From A Resident Alien [letter 2]

Antique letterLetter 2

The vast majority of Americans are here because, somewhere in their family story, somebody took a risk.  As a result, this country is peopled by the dynamic go-getters of the nations; those who were dissatisfied with their lot and willing to do something about it, by leaving their communities, their cultures, their land, their heritage, and heading out across the sea.*

Accordingly, the DNA of the States is overwhelmingly of a self-reliant, entrepreneurial, independent, work-hard-and-you'll-get-there kind.  It tends to look forward rather than backward, it sets goals and goes all out to achieve them, and admires people who do these things.  Plus, many Americans BELIEVE in America, in a way that is very hard to comprehend for us cynical Old Worlders who got left behind.

But I didn't come to America because of religious persecution, famine, war, or boredom.  So far I've lived, with varying degrees of happiness, in Yorkshire, Hertfordshire, Zimbabwe, Yorkshire (again), Bay of Plenty, Auckland, Edinburgh, Devon, and Cornwall, so moving here is more in the line of one-more-step-along-the-path than some big existential leap.  I came because of family, arrived with no job to go to, and am one of the least achievement-oriented people I know.

America is not my Messiah, nor my Promised Land.

I'm a bit alien, really.  

What do I do with that?  Do I assimilate, taking on the habits, views, and objectives of my host nation?  Do I intentionally go the opposite direction, seeking to be a (prophetic) voice, intent on praising and criticizing whatever I see, whenever I see it?  Or do I go hybrid, picking and choosing (like the postmodern whatsit that I am), setting up the State of David, and asserting full states' rights?

These are some of my questions this week.

Read Letter 1 here.

*The obvious and noteable exceptions to this generalization are the Native Americans and the descendents of slaves.  I'll get onto them, but maybe not today.

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