Monday, November 06, 2006

Fearing America

Fearing America

I find that I am lying more and more. Whether I lie or not varies whether I think I'll see the other person again, if I have any initial respect for them, and the general political overtone of the situation. In clubs I lie about my name, my relationship status, etc. Outside, meeting normal people who are more curious than friendly, I say I'm Canadian. My accent is becoming more and more international as a result of working with very few 'mericans. I am slowly replacing American phrases with more neutral ones
I went to college in Eugene
changes to
I went to university in Eugene
solely for the purpose of avoiding confusion. College and university are not synonyms in the UK system.

I hear news of America. I hear GW quoted. I hear of peril in the Supreme Court, as well as lesser courts. I hear of the media sweeping the emails of one of Bush's cronies with the underage boy under the rug. I hear about the movies Jesus Camp and think about the Board of Education in Kansas. I hear about all the states slowly making it impossible for gays and lesbians to marry. I think about not signing the Kyoto treaty and denying the existence of global warming. The war in Iraq drags on. The US backs Israel and the violence in Lebanon. Everyday millions of illegal immigrants live in America as if it was third world nation.

Occasionally a high level and inquisitive student will look to me to answer some question about these things, thinking that there is a logical reason behind these decisions. I don't have a good answer about why evolution and creationism have equal merit in a science curriculum. I don't know why we think we can get away without cooperating with the rest of the world in terms of the environment and social movements. I have no answers.

I so saddened by the state of affairs in America. I am saddened that I am not proud of my country. I am saddened that I feel things will get much worse before they get better.

I quite simply don't know much about the wars in Korea and Vietnam, because that isn't something we are taught in school. Until I lived In Japan as an adult, I didn't even really realize that they are not neighboring countries with completely different and in many ways unrelated political landscapes.

I have a vague understanding about how and why Israel was formed but I have no good answers when my British friend asks me why the US would support the massacre in Lebanon. I don't know because I am ignorant about my own history. I don't know because this was only a small chapter in one university course (thank you honor's college so that I at least know something).

Without knowledge about what my country has done and what place it has really taken in shaping the modern political and social arena, I am ashamed to say that I am from America. How can I be a spokesperson when I am so ignorant of history that is only a few generations old? How can I be a spokesperson without becoming enraged at the current state of the country? How can I call myself American when I am so saddened by all that is happening?

It's much easier to lie and say I'm Canadian.

November 1st was my first day in Kumagaya school, which is a solid hour and a half out of central Tokyo. My first day I went out to lunch with my new coworker, a Scottish guy with the strongest accent I've ever heard a teacher have. Over a Kim Chi stir-fry I confess,

"I mean, of course I love and miss my family and friends. But generally, I don't especially like Americans."

He laughs. With a beautiful melodic accent he says, "Most ex-pat Americans I meet don't really like America." and then continues to tell an anecdote about the only real American American he's met in Japan and how utterly annoying she was. I have no fear that I will be such a consumerist who always speaks three volume bars above everyone else. I know that I am far from that type of American.

I just finished reading "The Motorcycle Diaries" by 'Che' Guevara and despite being a generally disappointing book (in terms of literary quality and narrative skill), it, in combination with all the factors mentioned above, has helped me realize something.

When I move back to America, I will not be satisfied being apolitical. When (if) I move back I must be an activist, a politician, a leader, a changer. I know that when I move back, if I am not devoted to changing something that I feel is so fundamentally broken, I will feel useless and a pawn of something I hate.

This is not to say that I want to be a politician or an activist. I don't. I don't desire a life so full of struggle and defeat. However, I can not imagine calling some place home that I'm so disgusted with. When I reconsider my plans to pursue a law degree with a specialty in biotechnology, I am struck by how trivial, socially speaking, this work would be. Despite the possibility that a career in intellectual property law would be intellectually and financially rewarding, I know such work will not change the social landscape in a powerful or beneficial way. I like the idea of studying for and passing the LSATs. I like the idea of the structure and pace of studying minute details again, but I know that some part of me would be sick with the knowledge that I was not going to use this effort for social change.

I know I cannot respect myself if I am part of (a pawn in) a system that is so self destructive and socially unequal. I feel this leaves me two options.

Option 1: i.e. the hard option. Return to America and get involved, get active. I don't know if I could return to canvassing as a career or what specific way I would be active.

Option 2: i.e. the easy option. Remain an ex-pat, continue learning more about the world, political systems, social interactions, and postpone my return 'home.'

Perhaps you will be unsurprised that I'm going for Option 2 for the time being. I am still planning to save up enough money to travel S. America for 6-8 months. I am still planning to come home for Christmas. I just cannot imagine, for the time being, returning to America as a working citizen.


addendum to Alison and anyone else who would like to contact me directly: my email is my name, My first name being my full name with a c, one r, and two n's.


SonicLlama said...

Well, this is the way I see it: Right now, the U.S. is the 900 (ok, 12064) pound gorilla in the room. It's a hegemon, and we effect lots of important shit. So, like it or not, if we want to improve the world, we really need to improve the U.S.
Now, that's up to people like us. The cool people. The ones who are all non-pigheaded and kind of like the rest of the world.
Otherwise, we leave the country to the crazies, the fundies, and the nasty corporate types. So, we gotta be there to stand in their way. It sucks, being in their way, but it's got to be done.
Besides, the Republicans just got their asses handed to them at the polls! See, good stuff can happen here! Rejoice!

Rob said...

Thank you Kori, the entire time I wa sin the Middle East Ithe thought that kept me from walking away into true insanity, was, " I am doing this horrible terrible wrong thing. It has no present purpose, but it does have a long-term one. The things I do here will not be tollerated, they will force a change, a revolution. I believe my country can be a force that is not evil, I believe my government can be beneficial to the world. I will preserve it until people who will change it are ready to do so. On that day I will be a patriot. I will stand in support of a reformed America, one that knows its history, accepts it and learns from its mistakes." It was often your face I saw when I thought these thoughts.