This article is all about the United States of America and what it means to be an American even to those who have been so imbued with being residents and citizens that they’ve never considered any alternative.  The writer of this article has traveled to 122 countries in his lifetime and spent many of those trips well distant from major airports or hotels of any kind.  It was returning home from trip after trip that brought into focus what it means to really be an American and to enjoy the nearly silent and secret benefits of living in a land that has so much to give and then gives it openly and gladly.  To come home from so many places and realize that most countries on the land surface of this planetary body possess certain measures of surviving existence that has become almost completely foreign to those inhabiting the American continent’s interior.

The possession of things by the inhabitants of these other places did not include:

1.  Coming home meant that there are almost no homes or buildings that are protected by close-spaced iron bars, locks locked everywhere during most hours, or surrounded by spear-tipped wrought iron fences or broken glass imbedded concrete walls.

2.  Coming home meant that there was medicine, real hospitals with educated and experienced professionals running them, and available at a moment’s notice.

3.  Coming home meant that there were medicines that worked, were readily available, and could be acquired in a matter of hours, if not minutes.

4. Coming home meant that there was air-conditioning everywhere in summer and heat everywhere in winter.

5. Coming home meant that there was travel throughout the country without having to produce papers of identity, and such transportation was cheap and plentiful to everyone, and it was in many ways.

6.  Coming home meant that there was almost no threat of physical danger from anyone to the point where thoughts of safety concerns disappeared entirely.

7.  Coming home meant good, fresh, and clean food everywhere, with free water pouring from any and every spigot, tap or pipe without reservation or resistance.  8

.  Coming home meant that any sighting or encounter with an enforcement officer of any kind was likely to be much more helpful than threatening.

9.  Coming home meant being welcomed by smiling people whose opening phrase usually started out with ‘can I help you?’

10.  Coming home meant that the feeling of home was something real, foundational, and an internal benefit that could only be described properly to those who’d left, lost that feeling in other places, and then returned to first discover it and then, after repeated journeys, rediscover it again and again after each foreign adventure.

These ten entries that I’ve listed above do not comprise the entire list I wrote through the years in my voluminous journals, but they encompass much of what it means to be a competent, knowing American citizen.  I am one of those and I live, for the most part, inside the very country that provides those things as part of an almost never understood service to all who inhabit the country.  The national anthem, when it plays, as well the Marine Corps Hymn and so many more patriotic songs seem to portray the USA as a place being led into the future by military force, by the strength of the country’s economy or the virtue of its so well-known and respected legal system and constitutional presentation, but the real truth about the American experience is much better and much more emotionally understood only upon a citizen’s return to the country, having come to deeply understand the depth of volume and qualitative exposure to these benefits that most countries of the world do not and cannot provide.

These ten areas of the American experience are not there without problems or small cracks and holes, or even temporary setbacks.  Some places in the country have bars on windows, and some don’t have quality medicine or some of the other things I mention and love about the country, but, by and large, and constantly reinforced by going abroad to see more of what’s out there, the depth of benefits is without compare across the entirety of the inhabited portions of the planet.  To top it all off, there’s the availability of the Internet, mostly uncensored by anyone, and the constant, optional and bombarding television entertainment, and news.  It is not true that America is the only place where many of these things exist, but the countries that do come close are small, limited in freedoms, devoid of openness and certainly not filled with the general feeling of self-worth and love that helps make America special in the world.  Immigrants do not flock to America for money alone, although it is a motivator.

They come here because they’ve heard about the things I used to be wonderfully shocked by every time I came home, and still am today in reflection.  Almost nobody who comes here, whether they arrived legally or not, wants to leave once they’ve discovered for themselves that everything in this article, I have described ia the truth and is at this time the absolute truth.  One country, indivisible, with truth and justice for all.  Look up this day and smile up into God’s invisible but loving presence, ignore the slight differences that so many of us try to make major, and reflect on what it is we have been given and what we’ve taken and built upon.  We are Americans and we stand together, facing out to a world we hope to help come to understand and enjoy those things we have and are dead set upon assuring that they have the opportunity to have and enjoy as well.

~~~James Strauss



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