Wednesday, March 15, 2006

America, a love letter

As I walk outside my senses are obscured. The sounds and voices I hear are familiar, but somehow strange. My sight is clouded, everything looks the same, but different. I can’t remember where I am, the blurred sights and sounds could place me anywhere. A child’s voice, laughing. A mother responding in kind. Car horns honking, traffic sounds. Dogs barking in the distance. Is it America?

My vision clears, my hearing sharpens. I do not recognize the language the people speak. The buildings aren’t as familiar as they seemed. The signs bear strange symbols, unfamiliar and daunting. This is not America. No, I am in Greece, but sometimes if I squint my eyes and dull my hearing I can imagine it is America. The generalities are the same. People work and play and shop and do what they can to survive and perhaps make life fun. The dogs bark the same, the children play the same. We all fear, love, and hate.

After nearly three and a half years in Greece, it seems I am always searching for America. Little pieces of it, here and there. Vast remembrances of things past, good days and bad, and everything I left behind. Life here is so similar, yet so different. How can that be? How can people be so similar and so different? And how can I stop looking for the shadow of an America long gone, one put behind me, no longer my future, forever my past?

I am proud to be American. I can still say that, I don’t feel a cowering Peter, forced to deny where I once belonged, even if I don’t belong anymore. My America is not the America of George Bush, or Bill Frist, or Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama. My America is not the America of tortured prisoners, tenuous civil rights, fractious tolerance, an America where women may lose the right to their bodies and gays are a gimmick for something in style. My America doesn’t care if you compare a president to a tyrant, a king to a leper, a nun to a whore. My America doesn’t take umbrage to things that offend it, or impose itself on the world. My America admits a lifetime of wrongs and celebrates a lifetime of successes. My America doesn’t spy on itself for selfish reasons. My America can’t be freeze-dried and packaged and sold to a hundred countries. My America is filled with faces that are happy and sad, rich and poor, gay and straight, young and old, foolish and wise, Caucasian, African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, Indian. My America understands the meaning of freedom.

If we look hard enough we can see glimpses of this America all around us. This America will never die. It exists in the hearts and minds of millions of people. So I still imagine America around me, now and then, the reflection of it on the world around me. I feel it so close I could touch it, and then it vanishes to vapor around me. This America I miss.

This America I love.


Steve said...

Nice post.

Sadly the US has become the most xenophobic country on earth. The discourse is one of fear and reaction.

Tracie B. said...

mel, hopefully we will find our balance again...

The SeaWitch said...

As long as there are still Americans like you, 'your America' will never vanish. What a beautifully written post Mel.

Anonymous said...

zardoz says:

UP there in tham' there hills,,

there are villages in the olympus

mountains , if ya visit with hubbie

try the old coffe shops ,,

youll notice in some of the elder ones

pictures of JACK KENNEDY among the few

american presidents revered in greece

if all works out well ,,

and you can carry on a conversation

with the locals in the coffee shop

they have someinteresting memoirs to

share ,, especially if ya get them

(the elder ones) to tell ya were

they were the news of old jack's death

came in, or robert kennedys ,,even

martin luther kings, some remmember

i've lived it on occassion and it


seem to make a difference , if I were

in greece or

were in kankakee, IL , OR hickory TN.


== ZARDOZ ==

Flubberwinkle said...

I also have an innocent envision of my America locked in my heart and I hope that this version of America, will someday, prevail.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post Mel! I think you've made the point perfectly.

Just out of interest though, in 3,5 years, Have you ever been back for a vacation? If not, you should definately go. You'll feel all the better for it.

Joel said...

Nice post. I feel the same way when I travel, particularly in countries where I don't speak the language.

Sand Gets in My Eyes said...

As an American expat living and working in Saudi Arabia, I totally empathize with this post...this is a strange and wonderful life we lead, isn't it?

Lauren Alissa Hunter said...

Great post from the past... so much has changed for us, and yet its still so much the same, isn't it? It's good sometimes though, to get away from "home," just so we can see it from a different perspective.