It is impossible for most of us in the rest of the world to go a day without thinking about the US, without our lives being influenced by the actions of the US, its government, its media, its banking system, and ultimately, the choices of its people. I can’t imagine how or where we could avoid this influence. The US is such a large, powerful country, politically, economically, militarily, socially, and technologically. We wake up and turn on the news and hear US news, or news that was influenced by the US (a lead item on the last news I heard last night was the death of another Australian soldier in Afghanistan). At the gym this morning I worked out on a machine with a tiny US flag; Made in America. We worry about the US economy, both for our friends and family who live there, but just as importantly for us. After all, the old saying goes “America sneezes, and the rest of the world catches cold.” There was a significant earthquake last night. When we knew we were okay, I checked our almost instant local website to see its strength, then let my international friends know on Facebook via my iPad. And at dinner last night at a Vietnamese restaurant with friends, we spent some time talking about Game of Thrones and The Wire, and about travel to the Grand Canyon and Vegas. Tonight when I catch up with another friend we will inevitably spend some time talking about the US election campaign, and probably the Tom and Katie split as well. Oh yes, and I wrote this on an iPad.
I admit that some of these are very trivial issues. But they affect how we live, even at the most inconsequential level. But the grand total is not inconsequential. We used to drink tea, and now we drink coffee (often in large takeaway cups). Cheerleaders (argh) can be found at our sports events. Tipping is very slowly creeping in to our economy. Youth culture is strongly affected by US youth culture. We celebrate success and cheer ourselves more now than we used to do 30-40 years ago. We hug. And spelling is changing from -ise to -ize. All these things have arisen as a result of influence from the US. There are a myriad others.
No other country (except our own, and perhaps even that is debatable) has so much pervasive day-to-day influence on our lives. Our economy, our international relations, and our choice of beverage have all been influenced by the US. So what’s the point of all this? Just to say that if we seem critical occasionally, it is because we are puzzled. The US seems so familiar to us, coming through our computers and TV screens and iPods every day. We love so much about the country and the people, and we learn a lot as a result. So differences can surprise us. And we find ourselves trying to understand things that are puzzling (as in my post yesterday), or worse, that appall and even repel us (hence my self-censorship) at times. And that’s okay, because nobody’s perfect. We know we aren’t. And we don’t expect all Americans to be the same, to believe the same or act the same. Because we aren’t the same either. The important thing is that we want to engage. And that we do so as friends.
Happy 4th July!