Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Let Freedom Ring!

I love this country. "What?" say you. "How can this be? Haven't you trashed it repeatedly? Aren't you one of them there Commies?" Well, maybe I am, Matilda, maybe I am, but I still love this country. Despite my many rants about what a shithole this country sometimes is (and yes, that was just an excuse to link to a bunch of old stuff on my own blog - I'm a narcissist, after all, and you might be new here), I still love it. Let's delve into Greg's psyche, shall we?

Last week I was driving home on the freeway through Phoenix, with the sun on my shoulder and The Joshua Tree playing on the hi-fi. If there's ever an album to get you in a good mood about America, it's that one, and it's weirdly weird that it was made by gloomy Irish blokes, but I don't question the American goodness of it, I just revel in it! This particular moment made me think back to when Krys and I crossed this vast land of ours and how great it was to be an American. In August 1993 the future wife and I left our home in Pennsylvania and hit the open road in search of fame and fortune in the Great Northwest. We had some money, but not a lot, and we had some stuff, but not a lot, and we had no prospects. That's the time to hit the road, though - right out of college, with worthless English degrees in our pockets (I loved being an English major, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't really streamline you for a career), and nothing holding us back.

We drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway into Tennessee, then zipped over to St. Louis and into Kansas. At Denver we hooked north, then west through Wyoming into Yellowstone. From there we went south into Utah, stopped at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, spent some time at the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and San Francisco (I will not say much about Bakersfield, because if you can't say something nice, don't say it at all). Then it was up into Oregon, where we settled in Portland. It was a nice three-week journey, and we saw a great deal of this wonderful land.

So why does this make me love the country? As I was driving through east Phoenix and into Tempe last week, I thought about driving through Colorado and Wyoming and Utah and the sheer freedom I felt while doing it. Those states are vast, underpopulated (for the most part) and offer hundreds of futures, if only we are willing to take them. I always retain a soft spot in my heart for southeastern Pennsylvania, because it's where I was raised, but the East feels almost European when I return there now, because it's all crunched together. The weight of centuries is beginning to push down on those people, just like it pushes down on Europe. Now, I'm a historian, and I love the weight of centuries, the sense of continuity with the past, but it can get stifling. Driving through the West, you feel like nothing is holding you back, and anything is possible. It's the same country as the East, yet it feels newer, full of promise. People (my friends, sometimes, but random strangers as well) often cannot believe that I simply left my life behind when I was 21. "Don't you miss your family?" they still ask. Well, yes, of course I do, and even more so now that we have children, since Mia's grandparents would love to see her more often (we are unimportant). But family can also be a burden, and for me (it's not for everyone, I admit) the fear of the unknown is mitigated by the fact that I don't feel obligated to go to every family dinner and see my family at every holiday. That may be cruel, I know, but it's not like I don't want to see my family - I just don't want to feel the obligation to do it. Breaking with your past, as feebly as I have done it (I still see my family often, after all, and with the magic of e-mail and the Internet, I can even say hello to my cousin in Dubai, if you're keeping up, and my sister in Virginia, although she never reads my blog and never answers e-mail, so she's dead to me! - say, where was I?), is a scary thing, and sometimes I wish I hadn't done it.

The beautiful thing about this country, however, is that I can do it. We are able to re-invent ourselves. We are able to drop everything and take off. That is the promise of the U.S. - that you will not be judged on your past, but on your future. It doesn't always work out that way, of course, but that doesn't change the fact that it's the ideal we should all work toward. The West is symbolic of that, of the newness of the country and the spirit of creation that sprang from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution - still radical documents - but the East is still a place where you can experience it. We are not trapped by our past, we are not trapped by our family, we are not trapped by our job or our mortgage payment. There is freedom out there in America, and although I occasionally miss the comfort of home, I'm glad I seized some of it. We all need to appreciate what we are able to do in America, and understand how precious it is. That's why I whine about the state of things sometimes, because the underlying beauty of this country is so dynamic and wonderful. At least in my opinion. I could be wrong.


Blogger layne said...

This reminds me so much of the best parts of Preacher...written by another Irish guy!!! Coincidence?!?

4/5/05 3:07 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I forgot about Preacher, but you're right - it's the same deal. I have a theory that if I live abroad for a while, I'll appreciate the country more. Maybe foreigners can see our flaws as well as what makes us special more clearly than we can. Hmmm ...

4/5/05 4:57 PM  

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