Sunday, May 6, 2012

Good morning, America. How are ya?

I've been thinking a lot about home lately... home, as in Ithaca, and home, as in the United States.

I spent my first 42 years in Ithaca, and never thought I'd leave... it's a magical place, for all its ridiculous hippieness. It's the birthplace of Puff the Magic Dragon and, we claim, the ice cream sundae, and it's a beautiful, mIthical enclave of gentle, intelligent people, waterfalls right in town, Cayuga Lake (with its waves of blue) and my noble alma mater (glorious to view). When I close my eyes at night, sometimes I see lush, green hills rising above the long, narrow lake. One thing I love about Korea is the hills; Florida was just too flat, too not-Ithacan.

Ithaca is in my heart, whether or not I ever go back.

But mostly I've been thinking of the States. I prepare Korean kids to go to college in the USA, and as a representative of my country, I feel both proud and ashamed every day.

We were the first democracy in the modern world. We taught the globe about Liberty and Justice For All and Government of the People, By the People, For the People. We saved Europe. We've got the best popular music and the best movies, we gave the world baseball, and our ideals illuminate the Earth.

I love my country.

But we're also the land of the Trail of Tears and slavery and Jim Crow and drone strikes and empire and guns, guns, guns. We won't be capital-A America until our realities match our ideals. And it feels, from my vantage point over here, as if we never get any closer to that point; I hope I'm wrong.

I may be an expat for a long, long time. There are jobs here, and I get a certain je-ne-sais-quoi (but I don't know what) from being The Older American in Korea. But sometimes I miss Home.

Say, don't you know me? I'm your native son.

1 comment:

Gill_Ruth said...

Just spent an agreeable half hour on the Internet searching for the song - funny how your memory plays tricks tho isn't it? I can hear it as clear as a bell in my head, and I suppose it must be the Goodman or the Arlo Guthrie versions I heard on the American forces radio when we lived in Iran - but somehow neither sounds quite right.

I also looked up Ithaca - worrying slightly now that you might be thinking you've got yourself an online stalker! But I'm not, honest - just still haven't got over being able to go online and look up anything and everything any time of day or night.

Anyway, Ithaca looks a lovely place - a far cry from the Bladerunner-type images I get sometimes reading of life in Seoul. Did you have a specific reason for going to the ROK or was that just where the job happened to be?

Glad you're back, it made my day finding not one but 2 posts to read.

Best wishes, Gill