The absurdity of America
by Jennifer Cohron
Nov 21, 2010 | 1132 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jennifer Cohron
Jennifer Cohron
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One of the most educational but least enjoyable classes that I took in college was called "Why do they hate us?"

I left every week with a new reason why the rest of the world can't stand Americans.

We love John Wayne, so we're violent.

We created McDonald's and Walmart, so we're fat and greedy.

We interfere in foreign affairs that don't concern us, so we're bullies.

Even calling ourselves Americans is a bit egotistical, I was told. Since we share the North American continent with Canada, "United Statesians" is a more proper description.

Of course, this country has had flaws from the day it was founded. Some errors have been corrected with time. We're still waiting on progress to come in other areas.

However, I don't regret being an American. I'm sure that my life would be very different today if I had been born anywhere else.

If I were working in Russia, for example, it wouldn't be a good idea to criticize my government or any of its leaders. Two Russian journalists were recently attacked, one brutally, after reporting on controversial subjects.

One problem that I do have with my fellow Americans is how much we take for granted.

If everyone had to take a citizenship test, many of us would have our status as United Statesians revoked. The simplest questions would stump us.

How many amendments have been made to the Constitution? What were the original 13 colonies? Who are five members of President Obama's Cabinet?

I learned in anti-American 101 that people in other countries have excellent memories. They're still mad about events that happened hundreds of years ago.

Meanwhile, most Americans don't know or care about presidents and policies that shaped this nation before they were born.

Zac and I have gotten a refresher course in history recently while watching "America: The Story of Us" on DVD.

This 12-hour documentary made me realize that every generation of Americans has had at least one thing in common -- we're a little bit crazy.

I say that with much love and admiration for all of my ancestors.

There was a moment in the first episode that made me realize there is something odd and wonderful about everyone who has ever been or wanted to become an American.

In the scene, one of the Pilgrims stops work on the roof of his hut to watch the Mayflower sail back to England.

The Pilgrims had a few supplies and the beginnings of a settlement but certainly no way to return to their homeland after the Mayflower left them.

They couldn't communicate with loved ones across the ocean and probably didn't know if a ship carrying more settlers would ever appear on the horizon again. Essentially, they were on their own.

Their new home was a promised land but also very harsh. Almost half of the Pilgrims died during their first winter in America.

Yet the ones who survived stayed rather than return to live under rules not of their own making.

A few decades later, their descendants took on the greatest military power in the world with a volunteer army.

Their descendants tamed the West, living in sod houses and battling locusts and tornadoes just so they could say the land was their own and "every lick we strike is for ourselves and not someone else."

Honestly, all of this would sound absurd if we didn't know the rest of the story.

I certainly put myself in the category of crazy Americans. The Great Recession didn't stop me from buying a house, getting married and having a son.

Has it been easy? No, but I'm happy, and I'm grateful this Thanksgiving that my pursuit of happiness is protected even when I don't agree with the people in power.

I'm not sure that Oscar Wilde was talking about America's unfulfilled potential when he said it had never been discovered, merely detected.

But it does make me hope that even though America is an imperfect nation, our future is brighter than it sometimes seems.