“You Americans are so dumb. You take education for granted.”
“I’ve never seen this much poverty in MY country. I was so shocked when I came here.”
“I love MY country. In MY COUNTRY we don’t have to worry about the stuff you worry about here.”
All of the above comments are compliments of various conversations with people from various countries. I’ll begin by stating that I was born and raised in the United States. I haven’t visited other countries to know firsthand the parallels or the dissimilarities. All I have, at this point, are an open mind, the desire to seek out international information from objective, credible news sources and the honest truth about the good ol’ US of A.
As an honest American I can say that yes, 46.2 million Americans are considered to be living below the poverty line, an issue that the 1% could easily alleviate by… Never mind.
Yes, the average private non-profit institution cost of tuition is $28500, leaving unlucky students with an overwhelming amount of debt, of whom I am one.
As an American woman who happens to be Black, I weep for and can attest to the crimson thread of racism that runs through the tapestry of US history like an unwanted yet tolerated intruder, too deeply ingrained to wholly pluck out. As a bleeding heart and socially aware citizen, I can bite the bullet and admit that America has yet to put as much effort into controlling domestic ‘wars’ as it does in the Middle East. US cities are riddled with gun violence and homelessness. I can admit that Hurricane Katrina highlighted the intense lack of governmental forethought, clearly demonstrating to the world that some Americans are but an afterthought, some of whom are still waiting for ‘relief.’ There is no denying that America’s faults are spread wide, piled high and often overlooked by those who have the most power to effect change.
However, the line between our landmark rights to “freedom of speech” and the vehement, calculated criticism of America by international acquaintances begins to get blurry at fragile points. And I won’t lie – I get mad.
Over my 20-something years of life I have learned how to take criticism like a champ. It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes I want to wring folks’ necks. Sometimes I have to wait until I get by myself and cry away the hurt. Either way, I’ve learned how to take what is spoken to me; take what is true and will lend itself to higher understanding/growth and then leave the unhelpful thoughts alone. As Bishop T.D Jakes said, “Eat the meat and throw away the bones.”
But what I can’t get down with is the intense disregard for and stereotyping of ALL Americans based off of what a few capitalist snobs, a few greedy CEOs, a few gang bangers, a few unscrewed citizens, a few unconcerned politicians do/have done. The ‘America’ conversations even with FRIENDS from other countries can create deep resentment because if I came out and said, “Well, hey if America is SO much worse than your country, why don’t you go back?” I’d be wrong. If I did some objective research of some of their home countries or even just listened long enough to their personal descriptions of the degradation some of them came to America to escape and recited it back to them, I’d be a racist, a bigot. My character would be questioned.
Everyone can tell the ‘truth’ about Americans but Americans have to bite their tongues to be, you know, PC.
So, I sit and endure jabs at my community, my home, when in all honesty, I have been blessed to grow up in America. Are there rough and jagged edges to this country? Yes. Am I disappointed daily, by the varying demoralizing events that litter the 6 o’clock news? Absolutely. But there are always two sides to a coin, aren’t there?
I’m blessed to have running water, heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer. A full roof over my head, paved roads. I’m a product of many years of a Tri-State public school system in which I thrived. I’m a product of a country where the practice of my faith is not threatened with imminent death. At night I sleep with no fear of my home being bombed or of my private parts being mutilated. I travel the width and length of this country not having to ‘show papers’ without which I could be incarcerated for only God knows how long. I can proudly say that the America I so freely roam today is a result of ancestors who came here – some willingly, some in chains – and decided to make the best of the hand they were dealt. While I have no doubt that there are ample other countries who enjoy these same freedoms, America is all I know firsthand, for now. And I count myself blessed.
Do unspeakable things happen here? Yes. But those unspeakable things, however horrible they may be, do NOT discredit the warm blanket of freedom under which I sleep comfortably at night, (respect to the American soldiers who spread that blanket over me with each tour of duty). Those unspeakable things that happen in America and the people who carry them out do NOT discredit the vast amount of good-hearted folks in this country who walk in their calling of reclaiming civility, generosity and compassion to the United States.
It may be the unpopular opinion, in an age of increasing ‘political correctness’ as opposed to speaking the raw honest-to-God truth, but yes, I HAVE recommended to those who have NOTHING but negative comments to spit on the red, white and blue: “You can always go home.” Why stay someplace where you have absolutely NOTHING good to say about it? Why subject yourself to such alleged detrimental and sub par living conditions? Why scrounge up the money to attend an American college when in YOUR country you can attend for free, as you say? Why sit and watch American news every day with its looming cloud of bad luck, death and destruction when in your country little to none of the above plague the people? True freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It allows others to run down ‘The Great Melting Pot’ for whatever their reasons while also allowing me to dole out a piece of my mind. Thank God, and my American rights for that.
La Truly is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. Armed with the ability to purposefully poke fun at herself La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change through her writing. Check out her blog: www.hersoulinc.com and her thoughts/jokes/rants on Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly.
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