This is exactly who we are

This Is Who We Are | Podcast on Spotify

The more people I get to know, the more I love being by myself. The more I am by myself, the more questions I have. People have changed and I haven’t changed with them. I am stuck in a past that is long gone, and I find myself wondering where that leaves me.

This is not who we are! I have read and heard this statement so often. I never reacted and how could I? “Yes, this is exactly who we are,” would upset people.

How do I know? I came to the United States 35 years ago. A love-migrant. A blue-eyed (yep) blonde Amazon (yep) from Austria, who didn’t speak much English. I stepped out of a plane, fell into the arms of my husband, ready to conquer the new world without fear -and with a heavy dose of naiveté.

We started our new life in California because one has to start in California. The city of angels. A state full of sun tanned fit people who seem to have no worries. The land of the free, and I could not wait to get to know it all. The second day I almost got arrested when I took my top off at the beach. Topless sun tanning is not allowed in the U.S. I learned. Only my accent and my dictionary saved me from spending a night in jail.

What kind of freedom was that? I kept my bikini top on, didn’t understand why I had to, but followed the new rules.

The smallest Coca Cola was bigger than the largest ones in Europe. Grocery stores were open 24/7, something I will never understand. I could even shop on Sundays. The land of the free doesn’t need a break.

One day I walked into the hood. I had missed my bus, had tried another one, walked with a map in my hand -got lost. A group of black men standing outside noticed me. They yelled something I didn’t understand, one came toward me. I froze and felt fear but didn’t show it. I am good at looking strong when I am weak.

“I am lost, where am I?” I said and showed him on my map where I wanted to be. “She is not from here,” he talked over his shoulder and when I didn’t understand what they tried to explain, they drove me where I needed to be.

Being a foreigner comes in handy sometimes, my accent is a shield from the racism here in the U.S. and it goes both ways. I am white with an Austrian accent. I am safe! My history is not yours -even though it is. I am an American.

The more the world around me seems to be pretending, the less I can pretend. I always say it like it is, but lately now just three years before my 60th birthday, I have perfected it. These days it comes with a smile and twinkling eyes. The smile is genuine. To share the small amount of wisdom and stupidity I have and it gives me great joy.

I sleep like a baby. I am living my own reality show. I am more real than I have ever been.

I hear people say, “This is not who we are, when they talk about the riot at The Capitol Hill.” I disagree. This is exactly who we are and we have to acknowledge it.

Racism is hurting the economic well-being of the US and its workforce —  including white workers | The Kinder Institute for Urban Research

“We need a black man in the White House,” my 94-year old neighbor who I loved and took care of informed me. She added that she was disappointed in me, pointed to the Obama sign in our front yard. I smiled, didn’t say a word, but our friendship changed. I didn’t have so much time anymore.

“Nigger hurry up,” one of my best friends in Memphis said in the car when a black, older gentleman slowly crossed the street in front of us. One of the rare occasions in my life I was left speechless. I never had heard this word outspoken loud, it shocked me -disgusted me. She lost a friend that day but didn’t know it. There was no need for further actions, we had already set our moving date. What’s there to say if you know nothing will get through?

What has this world become and where do I still fit in? Where I live most people have a gun in one hand, and the bible in the other. I don’t have either, so I am an outsider by choice as well as by birth. Jesus loves you, they tell me and I wonder if he loves them too? Going to church on Sunday, ready to kill on Monday. The land of the free has a lot of dead bodies laying in the streets.

People have become nasty and hateful. So many are full of rage and anger, ready to hurt another person with words and actions. Their entitlements are trampling my rights. Do they even notice?

Watching the people at the riot on January 6th didn’t just make me sad. It shocked me to my core. How did we end up here? And where will we go from there?

I start to dislike people but still believe in the good of people, which doesn’t make any sense.

We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.”

― Hermann Hesse

Maybe we try too hard to be equal, but should instead start to learn to love what’s different about us.

But what do I know?

Planting Peace Painting by Chad Glass

16 thoughts on “This is exactly who we are

  1. The United States’s foundation is saturated with the blood, sweat and tears of “others,” the oligarchs deemed subhuman. It’s a nation built on codependency which produces behavioral and personality pathologies. In short, this system started bad and is rotten to the core. But we don’t have to throw it away. To paraphrase the beautiful words of Ron Finley, the guerrilla gardener, “we must change the soil’s composition if we want to grow something different. Each of us can till the soil in front of our dwellings and grow life sustaining produce just like Mr. Finley did in his neighborhood.

    Thank you for this beautifully written yet bittersweet post. 💕

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  2. A thoughtful, honest post. I have watched familial relationships dissolve in the past few years. If people cannot love and respect their own families, it is certainly impossible for them to care about, much less be kind, to people who are different, I suspect. If this past year’s pandemic did not forge change, I am uncertain as to what can.

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  3. I agree. I live in Detroit. All races are doing well. There is work, if you want work. Your decision to be successful or not. Race, religion or color doesn’t decide the man or woman. We need leaders with the interest of the people. Not increasing self-wealth. Hello from Michigan and I dodge conversations now. The things people want now. They must know the good or the bad of every situation. I pray for better days. My favorite words written a long time ago.” Don’t give free money to people. Give them a trade, a education. Give them a chance at a successful life.”

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  4. I am right there with you on your observations and the resulting sense of people-fatigue, Bridget. I think that spending a year without socialization beyond my very immediate family has helped me realize that I am better suited to long periods of time with my own thoughts and the comforts of my family, and I don’t feel well suited for much time with the general public now that people seem even more emboldened to wear their opinions and intolerant behaviors like badges of honor. I have been saying “this is indeed who we are” for quite awhile now. It needs to be said often. I really enjoy when you share about your observations over the years, and in particular your first experiences in the United States. I can’t imagine as a young woman that I would have had the courage to make such a life adjustment! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • ‘People fatigue’ oh that’s a good one, I have to remember it. I am so relieved to know I am not the only one who sees who ‘we’ really are, or what we have become.

      As for writing about my first experiences here. You are right, I should do that.

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  5. What a beautiful, honest piece and one I can empathise with. I am in my own country and wonder where the heck do I fit with all the prevailing attitudes. Forgive my pedantry but I think you meant “core” rather than “chore”.

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  6. What do any of us know, Bridget? Is it any wonder I hide behind photos? There is so much ugliness in the world, and yet I know personally many warm and lovely people, and many others by reputation. 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I, too, love that final thought Bridget, and what a marvellous flag to display to spur us on to mutual respect and honour. We don’t all have to love one another. That is an impossible ask. But we do all need to acknowledge and respect each others right to live, to work, to love, and to live in harmony.

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