It is becoming harder to write about anything now that I’ve returned to the land of the free and the home of the brave. I don’t know, musings on my job search or how different America is from Italy just don’t seem interesting to me. And I’m having a hard time believing that these musings hold anything for my readers. Although, my last posting got a substantial number of hits.
Nevertheless, I’ll try.
Being back in America, I’m finding myself somewhat embarrassed by the election season. I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. Both parties make me sick. I was raised in a staunchly Republican family but left the party after the 1988 election. In looking at my options, the only one that appealed to me was that of “Independent”. I couldn’t stomach being a Republican anymore and the thought of being a Democrat made me physically ill. Independence seemed to sum me up pretty good.
Being immersed in American politics after watching it from afar and reading the European take on issues was fascinating to me. In the Lviv, Ukraine airport I was chatting with an Italian woman. When she found out I was American she asked, with extreme concern in her eyes, if Trump was going to be President.
I assured her he wasn’t, but she was unconvinced. I then gave her a crash course in how America is now in the prelude to the nomination of candidates for the national election. The election was more than a year away. She was visibly relieved.
So it went throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. People (save for Muslims) were uniformly supportive of Obama. They had no respect for the Republican Part or the candidates. In the Muslim nations, there was palpable dislike and mistrust of Israel and frustration with America for its support.
Even though there is widespread fascination with America and a tremendous amount of (sometimes begrudging) respect, people seemed to be frustrated with what they saw as America’s attempt to force its values and politics on other nations and cultures.
In the minds of many, America is trigger-happy when it comes to war. In comparing the two sides, the differing approaches to conflicts make sense.
Europe had two world wars that were fought on its own soil. America has been blessedly saved from such. We’ve never had millions of our citizens wandering the countryside, destitute and homeless with our cities bombed out and our farmland laid to waste.
It makes sense that we would be less sensitive to what war does to others. Europeans lived it; they still have the vivid memories. No wonder they are so averse to getting militarily involved. We never lived it. No wonder we are so willing to do the opposite.
Yet, from my American perspective, it was Europeans who were responsible for those two world wars. And when despotism raises its ugly head, they’re too gun shy to do anything about it because they’re so terrified of what happened in the past. They expect America to pick up the slack because they know we have the huevos–and we can be blamed for any negative outcome.
Religion I found in Europe is less evangelical and more personal. And, from my perspective, seems to have permeated government in a different manner vis-a-vis a concern for the welfare of others, hence the rise of what we call the socialist state even though socialism has different permutations.
In Europe, in my estimation, Christianity is reflected in government and society through the words of Christ–helping the poor, the alien, the homeless, the children. In America, Christianity is trying to by reflected in government by focusing on what is believed to be immoral, and responding accordingly.
In America, there is concern about the morality of others, hence the rise of the Religious Right. This is distasteful to many Europeans who do not believe in government usurpation of people’s personal lives via religion. Of course, in Muslim countries, religion is government and few see a dichotomous problem.
Is it too far-fetched to believe that extremists in America, under the guise of religion, could do something similar to what Islamists are doing? Oops, they have–Oklahoma City, 1995. Oops, they have–the murder of abortion doctors in America.
While we decry how Arab governments are in bed with religion, those who support something similar in America don’t see an inherent irony. Apparently, because we are Christian and a republic and, ah hell, let’s state the obvious, white, we don’t see a threat. We understand when one of our own does something reprehensible. We explain it away. But we don’t offer that to someone or something we don’t–or won’t–seek to understand.
The answers, in my humble opinion, always seem to be in the middle. Take the best from both sides, filter out the extremist baloney, and work to some sort of resolution. However, it just appears that, worldwide, the only thing that can be accomplished is the election of those from the far reaches of that common sense middle because that gets the publicity.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past where I would have found some of these musings in my comparisons to be anti-American. Now, I see them as pro-world. I know many people who will see me as a turncoat because I dare to consider the opinions of others. I know many who will feel that I’ve turned my back on God because they seriously believe that everything America does is right and ordained by God–even though nothing in Scripture says so.
One thing this expat experience did was provide me with perspective and understanding. How can I form an educated opinion on anything if I only listen to what I’ve been told, without asking questions? By assuming one side is right without listening to alternative views, I am guilty of ignorance–and this, I believe is the greatest thing infecting this earth.
Instead, I feel like I’m free.