American Defined

Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Peru — By on September 11, 2006 at 11:50 pm

Today began like most others on the road. Sleeping three to a room in our crash pad du jour, we were pulled from a deep sleep by the persistent buzzing of our ‘travel alarm’ – a.k.a. the timer on my $39 Fossil. I let out a frustrated groan; fumbling to silence the source of our pain (We LGs don’t typically embrace mornings). Even through my early a.m. haze, something on the watch caught my eye. What is it? I thought, as I squinted to get a second look at the indiglo face. As the date flashed back at me through the darkness, I realized what it was – today was September 11th. As Manhattan residents for over half a decade, not only would it be the first time my fellow LGs and I wouldn’t be in NYC for the anniversary, this year we weren’t even within U.S. borders.

Although we felt a bit isolated being so far from home on such an important day, Amanda, Holly and I had grown accustomed to our role as the resident Americans abroad. Throughout our time in South America, we were often some of the few or only U.S. visitors roaming the streets or inhabiting our hostels. Not that we minded really. We simply adored the vibrant culture, savory cuisine and inviting people we’d encountered so far. Plus, co-mingling with fun groups of Brits, Aussies and Canadians enjoying their gap years and walkabouts brought back fond memories of our post-college, backpacking days. But now that our travels extended beyond the standard European tours of our youth, we would be marked as American tourists in more than a dozen countries around the world. The pressure was on to represent! And while we always try to stay true to our cardinal rule of international exploration – – embrace the local culture and blend in whenever possible – – it’s hard not to stick out like a sore thumb when you look so different from everyone else. How did our pasty white skin, hiking shoes and North Face stamped apparel give us away? Ironically, the more we try to assimilate to our foreign surroundings, the more we appreciate the fact that fitting in back home is nearly effortless. Especially in New York City where the near 7 foot tall Nordic He-Man could be your kid’s soccer coach or the woman wrapped tightly in a peacock colored sari might be your new college professor.

So no matter how often we may feel like the oddballs during our adventures around the globe, today, more than any other, we feel truly fortunate to be able to return to a country where we’re as different from our neighbors as mutton curry and apple pie.

Check out the below article that best sums up our sentiment.

—Jen

(I received the below email forward from a friend a few weeks ago)

Headline: To Kill an American

You probably missed it in the rush of news last week, but there was actually
a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper an offer of a
reward to anyone who killed an American, any American.

So an Australian dentist wrote an editorial the following day to let
everyone know what an American is . So they would know when they found one.
(Good one, mate!!!!)

“An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish,
Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican,
African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or
Arab, or Pakistani or Afghan.

An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho,
Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as native Americans.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In
fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan . The only
difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them
chooses.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer
only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for
the government and for God.

An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world.
The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence
, which recognizes the God given right of each person to the pursuit of
happiness.

An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other
nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return.

When Afghanistan was over-run by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans
came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country!

As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other
nation to the poor in Afghanistan . Americans welcome the best of
everything…the best products, the best books, the best music, the best
food, the best services. But they also welcome the least.

The national symbol of America , The Statue of Liberty , welcomes your tired
and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless,
tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America .

Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11,
2001 earning a better life for their families. It’s been told that the World
Trade Center victims were from at least 30 different countries, cultures,
and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.

So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General
Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and other blood-thirsty tyrants in the
world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because
Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the
embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that
spirit, everywhere, is an American.

Wes Clogston
wesclogston@sbcglobal.net

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    3 Comments

  • Mick Gordon says:

    Hmm, to kill an American – what are they? dogs? Makes you wonder why someone can advertise in the newspaper of a supposed friend, calling for the death of Americans. Are they a country that believes in the same freedom of the press? No, so why this tolerance ?

  • M says:

    Wow,that was a great piece. It should be read on the radio and on TV every September 11th. The Australian dentist is a great and thoughtful writer. Thanks for including this in your blog.

  • Buttercup says:

    The point of the post is well-taken, and I think true – America really is this amazing mixture of people from everywhere.

    And America as a country and a people can be generous. However, we do not “not ask for anything.” There’s a reason we went in to Afghanistan and it wasn’t b/c of our love for Afghanis. We went in b/c we didn’t want Russia to expand.

    And the soldiers we trained in Afghanistan later became the Taliban. We let the Taliban roll over Afghanistan, let them strip women of their equal rights, and did nothing for a couple years. And we never apologized to the Afghanis for the part that we played in that mess.

    I think the principles that America was founded upon do embody the spirit of freedom, and there’s no question that this nation is a great place to live in b/c we are free. However, the way America acts in its foreign policies is not really the embodiment of freedom. Often we fall far short of our lofty principles, and the world has been noticing that for a while.