After spending time abroad, you get the sense from many foreigners that America is the punchline to some joke we’re not clued in on. And understandably so, with a symbol of a racist, capitalist patriarchy like Trump in office. Although I saw this sentiment during my pre-Trunp travels…
The nose wrinkled in distaste as they hear your response “I’m from the States.” Many folks to seem to have developed an idea of America as some kind of plastic, tasteless, corporatized, culture-less wasteland where you are sentenced to a life of unintelligent conversations in shopping plazas.
Bombarded by chain restaurants, endless concrete in disrepair, Fox News in the airport and an onslaught of billboards, it’s easy to succumb to that mentality. And yet, within an hour of being on the ground I have to shake my head at the mysterious and unique beauty that oozes out of the cracks here.
The people are so incredibly varied in this country, both culturally and aesthetically. There is a raw sense of individuality that is unlike anywhere else in the world. Despite a stifling atmosphere of capitalism, the asymmetrical beauty of human nature also pervades in equal measure.
While sitting in the train station in Los Angeles, I observe people coming, going and loitering. A blind man thwacks his cane around while uttering something unintelligible to himself. After circling the premises for some time, he takes a seat at the public piano wedged into a corner. He proceeds to play a staggeringly beautiful piece, while onlookers quietly observe.
Getting some snacks in the shop adjacent to the train, a man in front of me in line insists I check out first. The cashier asks about my day with what seems like genuine interest. The girl making sandwiches cracks jokes with a friend who came to visit her at work and the whole vibe is pretty laid back.
The people make this place what it is. Despite the chaos of a corrupt government, meager social programs and vicious capitalist foundation, folks still manage to leave a mark of meaning everywhere they touch here. We have incredible music, art and some profound version of truth here beneath the veneer.
I pity anyone foolish enough to discount the immense and intricate personality of this country. Yes, the government is shit, yes corporations abound. But in spite of all the things working against it, there is still so much strange beauty to be found here. We may have front row seats to the freak show, but at least we know who we are and make our own meaning of it all.