I spent most of my life being ashamed of you. My US passport made it easy to travel, but I was always more proud of my New Zealand passport. I told myself it was because it was different, unique. But the underlying truth was that I was glad to have an escape route when people talked about your hypocritical evil in the Revolutionary War, or about what you did to the Hawaiian queen in 1895. And when I faced the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) segregation of locals versus haoles on the soccer field of downtown Kona? I’m sorry to admit, I was grateful my blonde hair came from the land of the All Blacks and the Haka, not the one who imprisoned our royalty.
Oh, my dear America, I spent most of my life trying to ignore that I belonged to you. Yet nothing could cover up my “r’s” or the fact that I called the kitchen bench a counter. I may have grown up with Kiwi parents, but whether I liked it or not, I spent eighteen years of my life in an American State. That doesn’t rub off too easily. When I moved to New Zealand for university, I got the splash of negativity towards Americans, and just said I was from Hawaii. Yet after two months I got tired of the exaggerated reactions to that fact. I just started saying, “America”. Because, by that time, I was homesick for you, for my home.
I missed how you taught your history. Whether or not we retained those facts in school is another topic- but still. It’s a required subject and every child could rattle off an answer to “Why do we study history?”. As I trained to be a teacher in New Zealand, I found that it’s not a requirement here. You know your stories, however stereotyped. The rest of the world doesn’t always have that.
I missed your positivity. Yes, I got frustrated at you when you’d gloss over rough situations. But it wasn’t until I lived in a tall-poppy syndrome country, where a tendency can be to take down anyone standing out, that I began to appreciate how you lift people up. Yes, the rest of the world sees the downside to that (celebrities blown out of proportion, for example). But sometimes, oh, how refreshing and encouraging it is to be told you can do it, go for it, stand out! America, I don’t think you even realise the impact you have on people. So, thank you.
There’s so many more things I could say. I could talk about your food, how much I miss Arizona Green Tea and Costco pizza. I could talk about your landscape- doesn’t anyone ever watch movies and post about your mountains or prairies? And I won’t mention Hawaii. That’s just too unfair. So it breaks my heart that one election result makes people dismiss all of you, in one Facebook status. Oh, if it makes any difference- I miss you, America, and I love you.
However, maybe it’s a good thing, all this talk about moving countries. Maybe your people will realise that they were made to travel, to pioneer, to settle in wild places. Maybe they will actually go and live in other nations- I certainly did. Maybe they can bring the joy, the beauty, and richness of the culture they don’t know they have. The world definitely needs it.
Finally, America, I want to simply say: thank you for raising me. Sometimes I still get embarrassed by you- but it’s mostly when I am reminded of the discrepancies within myself. Thank you for teaching me to value our stories and champion people in who they’re supposed to be. Thank you for giving me a brilliant backdrop for my childhood and teenage years. And thank you for letting me live in another country- to belong to two, not just you.
It means the world.
With more love in my heart than I know,
A Citizen of the United States of America living Overseas
“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. ”
-1 Timothy 2:1-2 (MSG)
Photo: Family trip to Disneyland, 1999. California, USA.