An Open Letter to AmericaBy
Hi. It’s good to see you again. I’m glad I could make it back home for your birthday this year. I had forgotten how crazy we all go for that Independence Day of yours. It’s quite the celebration – fireworks galore, small-town festivals, cotton candy and obnoxious t-shirts that say things like “America: Love it or leave it” or “These colors don’t bleed.”
I’ve really been surprised to find how endeared I am by your wear-it-on-your-sleeve patriotism, even when it gets a little overt. It’s so quaint to see the handmade patriotic signs hanging in the windows of Main Street, so nice to see everyone reflexively stand in unison as the singer at the Forth of July celebration sings the national anthem.
That’s not to say that you’ve got the market cornered on patriotic citizens. Hell, I just came from Europe in the midst of the World Cup, where the
soccer football fans are as loud and annoying as they purport us to be when we travel through their countries. I even went to St. George’s Day celebrations in London, which is the national patriotic day for England. But I’ve got to be honest with you: nobody does patriotism like ‘merica. They don’t even have the day off of work for St. George’s Day! No barbeque, no trips to the lake, no loud, tinny music from old stereos while we throw the Frisbee around.
But do you know what I’ve really missed about you, America? You’re so darned efficient. It’s really one of your best traits, although not many people appreciate it. When I tell people in Wales about how handy our drive-through bank windows are, they scoff. “You mean people are too lazy to get out of their cars?” People just don’t realize how much we value order. From the drive through banks/restaurants/pharmacies to the dual-conveyer belts behind the grocery store checkouts, you’re built for with me in mind. “How can I make that easier for you, John?” you seem to say.
There are a few beefs I have with you though. Top among them is portion sizes. America, I lost twenty pounds after I left you — without even trying! Sure, you’ve got some great food, but why when I order one scoop at the ice cream shop in Nisswa do they give me two heaping scoops? Why does a burrito from Chipotle weigh the same as a small dog? I used to love it – hell, I still love it, I’ve probably put on more weight in the last week and a half than any human has a right to. I tell ya, if you just knock down the portion sizes (and prices) by 30%, you’ll have cured the obesity problem in America.
I’ll give you this: you know how to do things supersized. I come from a relatively small town of 50,000, but even there you have more big-box retailers than you know what to do with. My parents just finished remodeling their living room, so one of the first things I did when I got home was go to one of your national chain hardware stores to pick up some quarter-round, a long, narrow strip of wood that visually joins the floor with the baseboard. It’s a pretty specific item, but I’ll be darned if you didn’t have it somewhere in your hundreds of rows of hardware. Not only did you have it, you have two full rows of varieties to choose from. By contrast, all the shops in the UK and Ireland are tiny. A humongous grocery store to them would be but a size normal sized convenience stores to you. You do big, and you do it well.
I’ve loved visiting you, but you know what? I think I’m gonna stay away for a bit longer. I learn so much about you by being away. I become a fierce defender of you, flaws and all, particularly to those of us with American citizenship who jokingly say “I’m Canadian.” (But more on later in my next blog entry.) I’ll return back to you eventually, but for now I’m going to stay abroad finding out what makes you, you. In the meantime, thanks in advance for letting me pull a Prodigal Son on you.
John F. O’Sullivan