Alien Among Countrymen

Who ARE these people anyway?...

Most people who know me in person, online or read my blog know I grew up on Bermuda around Britains and Americans. My mother is British and my father was American and he and my aunt made a point of teaching us American speech and culture since they knew that by high school we would be in the U.S. It prepared us somewhat but it was fragments of American culture. Additionally the Americans we knew on the island tended to be highly educated and associated mostly with oceanic research or NASA.

When my cousin, my sister and I arrived in this country we could easily fool most people but we still had to work at being assimilated and "Americanized." There were many gaps in our knowledge, the rituals of high school such as American football, pep rallies, yearbooks, homecoming, graduation ceremonies. Since we were kids it didn't take long to fit in and adopt and adapt to the culture. I went on obliviously for decades thinking I was thoroughly American but in recent years I realize that a lot of what I thought of America was actually is what this country once was. My father, aunt and uncle were from a previous generation, one of "spend and invest" while there was disquiet within me about my generation of boomers who I now recognize as "borrow and spend" consumers. It was the previous generations America that I had been coached and raised on.

Sometimes I feel like an immigrant to a country I don't understand.

My uneasiness really started bubbling beneath the surface when in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001 I was bothered that after the tributes, the songs had stopped playing on the radio, people then went on the biggest borrowing and spending spree that I could have imagined. I was breathing from a straw air from above the surface and didn't fully comprehend why I felt the way I did. I was asking myself "Who ARE these people? They aren't what I thought they were."

Since the economic crisis began in 2007-2008 I began to slowly understand. Many of my friends, natural born Americans, felt a similar disquietude and many hours of discussion revolved around feeling out of place. Recently Mike, writer of the blog rockandconfusion, made a comment that I instantly recognized: "Sometimes I feel like an immigrant to a country I don't understand." It was a relief to be able to put a phrase to what was really bothering me and it came from a red-blooded, born in the USA, natural born American in the heartland. Ah ha!

This sense of being an alien among countrymen has nothing to do with not being born here or that I went to British schools until I was in high school. It is about values of worth, chroma of beliefs and position in the spectrum of what life is about and it's deeper meaning. It has nothing to do with whether I was trained how to appear American. It revolves around the core merits of the American Way that most of my generation strayed from to their detriment. There is no question now who these people are nor even why they have become the way they have because it no longer matters.

What is relevant is that many people feel the same sense of discomfort about how many people in this country have become. The good part is there are still more than enough people who have the values of previous generations to be able to pick up the pieces and put the country back again no matter how long it takes. That is the true America that has never totally disappeared but lays just beneath the surface waiting to break through for fresh air and rebirth.