Thomas Wolfe Was Right

Happy Birthday, Beautiful!

As a repatriated citizen, there are so many things about life in these United States that, while i took it without question before living abroad, are so peculiar that they only happen here.  This isn’t a list of bitching, it’s just observations.

First up, unthinking resource consumption.  If you truly knew how much we consume, from ice-makers, to clothes dryers, to ovens, dishwashers, and god bless it, central air conditioning, it would make you cry the tears of an actor pretending to be Native American.

Americans consume energy for things that people just don’t even have in other parts of the world.  Are they convenient and wonderful? of course.  Are they necessary for life or even a decent standard of living? not even close.  I think if everybody got to see what a Herculean effort that other countries go through to recycle every last scrap of usable material, we would be shamed into never throwing anything in the trash that wasn’t absolutely necessary.  That my apartment building here in Louisville, which houses probably 100 people, does not even supply the option to recycle ANYTHING is downright pathetic.  To recycle, Kitho and i have to drive 15 minutes away to the recycling drop-off.  Even we, who know we must recycle, have gotten to the point where only plastics and aluminum get taken at this point.

Next, Multiculturalism.  It is amazing to look around and see people of every shape, size, culture, and heritage interacting in such a casual way.  In other countries, the native population is homogenous and the foreign population is self-segregated into separate enclaves.  While that self-segregation undeniably happens in America, too, the amount that we are forced to deal with each other on a day to day basis has only been seen in a handful of world crossroads.  Diversity is often derided, but it really helps forge the national chain in such a way that it is stronger for it and weaker without it.

Finally, English as a primary language.  I’m not at all jumping into the “everybody needs to speak american, dammit!” debate.  Far from it, actually.  Americans, along with Canadians, Brits, the Irish, Aussies, Kiwis, and South Africans are an exclusive group whose lottery of birth is a winning ticket internationally.  We lucked into absorbing and learning a language that truly is the international language.  Parents in other countries sometimes spend upwards of 1000 dollars a month PER CHILD for the chance to achieve the fluency we get in this country just by hanging out with our friends and going to school.  If you’re thankful on this July 4th that the Founding Fathers broke from British Colonialism, you should also realize that membership in that Realm, even 235 years ago, is still paying benefits.  Be thankful that you can travel anywhere in the world with your passport and find work, Americans, just by virtue of the fact that you grew up speaking the world’s new language.

Happy birthday, America, and be grateful, while taking stock of things, for what we all have.

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About Josh Hartsell

34, 3L law student, Boren Fellow in Korea, internationalist, former ex-pat.

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