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.
“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?