Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Parallel Universe?

We went to Montana last weekend to visit our nieces and do some cross-border shopping (read: bought Kalispell's entire stock of gdiaper liners) and had a nice visit. That area of Montana is very pretty and rugged and so completely different from Alberta that it's weird. I mean, they are only separated by a barely-patrolled border and very little distance and yet it's like an alternate universe down there. I don't know quite what it is but it feels different. The buildings are different and the streets are different and the radio stations are WAY different.

America is a weird and wonderful country. I have spent a fair amount of time there in many different states (18 at last count!) and of course, Brian has lived there for years at different points in his life. And between the two of us we still struggle to understand the place. It annoys him that he doesn't have a better grasp of who and what the country is and it perplexes us to the point of frustration. We know so many Americans who have similar political/religious views as us and who are like any other Canadians or Europeans we might know. But the country, the way it thinks, votes, prays and behaves does not seem to reflect the people we know. Who are those people who put bumper stickers of the ten commandments on their truck? Who believe that American soldiers are being killed by Iranians and that it sounds like a good idea to build a fence between the US and Mexico? Who still think Saddam had something to do with 9-11? Who are the people who watch and worse yet, believe, Fox news? Who think abstinence is the only sexual education that should be taught in schools and who know so little about the world outside of America? I have wanted to dismiss these people in the past as a fringe group, as right-wing nuts, but they are not easily dismissed. Based on the last two elections I can only assume they make up the majority.

Brian and I spend a lot of our time wondering about these things, especially when we are visiting our neighbours to the south. American policies and attitudes often reveal a shocking ignorance of the world outside of its borders. Many really buy into the idea that America has much to teach other countries and nothing to learn. They believe that America is democratic and righteous and envied by the rest of the world. We've considered the education system as a possible culprit but we know too many smart and well-educated people from the States. America produces some of the sharpest minds in the world and has contributed positively to our social and technical advancement is so many ways. Is it its Puritan beginnings or lack of independent media? I haven't a clue. So, if anyone can shed some light on this issue I would be grateful.

2 comments:

Amy Vanko said...

I'm American and I don't have a clue how to answer your questions! Your musings have been dominating our conversations here for quite some time. I don't feel like I have anything at all in common with my fellow Americans. It's a strange feeling to have. I often have fanatasies about becoming an expat except that being close to family is important and we like our jobs.
To prevent myself from being in a constant state of depression about the whole thing, I find myself becoming apathetic to the big picture. I focus instead on the more immediate things: getting my vegetables from the CSA, taking the train to work now instead of driving, VOTING, and hoping that maybe societies will evolve to a point where people realize religion doesn't deserve the influence it has anymore.
By the way, you're rapidly becoming my official source for all things baby and environmental. Flushable diaper inserts! When the time comes, I'll be hitting you up for your secrets!

Chuck said...

I don't have time to make the lengthier comment I aspired to, but one thing you might want to consider is that not only are your political opposites the majority, they're likely to stay that way (over the long term) for one simple reason: they're outbreeding you.

Politically, I'm a person of the right (though I don't think of myself as an absolutist). One of my best friends, Jason Dorie, lives in Marin County, California; this has naturally shifted his politics leftward. We were chatting about this when Jen became pregnant with Laurelyn, and I pointed out to him that we have four kids and he has... none. Kids tend to vote like their parents, so even if one of ours "defects," politically we'll still outnumber him three to one.

The phrase "demography is destiny" is stretching the truth a bit; a simpler truth is that the future belongs to those who show up for it.

I've done a lot of reading and thinking about this, and the implications around social programs, immigration, etc. It will make for interesting dinner conversation some day! =) Seriously, partisanship aside, I think you'd find the issues fascinating.

P.S. Thanks for the gDiapers link! Jen will definitely want to look into those.