Wednesday 8 September 2010

God Bless America

I wanted to begin this by saying that I know I'm beginning to sound like a bit of a..... but apparently there isn't actually a word for someone who loves America. Anglophile, Francophile, Sinophile, yes. Americaphile? No.

Lets be frank here; America and Americans are universally stereotyped, derided, patronised and loathed, so there really is little need for one. I myself have harboured all these views at one time another. Paul Theroux remarked that the English "...hold very strong opinions about places to which they have never been". I've been guilty of that in the past, but now I'm in a position to be a little more objective, I can safely and proudly say that I absolutely love the United States of America.

Americans have their moments too. I have generally found them extremely warm and hospitable. But then I think people the world over are friendly and welcoming to strangers (except Parisians). Unless you're hovering by the rim of the Grand Canyon, an accent immediately identifies you as a curiosity. (If you have an English accent, it also marks you out as Australian. Every single day. I will never understand). People want to know where you're from, why you're here, where you've been, where you're going, and most of all, they want to know that you're enjoying their country.

But there's always a but. America is all about Freedom and Rights. Because it has a written constitution, these rights are specifically articulated. This discourages people from viewing them in the context of the rights of others, and can make them demanding, impatient and lacking empathy. Not all of them of course, but enough of them, mistake their rights for entitlements. I think that's what pisses people off about them.

I didn't really know what to expect when I arrived just over three months ago. Two days in Miami were as inappropriate a prologue as ever was penned. Texas was a relaxing, if hot, experience where true American hospitality, and the charms of its small towns began to work its magic. By the time I was back from Canada, armed with a Mustang, and embarking on the long trek down the Pacific coast, I was sold.

After that meandering journey through the transient landscape, came the inland excursion. The wonders of the west didn't disappoint - in fact they hid a few very special moments amidst the dusty red sand. Things changed again with Colorado, New Mexico. Red sand became white. The freeway miles disappeared, the speeding fines mounted, and I found myself, for the first time in a long time, back somewhere I had been before.

That Los Angeles should remind me so much of London, and be the last stride of this walk is no less absurd than Miami being the first. In time, these book ends will topple from the shelf and the stories clasped between them will stand alone; simple stories of the great outdoors and the wonders of nature. The tale they tell is a truthful one; it revealed itself to me chapter by chapter, day by day. Although it ends now, for the time being, I know that really it has barely begun.

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