Duck! and Gather

Bless You America!

Posted on: December 8, 2007

Got back to the U.S. late Wednesday night after a 16-day trip to the Greek island on which I spend time every year. Been awake since 3am this morning and can’t get back to sleep. My body still thinks it’s in Greece. Good time to blog.

It was when I was sitting at the gate in Athens airport Wednesday morning, waiting for my plane to board, that it hit me. I heard American voices talking and I almost wept, overcome by that warm feeling of “home”. I’ve been going to this Greek island every year, sometimes twice a year, for stretches lasting up to four months. Not once had I left that country happy to leave it, and ecstatic to be returning home to America. So why this time?

It wasn’t the fact that the Greek culture seems to encourage lying and cheating. I had known of this dynamic since 1987 when I lived in Athens for a year playing semi-pro basketball. It bothered me only mildly back then; and my sentiments on that score are no different today.

Instead, what I think was bothering me was the cultural uniformity of that place. That aspect really struck me on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning which I spent in heart of Athens. During that time, I walked around the main city squares — Syntagma and Omonia — plus in and around the narrow alleyways of Plaka, and also the green spaces of the three ancient hills surrounding the Acropolis. Walking for hours, I noticed the following two things:

  1. apathy toward nature
  2. uniformity of dress

Actually, I had noticed these two dynamics back in 1987. Although they puzzled me back then, then didn’t really bother me. But this time they did.

By “apathy toward nature”, I mean the following: Athens is a crowded metropolis approaching 5 million people. It is a bowl surrounded by mountains filled with an endless sea of 10-story white concrete buildings. Within this hell-hole, there are precious few expansive green spaces. The surrounding mountains are one such space. In the middle of the city, there is steep hill called “Lycabetus“. And the Acropolis area, with its surrounding three hills is a third such green space.

Including my 1987 stay and my visit earlier this week, I have walked all over these three green spaces. And in all of that walking, I have never seen a Greek. Mostly, I’ve never seen another human, except for the odd German tourist now and then. Five million people, and not a single one seems to revel in the extraordinary nature (not to mention history) that is their backyard.

Concerning “uniformity of dress” consider the following: Tuesday afternoon, there was a light shower in early afternoon. But the temperature was warm (about 68), and skies cleared up later on. I walked shirtless around the hills. What a lovely day. As I came down from hills into the bustling downtown, I was an odd duck in my jeans and bare chest. Almost everyone was wearing a warm sweater or jacket, many with scarves. And the vast majority was wearing black. Black pants, back sweater, black jacket, black hat — sometimes all of the above.

I had noticed the same thing about heavy black clothes on warm days in Athens in 1987. That behavior struck me as odd then. But this time it showed me clearly why I love America so. As I have written many times on this site, America is a glorious vacuum with no dominant culture that dictates what we wear, what we eat, how we are entertained, what we believe, what we cherish, and so on. Most every other place in the world has one or more of these things in common that binds the people together. A place like Greece has many such binding dynamics.

But in America, all we have that binds us together is our collective love of individual freedom. What are you wearing today? What will you be eating today? What form will your entertainment take today? What god will you pray to today? Will your mood be kind today, or prickly?

I have no idea what your answers are. Maybe you don’t either? But I say this: Bless you for your own choices!

Bless this fat, sick, bankrupt, violent, ignorant nation because nobody made us into these things. We chose this life for ourselves.

Bless this beautiful, historical, free nation because when the collapse comes, history says that the world will not witness such glory for centuries.

1 Response to "Bless You America!"

[…] the cultural strictures of your non-American country, and you may find yourself wearing black and overdressing on a balmy November day. Follow the corporate-defined “good life” in America, and you may well find yourself […]

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