spent time at the Smithsonian? Have you crossed the Golden Gate Bridge? Have you driven back and fort across this great nation and seen 49 of the 50 states? I have. I think that is why I love America so much. I have seen the different kinds of people and the lives they live.
Some of the “people in charge” have never been outside a big city except to campaign. They can’t begin to understand the heart, the soul, the work, the fierceness of the people of this nation. Not understanding that, will hopefully be their downfall, in the end.
My hope is that individuals everywhere will begin to realize that they are the country’s greatest resource. We can’t afford to squander that. And you know? Just as a week-long, government-sponsored trip won’t show a person the real China, you can’t know America unless you’ve actually lived in some of the smaller cities and towns in “fly-over” country either. There is more to our country than just the “edges”.