Ah, 'Murica. Today is a wonderful day to reflect on my country and think about what it means to be American. What this country stands for. Now, we live in very turbulent times so I'm not going to make this political. It doesn't matter which side you voted for, today is a day to put that aside and accept that we are all Americans.
I will instead focus on this: I think the absolute best way to understand your own country, to gain an appreciation for it, flaws and all, and to open your mind is to step outside of it. I spent half a year studying in the Netherlands, an experience for which I am eternally grateful. I fully intend to travel again, to stay in more exotic places for even longer. None of it is because I have a dislike of my country. Quite the contrary.
You see, if you only know one way to live, if you only experience one way of doing things, you'll never have anything to compare it to. Sure, we see on the news that this country is doing something terrible or that country is hard on its citizens or some other country is conducting social experiments that would never happen here. That's just filtered news. No matter how pure the intent, it's filtered through someone, perhaps many someones, personal biases, their writing or presenting styles, and whatever restrictions their superiors may impose on them. I am a journalist, so I have no ill will toward the media, I love them and completely support their work, but there is no substitute for direct, personal experience.
So my humble advice for any American who wishes to better understand and love their country is this: travel. If you can afford it, cross an ocean. It's well worth the experience. If not, we have two perfectly lovely neighbors to the north and south. Do you know how Canada's politicians are elected? Do you know what districts in Mexico are divided into? And if you can't do that, then remember, this is a huge, beautiful country. At the very least, try to move around the US itself. From one coast to another there is a world of difference in culture. We are a beautiful mixture of ethnicities and traditions that sample from across the world. Whatever you choose, just make sure to travel. Get out of your comfort zone. See that even the most simple things can be done a thousand different ways. And by doing so, learn to appreciate your home, your own culture, and your own traditions.
Please. Be Excellent to Each Other.
((Obligatory "Murica, brother!" ))
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.