Letter To America

Entry by: odgemob

21st October 2016
A letter to America.

Dear America,
You do not know me, but I know you.
At least, I feel like I do, although we have, technically, never met.
Whilst other countries were there to be discovered, (swimming my fingers over the globe with cries of "What's this country called Mummy? What's this one?") you were always there. America. Hulking there across the water. Our linguistic brothers. Our cultural cousins?

Sorry. Let me start again. Dear United States. That's what we really mean when we say America, at least on this side of the pond. When we say 'America' we do not mean Canada, or Mexico, or Columbia. We mean the U-S-A! U-S-A! Stars and stripes and stars again.

Growing up, my favourite characters spoke in your accents. The banality of my all girls, green-skirted secondary school could never live up to the vivid colours of your high-school movies. Cliques and jocks and cheerleaders and Hallowe'en parties, and endless corn fields to drive through as the sun goes down.

When my sister and I sang together we automatically put a twang in our words which didn't come from our parents' voices, but from the hope filled glamour of your skyscrapers.

My dad, talking about some of his childhood in Washington DC: "America was just such a great place to be a 12 year old boy!"

But later in the conversation "The thing is... so many Americans are just completely BARMY!"

"Daddd!" my sister and I whinge, embarrassed "Don't say that!"

"No but, really, no but REALLY!"

And when later I found myself part of a community of expats from all over the world suddenly your presence was even more pervasive.

"It's so AMERICAN here" I told my friends back home. But was it really? It was just different. Pep rallies. School mascots. Periods instead of full stops. Flash drives instead of memory sticks.

But no. It was more than that. It was South Africans talking about race in your terms; Kenyans building their jokes on your idioms; Germans who had learnt English through watching boxsets of 'Friends' and 'How I met your Mother'. America somehow linked us all, an un-voiced something we had in common, an unofficial point of reference.

My friend Aidan, after a politics class once said in his usual dry fashion:
"Oh man. I always feel so awkward being the only American in that class...because, I mean, everyone just hates America. I kind of feel guilty..."

Do they? Maybe.

Is America the country that the rest of the world loves to hate? Sure, we can laugh at you, blame you, call you barmy all we want, yet our own identities are so intertwined with yours that we cannot completely separate ourselves. We cannot bring ourselves to look away.

Maybe that's why we're all watching you now. More than ever before. Aware of our differences; aware of our similarities; wrinkling our eyebrows; saying "Goodness me!"

My friends in rural England share clips of your presidential debates on Facebook; my university classmates strut around imitating your republican candidate, "We're gonna build a wallll," they say in some terrible faux-Texas drawl.

A French satirical TV show has a section every day where it reports on the build up to the U.S election.
They introduce this section with footage of hamburger eating competitions; gun shooting girls in bikinis; child beauty pageants and Britney Spears, with little arrows pointing to these stereotypes and then the caption: "ILS vont décider qui va être le maître du monde"
It's tongue in cheek. But the words ring true. "THEY are going to decide who becomes the ruler of the world."

An elderly teacher in Zanzibar discusses with concern whether "Trumpf" will get in.
He says he thinks he will. Because the Americans aren't ready to elect a woman president yet. When asked how he knows he says he lived there. Lived there for six months but didn't make one friend. Because you know what counts as 'friendly' in America? Waving at someone in the street. Yup. That's it. A wave. Not like Zanzibar. Zanzibar hapana hapana. Not like that at all.

So, USA, for better or for worse, the world awaits.
Goodnight, and God bless America.