I know I’m one of many humans on this planet, but I wanted to tell you what America means to me.
I love the variety in the states. I hope you will visit, if you haven’t, and try as many activities, food, and topographies as you can while here. You can get exactly what you’re looking for – temperature, career, possession, lifestyle. It is the thing I miss the most when I’m abroad. I guess the downside to getting exactly what you want, is that it could be easily discontent when things don’t go well or are hard to find. Growing up in welfare in Hawaii, we had air conditioning, an automatic car, an apartment with a view. As a 20-year-old, we already had 2-day shipping and we could order our restaurant food from a tablet. Efficiency is nice. You get both diversity and efficiency in the city.
I remember opening my watercolor paint stand as a little girl in Hawaii. My dad took me to a man who made a living off his incredible scenic oil paintings in his garage — picturesque waterfalls and every green for his meadows. He looked as you’d imagine. A skinny man with gray hair and some facial hair. The man generously gave me paints and brushes to start my own business. I can’t tell you what all that meant to me – starting my own business young, meeting a successful artist, having the support of my dad. This kind of generosity and friendliness can be found easily abroad, and it’s especially common in the United States.
Single-mindedness toward one goal lends toward efficiency. The problem with focused aggression is that we can be more self-centered or fearful. The more that you have, there is more fear of loss. Anyone who has loved and lost, knows fear. It becomes almost unbearable, until you go through it and realize we as Americans have lost our health, houses, and neighbors before and have emerged with a new clarity and dream. Sometimes we forget what we’re even fighting for, and sometimes we forget that other people don’t care about what we do or don’t see things the way we do.
America at her best recognizes the beauty of many, that more ideas not less is what makes societies thrive. America, at her best, does not let emotion or fear control. Many resort to hostility to defend those that are getting run over, lowering themselves to the same plain as the fearful – they fear losing diversity, others fear losing more. But if those that are emotional dial it back just a little and put down their guitars, their dogma, and become a little more realistic, and if those that are hard-nosed stop trying to show love only in the way they recognize – through being tough – and truly listened to learn, we could meet in the middle toward harmony and greater efficiency and joy.
I have been at many potlucks with mostly conservatives. I’ve watched their kids play in their Sunday attire, and I’ve listened to their parents’ values. I’ve been to many farmers markets with mostly liberals, and I’ve listened to their values. There is so much disdain for each other online, for each other’s voices out of fear. The other makes the world a less safe or beautiful place, but the disdain makes the world a less safe and beautiful place more than the particulars of either side. I want to hear the fears of each, not the values. Values are a way for us to justify ourselves, but I want to hear what makes us human.
I have seen artists in Nashville, the difficulty of the neurotic. We have all heard the stories, of the bands who who were more than sticks in the mud if they found a certain color of M&M’s in their bowl. They had their excuses for being difficult, but nothing justifies giving others a hard time unnecessarily. It is not sustainable to live in a perpetual dreamlike and feelings-based state, it is not sustainable to be unable to see something from another’s perspective because you’re more creative or knowledgeable than they. If those gifts are excuses more than a benefit to society, then they are liabilities holding you back, like drugs that make the abuser feel good, leaving them ineffectual. If those of us who are more idealistic could just try harder to be grounded, to make it easier for those who live primarily in externalities. There are so many things those that are sensitive let themselves get away with, that they’d never let another get away with. I speak as someone who is highly idealistic, and so from experience. Self-indulgence and clinging to moods and shock value is our crime.
For those that are extremely grounded and pragmatic, if we could give more patience to those who drag their feet and who speak in terms of dreams and ideas. Maybe we have missed a really good idea. Imagine a world without all the creative, persnickety, lazy, geeky types. They give us so much of what we do on our off time, the time we relish. Most of all inventions, fashion, novels, paintings, and music come from those who barely have it together – the overly shy geeks, the arrogant, and the difficult. This is not to excuse their behavior, but to try to see them for all that they are, the good and the bad. It’s easy to just recognize all the problems being caused by neuroticism and low energy, instead of where we benefit from those who expend so much in their internal landscape. Overt control and anger are the crimes of the tough.
No Fear, Remember:
What America could be, to me — and we see this, after every tragedy — is a land who remembers that the possessions and feel-good food and drink never mattered that much to us; those were never really our goal. America remembers her track record: We’ve made it out alive, always. We’ve lived to dream another day. We’ve made it through disasters and had kids in looming futures before. I know it is hard to remember that we’ll be all right, when fear hits. But fear only causes us to hurt others, it rarely protects us. Count the times. Fear is reactionary, so there’s nothing useful for us. Conscientiousness is being deliberate. With common sense, there is no need for fear.
If we combine our entrepreneurial tenacity with an open mind and a listening ear, then we’re on our way. More can thrive. We should never lose what makes us what we are – our aggression, we benefit from in many ways – all we need is to make room for balance, to make room for others, starting with each other.