I’m really looking forward to seeing the United States from something other than an airport, a hotel room, a convention center, a casino, a marathon route, or a cliff — the vistas from which I’ve previously enjoyed the U.S. of A.
I have a romantic notion of America and its Dream. A shining land of democracy, rampant capitalism, and the best medical care in the world if you can afford it. The home of Hollywood, Broadway, and Mardi Gras. A country with cities so famous that initials and nicknames suffice (NYC, DC, The Windy City, The Big Apple, The Big Easy, Motor City).
America is a vast land of diverse beauty and natural wonders like Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and the Everglades. It’s the birthplace of rock-and-roll, country and western, jazz, and hip hop. The homeland of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, and Martin Luther King Jr. A nation obsessed with pop culture, reality TV, elective surgery, and sex scandals, where Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian lead the news.
It’s a place where the automobile is a birthright, synonymous with freedom. Where war has become a habit, and holidays are celebrated with televised sports. A country that put men on the moon and Star Wars on the big screen. Where baseball, apple pie, and school shootings have become institutions.
The United States was the source of most of the memorable television of my youth including Saturday morning cartoons, Jacques Cousteau, Star Trek, and Saturday Night Live. It’s also the home of Walt’s Wonderful World, which graced our television on Sunday evenings, and sometimes meant that I got to stay up past bedtime.
America is a litigious country with a polarized and deadlocked political system, a huge national debt, and a gaping divide between rich and poor. A place where for many science is a religious discipline.
For me, the United States is a captivating mix of contradictions. A nation that is dependent on illegal immigrants but doesn’t want to acknowledge them. The land of fast food and barbecue that coined the term ‘couch potato’, yet also invented health food, the 24-hour gym, and day spas. The only remaining super power, and therefore the country that disenfranchised nations love to hate, while their peoples continue to seek the embrace of the Statue of Liberty. One of the more religious nations on the planet infused with gun culture and pornography. Where marijuana is legal in some states and illegal everywhere in the country. A place where a man who would have been a slave not that long ago can become president.
The United States remains one of the most influential and fascinating countries on the planet. The sound bites of its 24-hour news cycle permeate the globe. Yet despite growing up next to this benevolent giant, I don’t feel that I really know it. I plan to change that over the next 6 months, and I hope that you’ll join me.
What captivates you about America?