Friday, October 28, 2011
On being Global Citizen with an American identity and a Latin Heart
Please know this post has been typed entirely with my thumbs on an iPhone in a hotel in Mexico City. What follows is a post about being a global citizen. It is not entertaining as I hope most of my posts to be instead what follows are the reflections of an American citizen and world traveller. Please note that I use the word 'patriot' in the post and do so with honesty and without pride. The following perspective presents a fond affection for America and the World beyond, specifically Latin countries. This post is not well suited for American nationalists or anti-American practitioners.
My trip to Mexico City is almost done. I fly out Sunday to head back home. As I write this it occurs to me that the more I travel the more I appreciate both foreign lands and my country. I would consider myself an American patriot by choice. For many intellectuals and people of great intellect this choice may be seen as unintelligent or nationalistic, as if by being an American patriot I am proud of the horrible or dumb shit the US does; I am not.
I have grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle and culture. The US embraces individualism more than other countries I've been to, at least as a general rule. In the States, I feel that people are often judged more for their accomplishments than for their connections or charisma. Of course the general population of the US is not without their adamant first impressions or biases (which still manage to fantastically infuriate me) but my Life has been about self-redefinition and I have been fortunate to be successful in each transition. To be able to choose my Life and succeed at each step is a blessing.
In the US, if I don't like something I can change it (not all the time, but often enough) either by communication or quitting one thing to start another. To many this endeavor would be applauded as 'gumption,' 'moxie,' 'initiative,' or 'drive.' In the US, if I fail at something I can do it again even if I have to move to a different place in the country. It is easy to move around in the US, and despite a fantastically varied political and religious climate, over 95% of all Americans I've met respond well to an honest 'hello' and a firm handshake. In some instances it is wise to continue conversation no further and I wait the waters long enough to get a sense of the local tide of people's politics and mood before speaking openly. I find this wise in any situation and country.
I am American by my devout pragmatism and celebration of the individual and cultural variety. I welcome and bless the concept and discussion of new ideas. I believe that a human can recreate, define and mould themselves and that this is a necessary journey before any human could call themselves an adult, even if the chosen mold is the one already present or in effect. I believe in the strength of the individual and the ability of one person to make a difference without requiring all people to make a difference, because depending on the scope of affect I think all people already do.
Yet all this industry and self sufficiency has created a distant, mistrustful or angry social culture. I have certainly been no stranger to this nor an innocent bystander, and there are certainly pockets of Americans who are as warm as the sun in an August field. However, after my trips to Brazil, Spain, Italy and Mexico, I would say I have a Latin heart.
Maybe it's the left ventricle or upper aorta. Hell, maybe it's the anterior, lateral cochal with a side of mitral valve. Wherever or whatever it is, I do know there is a certain openness, humor, humility, and joviality to each of the different friends I have made in each of the Latin countries. It should also be stated that my data is skewed and may be naively formed based on the small sampling size of Latin citizens I have met worldwide. However my sampling size of Americans is large and spans multiple coasts, biomes and states which brings some legitimacy to these feelings.
This of course detracts not an inch from the amazing Americans I have met who have a home in the fondest berths of my heart.
It occurs to me that I am part Latin because certain social norms.
First) Vulgar humor is the norm in Spain, Mexico, Italy and Brazil. I don't mean mean or angry humor. I find no joy in that. What I am writing of relates more to dirty jokes and liberal uses of slang because it's fun to cut up and let loose, not for any lack of self-respect or intelligence. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most intelligence people each country has to offer.
Second) Greetings and goodbyes are warm. In these countries the men give a vigorous handshake or a hug, or both. An informal quality can be quickly established without question.
Third) Passion and vivacity. This reason is currently more ambiguous in articulation as the description itself is ambiguous. I can't say American adults are known for laughing aloud, especially in public as if a rule exists about avoiding it. In Mexico at a business meeting where large sums of money have been exchanged, professionals can still be found to laugh out loud and exchange a few jokes.
For these reasons and more I am happy to be aware of and to occasionally take part in Latin cultures. For the reasons of celebrating the strength of the individual, the industry of business and ability of an individual to guide her/his destiny I am happy to be an American.
I am grateful to be a citizen of the world and have my home in the US.