Tag Archives: america

How Outraged Will You Be After Reading This?

16 Oct

So, if you have been following this blog for quite some time, you will see that I try to equally balance my posts between tales of my daily adventures & discussion of any political/social problem currently going on in the world. One thing I can definitely credit living abroad for teaching me is to wake the hell up. I am 23-years-old, I have friends all over the world & would consider myself fairly ‘well-traveled’, therefore it’s time to drastically widen my horizons beyond social media & reality tv. And this is what I am trying to do.

Past posts have tackled everything from women’s rights & slut-shaming (remember my most viewed blog post ever?), the blatant Islamophobia in USA & just plain lack of information about the rest of the world ( remember when I first met the MEPIs?) & who could ever forget my initial seething letter to my homeland? Oh yes, I have written some wonderful rants which sometimes sparked wonderful dialogue which is the whole point! 

I am not on any sort of agenda here. I am not trying to argue with you or make you share my beliefs. I am just using my first amendment right to tell you that the world absolutely DOES NOT revolve around this country. As much as we act like it does.

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How safe do you really feel these days? #FirstWorldProblems, right? 

I just pray that at least one of my posts has made you think ‘Hmm, maybe Feminism IS a real thing”, or “Wait, I can totally see how white privilege exists”, or “Wow, that football player/celebrity only got fined for beating his girlfriend?”, or maybe even, “I met this wonderful person from a Third World Country, whoa, they’re just like me!” 

We like to fall into this pattern of thinking things like ‘it doesn’t affect me, so it’s not that big of a deal’…well, guess what, things like Global Warming, Ebola & ISIS were considered ‘international crises’ long before they became a direct threat to the American people. It’s just that your bubble of privilege kept you distracted.

So how long will you stay distracted?

The whole point of this post & what I have been dissecting all along is the idea illustrated in this well-written list :

American Privilege  (it was written 4 years ago, but I still hear people say things like this every day)

How many of these things do you see/hear/feel every day? Who says it: family, friends, adults, children, the media, the government? Now, what are you going to do to stop it?

Outraged yet?

-JG

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American Outcast

2 Aug

Yesterday was a bittersweet day. It was the one year anniversary (Prague-iversarry) of the day I moved to Prague. And while a few of my fellow TEFL classmates celebrated this day cheers-ing pivo in Old Town, & a few spent the day looking back on the time they resided in Europe instead of China/Turkey/UAE, I spent it right here in the good old USA.

I spent it reflecting & saying things like ‘On this day one year ago I left’, instead of ‘Wow, I have lived here for a year’. & I don’t like that. 

I have currently been back in the USA for almost 2 months. And while I have watched other friends gracefully transition back into this lifestyle, with their new city apartments & impressive jobs, I just can’t. 

I am well aware I am going through what is called ‘reverse culture shock’. When you travel/move somewhere foreign, you feel first excitement, then sadness/frustration, then eventually content when adaptation comes full circle. And the same pattern happens when you return back to your homeland. In theory. 

Well, if we’re being completely honest right now, dear readers I should have never moved back home. I should have spent 2 weeks visiting family & friends, living on that initial excitement stage & then headed right back to Prague. Because Prague & I, while we suffered through some rough times, were finally beginning to establish that sense of content. My acculturation was well on it’s way.

But then I moved.

& Now it’s too late. Now I’m trapped. Trapped in this sad/angry stage because my time abroad changed me, so much in fact that I realized I do not want to live the American lifestyle right now. So I am fighting so hard against my reverse culture shock hoping that I never reach the final stage where I am more concerned with a Wifi signal than current world events.

This new attitude doesn’t always sit well with others & I have watched again & again how uncomfortable they become around me when I start to bring up things that matter.

Were you always like this?

Or was it just always easier to debate whether Kim Kardashian’s ass was real or not instead of the current situation in Gaza?

I guess our American society just plays it out that way.

Coming from countries where discussing political events ranged from chatting about the flaws of Australia’s Prime Minister over wine, to heatedly explaining the crumbling American school system in bars, to being forced to defend my ‘Americaness’ in front of a firing squad of questions–I experienced it all abroad.

I can remember when I studied in Paris & went out with these guys who mocked American’s shameful geographical knowledge of the rest of the world. I defended & defended, taking offense to the conversation. Then 10 minutes later they casually talked about sports & I was shocked.

“Oh, you Americans,” they said, “always so sensitive!”

& Then it hit me–I was being sensitive. They were simply doing what the French love to do, debate, & I was taking it as a personal attack. They were just making conversation, as heated as it got, but then it was on to the next topic. Yet I was still fuming.

In America, they say to never talk about politics or religion on the first date, or better yet, it any conversational setting.

Why?

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Is it because you might have an idea someone else doesn’t share? You may believe in something someone else doesn’t? And in the USA, the land of diversity & opportunity, apparently that just doesn’t sit well. Because what would happen if your pretty little dinner party was ruined because a conservative & a liberal started discussing Obama? Would they sit & listen to each other’s points or would someone have to storm off? 

Why can’t we just TALK?! Not yell, not insult, not ruin the entire evening, but just exchange ideas.

Personally I think we have blanketed everyone so much with ‘acceptance’ ‘political correctness’ that we cover up the fact that deep down we don’t accept each other at all. Instead actors go on homophobic rants & CEOs fling racial slurs & everyone is so shocked. 

There is no medium.

We are so busy trying not to ‘offend’ anyone, because God forbid my opinion should differ from yours! & If it does, then what? We can’t be friends? I automatically hate you forever?

Please do not sell the idea of ‘diversity’ if you will not allow it, or if you cannot handle it. Diversity & a difference of perspective is a good thing. It’s productive! Talking (& actually listening) to someone who has opinions so different from your own forces you to challenge your own beliefs.

Maybe you will even see something in a different light, who knows!

But this will never happen until we learn how to actually debate like the educated, open-minded individuals we are.

Since I have been home I have time & time again tried to debate ideas ranging from gun control, to immigration, to woman’s rights, to Ukraine, to Gaza & I have come across mostly 3 types of people:

1) ‘MERICA, F**K YEAH

“America is the greatest country in the world, everyone wants to be like us because we are the best & most powerful country. You don’t like it here? Get out. We have so many freedoms no where else has! For saying those things about our government (your First Amendment Constitutional right!) you could be killed in some places! [Goes on to regurgitate facts from one news source]”

These people are patriotic to the point of being in dangerously ignorant denial. I am not being anti-American, I am just challenging the system. They are closed off to believing there is a more effective solution than one the USA has adopted. They also don’t understand the idea that media is biased & instead just quote one source. 

I feel like these people think that there is only a spectrum of America on one end & repressed corrupt countries are on the other end. No medium exists. & Nothing higher than America exists. Um, hi have you ever heard of the life quality in Sweden?!

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(Above: Priorities.) 

2) F**K AMERICA

“I hate this stupid country. I hate the government. I hate the rich, they cause all my problems. I hate the poor, they cause all my problems. I hate my life here. Everything is so corrupt & unfair here. I hate the media, it is brainwashing us. Other countries are so much better than America.”

The complete opposite of type 1, these people have a more anarchist leaning than anything. They see the problems in America & notice the corruption & damage within our countries. They are completely against the government & all it stands for. But to this I ask: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?! They whine about things but still continue the problem. Worried about pollution? Become more eco-friendly! Worried about your child’s health? Stop feeding them processed food! Concerned about international wars? STOP BUYING PRODUCTS THAT PROVIDE WEAPONS TO THE ENEMY!

These people are all talk & no walk. If you really care so deeply about an issue, educate yourself & see what you can personally do to prevent it!

3) WHY THE F**K ARE YOU ASKING ME THIS?

“Well, I don’t know, I mean there’s two sides to every story. & You don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes. Both sides are at fault, really. Can we change the subject, now?”

These people infuriate me the most. They have NO OPINION AT ALL. Or just choose not to voice it. Instead they remain neutral & polite. They play devil’s advocate in a half-hearted way that is just sickening. Silence is acceptance! 

Sadly, I feel like most Americans are type 3. They are the ones who just want their dinner parties to run smoothly & not rustle any feathers. They don’t feel the need to question elected officials or media because they just don’t care enough. & In a society with as many freedoms as ours, it becomes a dangerous situation when the general public doesn’t care enough to challenge (or even EDUCATE themselves) about the powers who govern them. That sounds like a recipe for corruption.

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(Above: Uh oh! Hard news!)

This is what I’m currently dealing with here. I feel like all of this worldly knowledge & perspective I gained from traveling is slowly slipping away. So I am fighting to keep it. & To also, educate others. However, not everyone wants to hear these things.

Because all I keep hearing is a disturbing us vs. them mantra.

“We could have free health care, but they abuse it!”

“We could have more maternity leave but they ruin it!”

“I work so hard to pay for them.”

“Why would they work? The government hands them everything for free!”

“We could have a better quality of life but think of the taxes!”

All I keep hearing is it’s your problem, not my problem, well isn’t it really becoming our problem? And not even in a nationalistic sense, but regarding humanity?

Global warming, poverty, racism, mass shootings, immigration, & even those starving children in Africa who cause us to quickly change the channel is everyone’s problem. How long can you turn a blind eye before your completely forget you have a heart?

I may seem anti-American, radical or crazy for talking like this. I certainly feel like an outcast at times when I voice my opinions. Hell, I may even be on some sort of government watch list just for writing this post.

But until I am able to travel again & gain more perspective, I will continue to be the voice for those who are either to afraid to use theirs or have none at all. I will continue to talk about the things that truly matter while my society is shushing me with celebrity baby news.

And if you don’t like, please stop reading my blog.

Wake up, it is time to get out of our bubble of comfort, time to question things that just don’t sit right, time to tackle the injustice we see going on everyday.

Sorry, USA, but I am calling you out.

-JG

 

The Last Holiday

11 Jul

So, there’s only 19 short days until my epic solo adventure across the world! And it’s totally starting to sink in. Mostly because I realized that ‘apostilled’ copies & ‘notorized’ copies are not the same as just normal record copies…& Mama G & I had a mini panic attack. But we figured it out! (I think?) & then I was able to enjoy my last holiday in the United States–The 4th of July!

How epic/metaphorically ironic is that? An English nerd like me geeks out at this type of symbolism…that my last holiday celebrated in my homeland is the holiday which glorifies it the most! What a great sending off party! Image (Above: My Grandparents, two of the most patriotic people I know, at the Millbury parade)

I have always really loved 4th of July. I mean, what’s not to? There’s cookouts, family, friends, carnivals, fireworks & it’s summer! However, as I got older, I began to appreciate the holiday a little more for what it was. I have always grown up in the most patriotic household. I have been taught to shake soldiers hands & thank them for their service, my Grammy taught me the Pledge of Allegiance in Kindergarten & Mama G has always stressed how symbolic & important a red, white & blue flag fluttering in the wind truly is.

It’s safe to say that I am a very proud American. I understand the beauty of our country is rooted in equality & opportunity, regardless of differences. This mindset has since been clouded, abused & at times, depleted by some, but it’s still intertwined in the basic framework.

Traveling in the past has really given me an outer perspective of what it means to actually be an American. Sociology believes that your sense of self is comprised of both 1) how you see yourself & 2) how others see you. Sadly, I feel like most Americans have too much of part one & not enough of part two. We know what we think of us, what other Americans think of us & we just assume what the rest of the world thinks of us. 

Hop on a plane to anywhere for a quick reality check.

Sadly, most of the world isn’t our #1 fans and in actuality…dislikes us. Of course, I am speaking on general terms & from personal experience, but I met French people who brutally attacked an American’s geographical knowledge & Australians who showed me tv shows they watch daily in which our country is the punchline. The truth hurts, huh? Image (Above: smh…but too true)

While living in Paris, I found myself experiencing some inner turmoil. Part of me wanted to acculturate. I wanted to dress better, eat local cuisine & just plain fit in. However, no matter how perfect my French was or how stylish my clothes were…my hair color always was the dead give away to my nationality. I stuck out like a sore thumb in a sea of olive skinned brunettes. I was (not exaggerating here) ALWAYS WATCHED. On the metro, at restaurants, walking the streets–all eyes were on me. And I couldn’t help but feeling like this was, in no way, a compliment. It was an observation.

So many times I felt like I was the poster child for America. I felt like I had to defend the fact that so many of us don’t know half the countries in Asia, or what France’s political system is & that most of us don’t even care. I felt like I was being shamed, like I had to apologize for all my country’s problems! But this is something a proud American just cannot do. 

So I found the middle ground.

Instead of apologizing/feeling embarrassed or turning it around brutally attacking French culture…I tried to explain. The reason most stereotypes occur are due to misunderstanding. I pointed out that Geography is a subject that is barely even taught in American schools these days, while it is still heavily stressed with the French. Also, a survey found that only 37% of Americans are passionately involved in their country’s politics, while a whopping 84% of French adults are! You really cannot compare two countries that are so different, just like you shouldn’t blame every citizen for a particular country’s problem. ImageSo, as I prepare to immerse myself into another brand new culture, I ask myself one question…how? How do I remain a proud American citizen while still adapting to the ways of a completely different country? Obviously, I know I can still show my pride without fistpumping & chanting ‘USA!’ But this process of adapting is much harder than it seems. By the end of my study abroad semester in Paris–I had indeed morphed into a Parisian. I complied with norms like being silent on metros, never smiling when stranger’s approached me & just avoiding eye contact so I wouldn’t get extra attention. I changed. Normally I would be chatting away on a metro, offer a welcome smile to a lost tourist & make eye contact whenever I damn well pleased! It was weird.  But this is just all part of the process… Image ImageImage (Above: Noticing a pattern in my 3 countries of residence…?)

I always say that no matter where I live–I am always an American first. & No matter where I end up, or who I end up with, this won’t change. Yes, I will pick up some insight along the way, have some eye opening experiences, & continue to develop my sense of ‘self’.

No matter what country you reside in

Or how many houses you have,

You only have one home.

I love you Sutton, I love you 508, I love you Massachusetts, I love you America. No matter where my future takes me, I will never forget where I came from.

– JG 🙂