While spending some time with an expat friend of mine I reflected on my own level of worldliness and cosmopolitan life. Turns out, I’m not really much of either. I am, very much, an American.
The following are points that helped me realize this in depth:
I appreciate Leanardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. They are masters. Matisse, Goya, Rembrandt, and Frida Khalo, all genius, but if I am honest with myself my very favorite artists are Leyendecker, Eakins, Wyeth, and Justin Bua.
I have read O’Henry and Keats, but I prefer Hemmingway or Fitzgerald. Twain is the greatest.
I know all the words to the Fifty Nifty United States, Proud to be an American, I know the pledge of allegiance, I can sing all the words to almost every Beach Boys song, do a perfect Enter Sandman by Metallica, and know almost all the words to Rapper’s Delight. I think that high note in the national anthem is impossible and generally horrible.
I had ancestors on the Mayflower, ancestors who crossed the plains as pioneers, and one who lost almost everything in the great depression.
I went to public elementary, middle, high school, and even a public university for undergrad. I played little league basketball and American football. I grew up in a house with a basketball hoop in the driveway.
I have been to the tops of the Space Needle in Seattle, the St. Louis arch, and the Empire State Building. I’ve been to Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Sumter, and Fort Bridger. I’ve been to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hollywood sign, the Alamo, and sat in the nose bleeds of Chicago’s Soldier Field. I’ve been to the Liberty Bell, the Lincoln Memorial, driven across Kansas, seen the Grand Canyon, camped in Yellowstone, and been inside Mammoth Cave. I have seen the Erie Canal, Hoover Damn, and the levies in New Orleans.
I have skied in Utah, been SCUBA diving off the Florida Keys, and whitewater rafted in North Carolina.
I can use wicked smaht, youze, ya’ll, and stoked correctly in a sentence. I know the difference between a Sioux (Lakota), Navajo, Nez Perce, and Iroquois. I can tell the difference between a Hopi and Zuni kachina doll.
I like root beer and Lucky charms. I like chimichangas and General Tso’s chicken but dislike corn tortillas. I only speak English and when I hear another language my mind defaults to the ten Spanish words I know thanks to Sesame Street. I eat portions that are far too large at almost every meal. I got a driver’s license when I turned 16, didn’t vote in the first election I was eligible for, and later did volunteer work on a presidential campaign. I am more familiar with the workings of the English government than Canada’s
90% of my clothing was purchased at a shopping mall. I still own a G.I. Joe action figure. I have watched years worth of Warner Bros and the Smurfs. I regularly watch the Super Bowl, March Madness, the World Series, and the NBA finals. I think the college bowl system is a farce.
I have been to Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Arlington, the Hermitage, the Mission San Diego, and had dinner in a Duwamish long house. I have been to a pow-wow, homecoming, and prom.
I am so completely American there is nothing I can do about it.
5 thoughts on “What I am is What I am: American”
We’ve lived a very middle class american existence. I wonder how those commonalities are changing for the next generation. I also wonder what other very American cultural groups have as typical commonalities?
I’m not even so concerned about commonalities as I was realizing that my experience, destinations, and tastes, though they may be varied and broad, are all still contained (for the most part) within the U.S.
Being in the South I am constantly reminded of how American (read: white) I was raised.
Back in the day in Riverside we had a Winston Cup (NASCAR) watching, integrated church going , Boy Scout membership having, military base surrounded, liberal occidental education receiving, normal middle-class life.
It’s funny down here – people call me a ‘Yankee’ because I guess it’s obvious that I’m not from here.
You haven’t seen “America” till you’ve spent a day in the parking lot outside of the Sharpie 500 in Bristol TN. That is some serious NASCAR in the least Yankee way imaginable.
Back then there was a Holiday Inn, Ramada Inn and a Howard Johnson’s where the University Village development currently stands. We could actually talk to drivers and sit in their cars. The Friday before race day we’d get out of school early and go to the Riverside International Raceway (a road track, not an oval) for their Kid’s Day. Confederate flags were EVERYWHERE but we never felt unsafe or threatened.
I’ll keep my old NASCAR memories intact.
But back then both March and Norton were fully functional air bases.
Airshows were annual events. Rocket launches from the high desert bases enthralled us kids. We knew to wait three to five seconds from flyovers to hear the sonic boom. Convoys (air and land) were common. Fairmont Park had unfenced tanks on which we could play. (Actually, maybe you should google images of the old park. Imagine Castle Park or Scandia in the middle of a park designed by the same guy who designed New York’s Central Park.)
The IE used to have orange groves everywhere. It was beautiful. Horses, sheep, cows… These groves provided a buffer between the hood and the more desirable areas. Canyon Crest isn’t a particularly rich neighborhood but the views were gorgeous (even with the smog) and the neighborhoods were safe and friendly.