On the Road – America – Some Observations on Culture

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I’m going to skate on some thin ice this chilly morning. Some will cheer me on. Some will hope for me to fall through.

Last night, after a frustrating day culminated by a heated argument (about two minutes is our limit) concerning back-seat driving, I was seriously considering writing a series of posts raving incessantly about all the things that irritate me about today’s version of American Culture. I could go on for weeks describing with grim humor all the things that have, in my opinion, changed for the worse. I’m sure that most of my readers would eat this up. Others would not be amused.

But then, this morning, I saw this:

Brownsburg Sunrise

My heart softened a little. I used a mental technique that I have recently patented (you have to ask my permission and pay me a royalty to do it). I turned it about and tried to see it the other way round.

A tourist who can only find fault and constantly comments on cultural features that displease him is not welcome. I must admit that today, in America, I am a foreign tourist. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life (actually nearly half of my whole life) in a culture so radically different from today’s America that I can no longer reasonably claim American cultural citizenship. To me America seems sad and morally confused – a once great, powerful, and (possibly even) noble beast now horribly wounded and unable to recover full health and well-being.

Individual responsibility and respect for others has been replaced by a confusing myriad of rules. People seem unaware of or apathetic to the vast number of personal freedoms once held sacred which are being surrendered to the false promise of security. They are unable to accept that America will never be secure as long as most of the rest of the planet’s occupants see America as a self-appointed cop. There’s always going to be some kid hiding around a corner with a brick in his hand panting for revenge. America seems to me to be a once-great empire on the decline. Americans might take solace in the fact that no empire has survived recognizably intact for more than a few hundred years.

Papua New Guinean culture has its own faults – I’m not going to make comparisons to America. To me, PNG feels like the old American Wild West – without all the guns. We complain of many things. Most of my readers are expatriates in PNG. You know what I’m talking about. However, most of us are also optimistic (though we would grudgingly admit it) about the future. Many of us are in PNG specifically to devote our energies to improvement.

All the above is meant to be an encouraging essay – not a critique. I also believe that I’m fully qualified to make these comments because of my personal history and the fact that I am an American Citizen and have full access to freedom of speech under the Bill of Rights (God Bless the Constitution).

I love the America in which I became a man. I have great respect for its founding principles.

So, I’d like to end on a positive note. Keeping in mind that it has been four years since I was last in America, I am compelled to say that there have been some significant changes for the good. Americans are nicer today. They treat each other with more respect. The Insect Authority (Read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.) that was so prevalent has been replaced by a bemused contrariness concerning obnoxious rules (Well . . . I’m not supposed to do that, but let me see how I can get around the rules to help you.) I was dreading dealing with the bureaucracy. But two experiences in particular (one at the Social Security Administration and the other at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles) amazed me. Bureaucrats were falling all over themselves to help me with my complex and unfamiliar problems.

To wrap this up I’ll say to America (as if it cares what I think – HAH!), God bless you and good luck with your recovery. And, because I’m so cranky, I’ll add: You might have a better go of it if you learn to play nicely with others. As we used to say in the ‘60s, “Make love, not war.”

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One Response to “On the Road – America – Some Observations on Culture”

  1. Insect Authority | Madang - Ples Bilong Mi Says:

    [...] amount of authority feel much bigger. It is an ego soothing mechanism. I wrote about this before in On the Road – America – Some Observations on Culture. One can think of thousands of examples of Insect Authority:  the waitress who will not allow you [...]