Well, today I am going to write about something that may make a few people mad. It’s something that I have been feeling and wanting to write about for awhile now, but I’ve had to approach it in a constructive way. I already have a few people in the world who can’t stand me for whatever reason, but I just need to vent a bit here.
I’m sick and tired of hearing people constantly criticizing the United States. I don’t hear the same type of constant criticisms about other countries the way I hear about our country. I know…..Americans are viewed as arrogant, and I know quite a few arrogant Americans, but I know a lot more Americans who are kind-hearted, and loving. I know….our government has some major flaws right now, and I for one, cannot stand the man in the White House…..but he does not represent everyone, or what I see as the “American Dream.” I get it. We are a big, powerful country, which makes us a target. But I’ve had enough.
I recently read a blog about what we do wrong, written by a European, now living in the USA. First of all, if we are such a horrible country, then why is this person living here? The criticisms I’ve heard are that we are too friendly, we dress too casually, our restaurant dishes are too big, we have free refills on drinks, we tip, we have “to go” boxes, we ask strangers, “how are you?” in our greetings, we drive too much, our children drive too early, but drink too late, guns, healthcare, and blah, blah, blah. If I addressed everything he wrote about, I would be writing all night.
So….I love living in a friendly place. I know people will help me, if I need it, especially if they have presented me with a warm smile. I’ve received compliments from total strangers in public before…..sometimes a little creepy, but most of the time, I welcome a kind word and someone asking how I am. I usually respond with, “I’m fine, thank you! How are you?” Why is this wrong?
Dressing casually….well, why not? And what is considered casual? I don’t approve of the pajamas at Walmart, but I don’t like shopping at Walmart anyway! But we can dress up when we want to, and most of us do. My father wore a suit and tie to work every day, and seldom wore jeans or sneakers. I live in a beach community. It’s 90+ degrees every day with extreme humidity, making it feel like a 110 degree sauna. I wear sun dresses or jeans with a nice shirt, cute shoes (always!), and jewelry to work every day…..is that too casual? Why wear a suit in this weather? You’ll MELT! And really, why does anyone else care? It’s not like I’m going to a wedding in a bikini!
Al and I went to lunch today, and we spent less than $50 (including dessert and tip). Yes, the portions were large, but we didn’t eat them all (some Americans aren’t obese either). I brought home enough leftovers for at least 2 more meals! This is extremely cost effective, common, and smart! And our service was excellent, because our wait person was working for a tip! The better the service, the better the tip, so she probably makes more than I do as a teacher! I’ve been to some countries where the customer service is crap, and I wish they were working for tips….maybe they would be more attentive! Oh yeah, and we also got free refills in “to go” cups for our tea because as our waitress said, “It’s about 130 degrees out there! You’ll need something cold to take with you!” See how that works? Reasonably priced meal, great service, leftovers, and a nice dining experience. How is that wrong?
Driving….well, if you live in a city, you are more likely to have access to public transportation. Let’s face it, this country is HUGE, and we are very spread out. We like the space! In order to get places, we do drive, but we also love road trips, and exploring our country, and you can’t get that in a taxi or a subway. We don’t all drive gas guzzling vehicles, and enjoy learning about the diversity and history of our country. Our children drive young (not something I necessarily agree with) because this country was built on family farms. Farmers had a lot of children to help, and they needed to drive trucks and farm vehicles to help. My father started driving at 12 years old (in 1936) from necessity. So licenses at 16 or 17 (after a period of restriction) isn’t all that strange to us.
Alcohol….this one I have to agree with. If our young men and women are able to fight for our country, and our boys are required to register for the draft, then yes….they should be able to have a beer! I remember when the drinking age jumped to 21 nationwide. Before that, the states had their own age limitations. In Kansas and Oklahoma, you could buy low point beer at 18, but liquor at 21. In Iowa, it was 19 for everything. The Mothers Against Drunk Drivers were behind this, if I remember right. They wanted to keep it out of the hands of high school students, which I understand, and can sympathize with too. But if the kids want it, they will get it. I thought 19 was a good compromise. And I have read that teenage drinking has dropped in recent years.
Guns and healthcare….well, we do have a problem. I will not argue with this. But some of us want solutions, or at least compromises, to these issues, and some of us don’t. Please don’t lump all of us in to being part of the problem. It’s a real concern for many.
A few weeks ago, I met some people on the beach from a European country (I won’t say which one, because I don’t believe in doing that to anyone….just like us, they do not all think and act alike). They had flown to Washington DC, drove south to Miami, and were now on their way to New Orleans, stopping in our little community for a day or two to rest. Now, how many European countries can you travel that distance and still be in the same country? Like I said before, our country is vast, and I think they were surprised by that, but how cool! But they had nothing nice to say about us or our country! I was really annoyed. Here they were, sitting next to a total stranger, on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (free admission and free parking), complaining about everything, and saying we had no freedom. And by the way, this American was more than happy to take their picture with the water in the background, and watch the lady’s purse while they went for a stroll on the beach, but you couldn’t do that in every country. They complained about where they stayed, thinking it was ON the beach. It was on the Sound, and just over the bridge to the beach. They complained that they had to drive to the beach. I told them they could have walked over the bridge…a lot of people do. They were afraid of the traffic….there is a walking/bike path. Americans eat too much and are fat….these folks weren’t particularly skinny! Black people shouldn’t be on the beach….I really had to hold my tongue with this one…..but then they complained about the racism we have. I told them that my husband and I are teachers, and what we teach. When I said that my husband works with students in the behavior unit, they assumed they were just “brats.” I had to inform them that the majority of them suffer from some level of autism, and can’t help it. Believe me, by the time I was finished talking with these rude tourists, I wanted to ask them why they bothered coming here if everything is so horrible!
I love my country, even though we are really in the midst of some awful things right now. It was a safe place to grow up and raise children, and my parents encouraged all five of their children to go to college. We aren’t tacky, stupid, rude, or lazy. Obviously, I have manners for not criticizing these individuals, or their countries. We have a lot of freedoms here that many of us take for granted, and we should always protect. But one thing that I will not stand for is someone telling me how we are “wrong” because we have a different culture. This is OUR culture….like it or don’t. There are a lot of things we do right, and some things we need to work on. We are not everything you see in the news and on television. As much as I struggle at times to understand what is happening in our country, it’s still MY country, and if it isn’t something you like, or can appreciate, or say something nice about, then go away…..you need to learn some manners!