DISCLAIMER: *I love America and consider myself very lucky to call it home. After life-changing events, it’s normal to shift your views and opinions and that’s exactly what happened to me. I struggled with where I stand on multiple topics upon my initial return home in 2017 and still sometimes do today.*
It’s hard to explain the changes that go on inside of you when you start to see something you’ve always loved dearly in a different light. It’s like when you have a breakup and the person you thought was perfect is now visible to you in the way you never expected, and it’s like you don’t even know them anymore. That’s probably the best way that I could even try to explain it.
With that being said, I had this anger at America when I first returned home after Spain. I felt that there was so much to be angry at after getting the perspective from those on the outside. I never realized how, what seemed like the rest of the world, viewed my country until I left. There are a few things that I’ve learned throughout my time away that I feel important to share. Not everyone will agree, and that’s okay. My thoughts and opinions have been shaped through my experiences, as have yours.
1. It appears that a lot of the world does not like us, contrary to the narrative I felt like I grew up hearing.
I was shocked when I first realized that people from other countries aren’t desperately trying to live in America and definitely aren’t trying to befriend its citizens. I found myself automatically disliked because I’m American, and not because they’re jealous or wish they were me, but because their country was bombed by America, or worse off because of American intervention, or simply because as a young American girl, I had an automatic, stereotypical reputation to be dumb and easy… Although not alllllll unfair considering the viral videos of Americans that reach both ends of the Earth, definitely not all true either!
I understand this topic is touchy for some people, as it was for me when I got my first dose. It can be frustrating when people who have never left the 50 states argue with those who have about this topic. It’s not something that you understand until you step outside of your own culture, but if you’d like to test that theory, there are ways. You can go to a bar outside of the US, probably almost anywhere, with an over-confident, smug attitude and talk about how we are the greatest country in the world and everyone wants to move there and be exactly like us. It more than likely won’t go over as you expected. I’ve seen this happen more than once, unfortunately. There’s nothing wrong with being a patriot, that’s not the point here, I’m simply saying that due to it, I didn’t realize I was blinded.
2. America portrays a lot of the world as dangerous, when in reality, America is dangerous.
Growing up I mainly heard about what a dangerous world it is outside of our borders. I heard that as long as I stayed there, I’d be safe because our military will protect me. I have to say that I have never felt more safe than I do living outside of the USA, which is a strange thought. To be quite frank, I had a dream last night that I was back in America and there was a mass shooting going on, with me stuck in the middle of it. The months leading up to my departure back to the US I felt that there were so many terrible events going on so close to my home. I even told my partner, Nenad, that I was nervous something would happen to me before I was able to get out to visit him in his country of Serbia. The paranoia that you have living in America is a real thing, and I’ve found out it’s not normal. It’s not something that other countries experience, and I never realized that until I lived somewhere else.
In my little city in Spain, I would walk down the street at 3 a.m., with one girlfriend, to go home after a night out and I was cautious but confident, that nothing would happen to me. Reading that, you might think that I’m naïve, but that’s how a normal society should function, no? Not one where you can’t walk around at night/early in the morning without the fear of being assaulted, kidnapped or killed. You might be reading this and not have that issue in your town, but I lived near Sacramento, and I did. Even if you think that Spain is dysfunctional and one of the rare countries where you have that sort of freedom, then I’ll have you know that I do the exact same thing in Serbia, also without any problems, worries or fears.
3. The American media reporting style tends to keep us in constant fear.
This was also a topic where I argued with Nenad and others when it was first pointed out to me. I don’t mean by one or two people, I mean anyone I was talking to if we even got nearrrrr this conversation. But to test this theory, I was told to watch other country’s media outlets report on the exact same issues as American media. So I did, and I have to say, the difference was astounding – you should try it. I’m less fearful of living in Serbia than I am living in America. That’s a reality that seemed almost ironic, both to me and my friends abroad.
I was born and raised in California, one of the most beautiful states I think America has to offer. I’ve been blessed beyond belief and I know it. But I felt like I couldn’t love other countries too, and I realized that I was raised that way. Our society doesn’t embrace different. I learned that loving your country doesn’t mean you can’t grow yourself to love other countries and their cultures too. I won’t let myself forget it.
I feel like when I wrote this blog originally I had more anger in my heart than I do at this point in my life now, years later. A lot of my opinions are the same as they were, but there was a classier and more respectful way that I could have portrayed them – so I have gone back and done that now. Thank you for your patience as I learn and grow.