Monday, June 29, 2009

Everybody Wants to Be America

Here is a discussion I have been having with somebody at Opinion Forum:

Larry: 'There is no other place like this country.The dream of every foreign country I’ve visited is to be America."

Clarissa: "You couldn’t be more wrong, Larry. It is a myth that most people around the world want to have a life that’s all work, work, work, saddled with a 30-year mortgage, where you feel you have to kill yourself working to buy that new plasma screen TV, where there is little sex and even less fun, where people feel enormous guilt for relaxing even for a while, where neither healthcare or higher education are guaranteed to everyone, where you have to be pretty rich to go to college (or saddle yourself with enormous debt.)

Don’t get me wrong, this is a wonderful country, but the idea that people of all cultures would see this life as perfect and actually want it is truly wrong. I am an immigrant and people from my old country don’t envy me in the least. They think I’m an idiot for wanting to live here. Both my friends and I are right in our own way. Different cultures have different priorities. The very doubtful American prosperity that comes at such a steep price is hardly the envy of everyone."

I want to add: I consciously chose to emigrate to North America. I chose to live here and I love it. This doesn't, however, make me think that everybody in the world would want the same. people are different, their needs are different, what's good for me, might be intolerable for somebody else. I know many, many immigrants who bought into the myth of America while knowing nothing about the reality of America and are now truly miserable. I know immigrants who went back home and those who are saving money to go back home.

There is no way of life that's perfect for everyone. The idea that "everybody is jealous of the American lifestyle" is promoted by the likes of George W. Bush in order to justify American intrusion into world affairs and promote the kind of hysterical patriotism he needs to sustain its military adventures.


Tom Carter said...

Clarissa, I'm not sure where you've been living your life in America or where you're originally from. From what you're saying, seems you need to get out more.

I've lived and traveled in dozens of countries, and everywhere I go I see signs of American culture everywhere, from trivial to very significant. And I'm always told by many people how much they want to study in America, live there, work there, etc.

All of this was true long before George W. Bush was on the scene. Perhaps you've spent too much time on campuses and too much time reading DailyKos. You might want to get out of that negative, anti-American bubble once in a while.

Clarissa said...

"And I'm always told by many people how much they want to study in America, live there, work there, etc. "

-I'm sorry, Tom, but have you thought that since people know you are American they just miight be trying to be nice to you? I know that when I tell people I'm from Ukraine, they always tell me how much they always dreamt of going to "my beautiful country." In all probability, of course, they hadn't given my country a second thought before meeting me. They are just trying to be nice.

Tom Carter said...

Clarissa, I lived in Moscow for three years (92-93 and 95-96). The first time I was there, I was working in the American Embassy. I was constantly implored to help people get visas to the U.S. When I explained that I had nothing to do with visas and couldn't help, they still kept asking. The second time, when I was with a private company, same thing--most people I met wanted to know how to get a visa and if I could help. It's been the same in every country I've been in. I'd also note that my British, Canadian, and Australian friends had the same experience, with lesser intensity.

By the way, I spent a week in Kiev in 1992 on a semi-business trip. I liked it then, and from what I've heard the city is far nicer now.

Clarissa said...

I was last in Kiev in 1998 and it was very beautiful. :-)

Russian-speaking immigrants are a very special group of people, very different from other immigrants in my opinion. I think I need to write a post about that. Thank you for giving me the idea. :-)