In the 1970’s when romance got me on the one way boat to Europe the hard core Americans were muttering ‘love it or leave it’ to anyone who flashed a peace sign and had hair down to there, and knew the words to the musical. At some point I’ll take time out to air my quarrel with Graham Greene for creating the eponymous ‘quiet American’ that put all expats in the position of denying their professional espionage credentials. When you’re a likely spy, it’s even harder to ask questions and expect to get useful answers. So back to the old standby, asking yourself questions. It’s a fine start.
There’s been a few superficial changes over the decades. And a lot of learning about love. Including love of country. The main lesson about love applies equally to both romantic and patriotic devotion. The more you know about the beloved the basis for the love changes. Unexamined patriotism, unexamined faith, unexamined loves…..are of as questionable value as unexamined lives are reputed to be. The exams for an American Patriot badge start as the first foreign customs officer glances at that crisp new passport. And the questions and indeed interrogation never stops. That passport? And it’s among my few firm beliefs that everyone ought to have one, is like being given an invisible uniform. Like it or not, you represent your country. Not as a soldier, diplomat or Olympian. As a citizen. It’s a responsibility. And we’re not especially well prepared for doing that. We take that awesome duty much too lightly, and often don’t know the answers that nationals of other countries are only too eager to expect, or occasionally demand, us to defend and or explain. And, yes, we often can’t begin to anticipate the questions. Just a list of questions would be a series of stories. The answers….and often there are several answers to the same questions, reveal as much about our common humanity as about our diverse nationalities. That’s my topic. It’s about my personal experience of expatriate reality, as well as some glimpses of others whose identity as the naive American, took us on journeys of discovery.
As we pursue our efforts to become better informed about what ‘an American’ is and should be in the interconnected world we are hugely fortunate to share with our fellow humans of good will. More good will? yes,please. so lets keep on good will hunting by all fair means.