Why I love to live in the U.S.A.

Good morning 🙂 In the last three entries of my blog, I have more or less tried to tackle a singular issue, with a few sidelines here and there maybe. But, at the moment, my brain doesn’t seem to be willing or able to focus on just one topic, and so I figured I might just mention a few of the thoughts I’ve been having over the past few days about why I wanted to leave Germany for the longest time and am now tremendously glad I have found a new home. For those of you who don’t know: I started submitting my name to the Green Card lottery when I was 22, and it took almost ten years to be “drawn” and have this dream come true…

Looking back on and thinking about this past week, I was reminded again on how fortunate my life turned out: during a longer conversation with a friend, I once again conjured up the emotional situation I had created for myself while I was still living in Germany. And probably it has become even clearer to me now, compared to how I assessed my life back then. I had a job, not entirely unlike the one I’m having right now, and I was surrounded by friends. But I also had a secret. Something I felt I couldn’t really talk about at work or with friends…

Back then, my homosexuality meant for me that I needed to censor myself, my thoughts, my feelings. In many situations, although there are only a few that I recall most clearly, I had the wish and desire to tell people about “it”, but at the same time I also felt that by doing so I might jeopardize my very existence. What if I were to lose my job over this? Or some of my best friends? Luckily, I had at least my immediate family, with whom I felt I could share this part of me–I had come out to my parents and brothers at the age of 23, so around the same time I began to get a Green Card through the lottery.

Why was this so bothersome? I mean, Germany is, when it comes to how people think and feel about sexuality, as measured in the general population, a fairly liberal country: same-sex marriage probably is even more approved of, at least by law, than here in the United States. But…

The one big difference I have always perceived in the two cultural spheres is that the United States of America is, in general, much more diverse and that this diversity is not only present but truly welcomed. I would even go as far that it is essential for the American Dream: people having the opportunity to express themselves without immediate fear for being written off as “outliers”, who, if they had the decency, would better remain silent.

From my early childhood days on, I felt that I was different. My mom has eight siblings, and it became somewhat of a standing joke at family gatherings that my brothers and myself weren’t as well-mannered as should be, which is pretty much the kindest way I can think of to describe their sentiments. Suffice it to say that my dad, in particular, had this funny idea of being anti-authoritarian, of allowing his kids to make up their own minds and decide what’s best for them.

During my school years, beginning with some serious arguments with my music teacher in elementary school, leading up to me not going to school for a period of almost 4 months in 6th grade because I just didn’t feel like going, I often felt some inner urge, a calling, to antagonize the system. The fact that during my time in the classroom someone who wasn’t even family had the mandate to make me do things, even if I wanted to do something else instead, was a provocation and contradiction to how things were done at home. And before I forget it: I sincerely thank my parents for allowing me to “make up my own mind”. In the end, I was so bored that I decided that accepting school for what it is and spending the time being exposed to new knowledge and interesting things is preferable, even if someone pretends to be in control of the whole thing. I think my interest in Buddhism has become clear already, so I might add that I believe that the idea of ever being “in control” of something is an illusion…

The one crucial difference I believe exists between German and U.S. American culture for me can best be summarized by the fact that in Germany it is much more important to “fall in line” with the mainstream. Naturally, in the commercial sphere, people in both cultures are subjected to considerable pressure to align their taste with mainstream fashion. But when it comes to ideas and thoughts, the American culture has, from its early days on, been able to bridge a gap as far as viewpoints from the far right and the far left, by allowing people to express their views and not give them a sense of “not belonging” to the nation.

This last thought brings me to one of my few worries: the rise of electronically distributed media, such as television in the second half of the 20th century as well as the advent and success of the internet in the past two decades has come at a fairly high price, in my opinion: given that it is the advertisements and not the information being disseminated being the “real product” that is sold to the public, those channels with the most aggressive positions and opinions are the most successful ones, because who wants to hear news if they’re not sensational. And while I do not believe that those involved in politics or the media had any higher or better opinions of their opponents on the other side of the spectrum 50 years ago, this divide and its over-representation by the media seems to have created a far more radicalized population in the process. Even I have, occasionally, caught myself thinking things such as, “those people on the other side are plain stupid or crazy.” But I think it is important not to let that thought grow and take over.

Only as long as we are willing and able to accept, or at least tolerate the diversity that exists in the minds and hearts of the people in our nation, can we truly be free. As soon as we mark a position as “crazy”, or in other words indefensible by someone sane, we have given up on arguing about it, we have sentenced our opponents to insanity, and we simply want to set our beliefs and ideas as the standard for everyone. My hope is that America will remain the country and nation of the free spirit, where ideas can be expressed without fear of being marginalized simply for expressing them. If someone disagrees, we should always welcome the debate… Well, at least that is my vision of it all 🙂

2 thoughts on “Why I love to live in the U.S.A.

  1. interesting thoughts. but maybe one other factor is also that we’re foreigners here. despite all the disadvantages of being a foreigner one good thing is people have less rigid expectations for us. simply put, they just don’t really know what to expect! so in a sense we get away with being out of line a little more. you and i also have the similar experience of getting into this country only after becoming an adult, when we don’t have the (same intensity of ) juvenile, desperate need to be accepted by the mainstream anymore. i just don’t know what it would be like to grow up here as an average american though. doesn’t seem like a very easy thing if you happen to be very individualistic….

  2. Pingback: Accept or React? | spare time philosophy

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