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Published: December 10th 2015
As my time in Europe is coming to a close, I reflect a bit on some of the many things I have learned here, and attempt some closure for some of these deep lessons.
America: We are the most powerful nation on earth. Unrivaled in the economy, unrivaled in medical research and higher education, unrivaled in military might, in cultural influence, and a leader in globalization. We simply are the strongest nation on earth, and no other nation comes remotely close. That is undisputed.
However, since I have been here, the news coming from the United States has been nothing short of well... depressing. Very depressing. From the humiliation of the Planned Parenthood Congressional hearings, to the circus of the Republican debates, to a near Congressional shut down, to mass shooting after mass shooting when it finally affected my home community in California last week, the question that remained is: Why on earth would I go back?
For all of the power that we exert, it seems that our domestic welfare is non existent or crumbling. Granted all eyes are on us because we are so influential, but consider these facts: the United States is the only industrial nation on earth who does not mandate paid vacation, paid maternity leave, and until recently some sort of health care system. Our students are crippling under an immense amount of debt, and for the first time, the middle class in America are not the majority anymore. The future looks, and slightly feels, very bleak.
Though an incredibly progressive nation, we as women are still fighting for basic reproductive rights, rights threatened to be stripped of us at the turn of every political cycle. Women in the United Kingdom have had abortion rights since 1967, and it is covered for free by their national health care system. There is no debate, no humiliation, no threat of a Parliamentary shut down.
The mass shooting tragedies in the United States is tearing away at Americans' hearts and spirits. It reinforces my suspicion that our political system favors the rights of the private company over the citizen, which explains the influence of powerful lobbying groups in Washington and the skyrocketing costs of basic medical needs. And given the current state of political affairs in Congress, it is unlikely that this will be changing anytime soon.
It is also hard
to live in a constant state of fear, perpetuated by racism, bigotry, and ignorance on a national scale (see also governors denying refugees entry into their states, or Donald Trump, Ben Carson). Our nation absorbs the fear unfairly spewed towards us by the media and repeated by our political leaders, which influences our vote and consequently affects the rest of the world. Whatever we do in the States, everyone in the world feels it. We need to be very very aware of that. America's greatest enemy, I have learned, it itself.
It is sad, America. Very sad. We are one of the most diverse, innovative, and hardest working people in the world, living side by side in peace and harmony. We are kind, generous, open-hearted and optimistic. We deserve so much more.
But there is something profound that I realized today when watching an Ellen clip on a pregnant mother who had lost everything and moved into her husband's parents' basement from sunny Florida to chilly Illinois (I still watch my American shows rigorously). She and her family slept on a mattress on the floor with two other children, and a baby on the way. And yet, she epitomized everything that I know from my American compatriots. She was smiling, and so incredibly positive, even though the economy and the social welfare system had failed her and her family miserably.
Who knows how she would pay for the baby's birth? You could not tell from watching the clip of all the nonsense that was going on in her life. What I saw then echoed something that my father had told me long ago: for what we lack in the social welfare system in the United States, we make up with the generosity and love from family and friends. He's so right. That is how we've learned to deal and grow from our nation's lack of social equality- we have incredibly strong and close knit communities. Whether is it through our religious organizations, or our townships (like my home in San Bernardino) or friends we meet along the way, that
is our social welfare system and that is what makes us continue for a better tomorrow.
Consider this too: I am able to travel extensively because of the generosity of my friends. From Oxford, to Geneva these past few months and to Germany and Austria in the future, my friends welcomed me with open arms, paid for my expenses, and let me stay in their homes. They will always be there for me, no matter where I am. My fellow American exchange colleague and close friend Jess and I fight over the bill at restaurants every single time we have gone out here in Scotland. If I ever needed something, she was there. When I lived in New York City this past summer, I don't recall once ever paying for my own drink. We are a very generous nation and we are so optimistic about the future. The best thing about America, in addition to amazing natural wildlife, stunning scenic diversity, delicious mix of food, plethora of films and music, world class cities (the list goes on and on...) is our people. The people are the heart of my country that beats soul and life to our land. That heart has been there long before the US was a superpower, and will be there long after we are no longer one.
I'm going to London for a few days next week, then after four months of living and studying in the United Kingdom, I'm flying back to Los Angeles.
I'm going home.
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