To Be American

I was recently remenicing about some past travels abroad and thinking a great deal about the election (as has everyone of course, since it’s practically being force fed to us by every media outlet). I recalled when I was in London, England for a short time. It was for nine days with my aunt, who had once lived there and wanted to share the experience with me. I soaked in everything I could. Shocked by the amount of culture shock I experienced in such a short time. Missing the bits of my heart that I had left scattered in every museum, taxi, and resturant and the little bits I had placed into the hands of those I had met so breifly, but wanted to keep close to me forever.

In my short travel aboard I realized that there are a great deal of stereotypes about Americans. I had spent an evening at the bar of my hotel while my aunt rested and during that time I had realized (since the bartender had been kind to point it out) I was being made fun of by some French girls for wearing jeans in a five star hotel. I thought nothing of it. Mostly because I grew up in little rural USA where jeans were kind of a go-to attire for everywhere…including the bar.

“Typical American.” They had uttered.

I didn’t speak in response, mostly because I didn’t care that much. I was comfortable and it was nearly 11pm. They were lucky I hadn’t come out in PJs. Still, it makes me wonder what it means to be a “typical American.” What does that even mean? Is there really anyone who is actually “typical” and with what an odd personality I am, I can’t say that I’d even come close to being identified as “typical” by any stretch or corruption of the word.

As I just came off spending a weekend at the Wayzgoose with others I realized the diversity of the nation I live in. It’s not usual for small town Wisconsin to have so many minorities and accents around, much less the combination of accent from citizens and international visitors alike. Still, the words “typical American” whispered in my ear with inquiry when I realized how many visitors were in fact foreign, and I wondered, out of curiosity, what they would define someone who is “typical American.”

In my mind I envision an average Joe white male in his mid fifties. Probably a farmer or factory worker. Tired. A little gruff, but well meaningly so, and probably a little ignorant. Dissatisfied with the “way things are going” as technology and modernization replace some of his usual daily processes. Set in his ways. Loud and proud even when wrong. Stubborn. A little outdated in much of his thinking, and certainly a little prejudice.

I don’t think of myself as “typical American.” I like to read. Think deeply about the things that surround my life. I like to expand my world and thinking. I befriend people who think in complete opposition to myself. I hate TV. I spend a lot of time researching random questions I ask myself. I suppose I google things a lot, but most of the world does that now too. I make art. I like steampunk stuff. I letterpress print every Thursday and often do freelance graphic design in my spare time. I go to church. I realize I’m ignorant, but I rely on feedback to help me better myself and the world I live in. I own a home. I have a job that sucks sometimes and doesn’t suck others. It pays bills. Perhaps that’s the typical part? But the rest of the world must be full of jobs that suck and bring dissatisfying results too? So what makes a “typical American” in a world that seems to have some pretty “typical” issues like poverty, health issues, personal issues and so on? What made my nationality so “typical” in the first place?

I have no answer, other than my usual workdview that has lead me to believe that with all our differences, there is a great deal within humanity that makes us very much the same. Consistently inconsistent. Perfectly imperfect. A combination of redundancies and paradoxes. Constantly contradicting ourselves and repeating our mistakes in a bumbling whirlwind of emotions. Like lines on a page telling a story that would have too many bits and pieces, but still being conducted in words, and somehow still managing to be a story.


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