This is one of the last things I thought I’d care about while living abroad. I define myself more readily as a New Yorker than an American. Despite coming from a family with a grandfather, father, and two cousins serving for the U.S. Navy, I’ve never considered myself a patriotic person. I guess it stems from the fact that not many people live up to the ideals of our founding fathers (including the fathers themselves!).
But, by and by in Japan, I’ve been realizing how important American values are to me – particularly our melting pot idea which is only emphasized by my New York roots. For all the times I scoff at overly politcally correct statements, I somewhat cringe at the sexism apparent in Japan. It’s not outright, mind you (save the groping on the trains…). Moreso a perpetual boys-on-this-side, girls-on-that-side system that pervades each level of society.
One clear example of this is in one of my adult conversation classes. On Tuesday nights, it’s a man and two women all in their 30s. Each time the male student is absent, the women are all a chatter, but whenever Mr. Shinozaki is there the woman seated to his left clams up.
I always make the distinction in my class that I can only speak for New York, and, specifically, New York City. I sometimes forget that in my expansive country there are vast differences in lifestyles, the chief distinction being urban versus suburban. Coming from the city, I take for granted my privilege at grabbing Indian food or going to the Met, listening to a street performer, poking fun at someone’s poor attire.
I forget in other parts of the country people LIKE going to Taco Bell. They don’t think about whether books, movies, or music is good – just how much it’s hyped. Now, of course this isn’t true for every American. It’s likely not true for most of them. I’m not about to profess some elevated level of taste. But between the shittiness of pop culture in recent years and laughable politics, I always found it hard to stand behind the red, white, and blue at home. I wanted to distinguish myself from the overweight family with their Gap sweatshirts and trainers huffing loudly about.
And now I find myself sitting in my apartment, wishing I were in a friend’s backyard cracking open a beer, eating a hotdog (yes, Mom, a hotdog!), and watching some fireworks. So here’s to wishing all of you back home a nice Fourth of July. Hopefully your neighbors aren’t too obnoxious with their (illegal) fireworks. 😉