I wonder sometimes what it is like to grow up somewhere other than America and what America looks like from these other places. I see it occasionally through other eyes and it seems like too many people see it as a big lump of everything that is wrong.
I get comments sometimes along the lines of “You Americans are so lazy” or “You Americans have no morals.” And I look over my right shoulder. Over my left. Who is this person talking to?
America is a huge place and because it is a young country made up of people with a wide variety of cultures and beliefs, it is enormously varied. Even within the country we can’t agree on what’s American and what’s not.
I deleted a comment recently that said that Indians hate Americans because of our divorces. And again I wondered who he was talking to. I know it couldn’t have been me. I’m not even married yet. I’m certainly not divorced!
I hear a lot of “this is what’s wrong with the world today” or “this is what’s wrong with Americans” and I’m sick of it. What’s wrong with the world today? Entropy. It happens. Also known as The Kali Yuga and no one is exempt from that. We’re all trying to make sense of life.
Our ideas about life and what is right and wrong may morph and change as we experience life. That’s a good thing!
But there is no one American way or American culture. Of course the culture you grew up in is going to effect how you see the world. But here in America we have hundreds, if not thousands, of different cultures. There is no one thing that all Americans are (other than, duh, American), there is no one belief that all Americans hold.
We are not a land full of morally depraved people. We are not a land full of saints. My beliefs about such questions as whether premarital sex is a good idea or whether wives should stay at home or whether guns should be in every home or whether abortion is an acceptable practice or whether marriage equality for same sex couples is right are radically different from other people I know. Ask the five people next to me in the office right now and I bet we disagree on at least one of these issues.
Though the world at large, I am told, judges us on TV shows like Baywatch or Sex and the City and think that represents all America and its values and cultures, that is absolutely ridiculous. For all the modern and independent people that we have here, we have just as many women who cover their hair and wear ankle-length skirts. I don’t even know which one of those is “better” or “right.” I really don’t.
Some Americans believe that divorce is sometimes necessary. Others do not. Some Americans might not take marriage seriously. Others take it very deeply to heart (and some get divorces even when marriage is so very important to them and they can’t believe it’s happened to them).
I used to be very against divorce. I was horrified that anyone would break his or her word, let alone a vow as serious as the promises made in a wedding. With some life experience I have come to realize that for some situations, divorce is necessary. And my job is not to judge people who have struggled through such an experience in their lives. My job is to have compassion. Sometimes it is as simple as it was a mistake. I too have made mistakes. It helps no one to judge and look down on people who are rebuilding their lives after a mistake.
I hope that the qualities that America will most be known for are Forgiveness, Hope, Love, and Compassion.