Thursday, July 10, 2008


This mighty nation evokes all sorts of feelings... I both like it and dislike it... a love-hate relationship.

I seem to have a lot of links with the US of A. My mom and dad both did their graduate studies there. My sister did her degree there. My two brothers are studying there now. I went to school there for two years when I was 11 and 12, when my whole family moved over to join my late dad who was in seminary there. I can still recite the Pledge of Allegiance, their version of the Rukunegara.

Why I like the USA

1. It's the land of the free... except in the airports.

2. It's probably the only country in the world where a citizen born of a foreign (Kenyan) father and local (American) mother, and growing up in another country (Indonesia) with a stepfather, can run for presidency. Yup, Obama, you have my vote.

3. The nation was founded on fundamental principles of liberty and justice. Whether or not the Constitution was based on Christian values is now being debated, but I'd say yes, it is. The founding fathers separated church from state, but they wisely did not separate God from state (see this).

4. It's where I learned the English (or American) language properly. I was taught pretty technical linguistic stuff even in elementary school. I read the dictionary for fun. I also lost most of my Mandarin there. Pity.

5. You don't have to fill in your "race" in official forms. Within two generations, most immigrants are effectively assimilated Americans regardless of their origin. Oh well, to some people this is a problem.

6. Innovation flourishes in the climate of freedom and openness. Americans have given us the Internet, Facebook, Google, Intel, Windows, etc. Oh wait, you have to pay for Intel and Windows.

7. They develop technology that changes the world... thanks partly to the thousands of other nationalities that conduct research in American universities and labs.

8. They are so patriotic.

Why I dislike the USA

1. They are the biggest debtors in the universe, yet live the most lavish lifestyle. The world economic system is overly dependent on this one nation. When they go down, everyone goes down. The US owes China trillions of dollars. It's mind-boggling.

2. George W. Bush... Many Americans think the universe revolves around them. They go round picking fights on other hapless nations.

3. Too many guns everywhere. But to their credit, it's still a relatively peaceful country even with all the guns. I can't imagine the chaos if guns were available over here.

4. Racism still exists albeit not officially nor overtly. African Americans got their right to vote only about 50 years ago. The legacy of slavery still haunts Americans.

5. The US is the biggest energy and resource consumer on the planet. It's obscene how much Americans use and throw away. Unfortunately the rest of the developing world aspires to attain that same standard of living. It's impossible. There's not enough resources on this planet to sustain the American dream for everyone. The European or Japanese model of development would be more sustainable.

6. Freedom is being stretched to its limits. With such freedom there is bound to exist both the good and the bad. Fundamental core values are being challenged. The definition of family and marriage is under siege by liberalists. But of course, there are Americans who are defending their core values and traditions.

7. They are overly reliant on technology. And remember, lots of that technology came from the military. You may not agree with military spending, but it's part of our technological and economic system. Everyone who uses GPS must thank the US Department of Defense for their satellites.

8. They are so patriotic.

The USA is paradoxical. So perhaps I shouldn't judge on the basis of "like vs dislike", for we all fall short at one point or another. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. But I still believe in absolute principles and standards. On this note, I think the fundamentals of the USA are solid, but the implementation is getting shaky.

I must qualify myself by stating that I am commenting as an outsider, and I'm not an "expert" on American affairs. I must also say that I personally know some very friendly Americans. It's such a diverse nation that you are bound to find very nice as well as nasty people. But overall, they're nice. :)

This post was supposed to come out on the 4th of July... belated happy birthday to Uncle Sam. God bless America.


rachel said...

i agree with your love-hate feelings towards america... it's conflicting at times, but which country isn't full of mess and beauty at the same time?

"it's called the american dream because you have to be asleep to believe in it." -- george carlin

CHARIS said...

For an outsider, you are actually quite accurate. Speaking from a 'temporary' USA resident's point of view.

HL said...

rachel: Every cloud has a silver lining, but if you see a tornado, run. :) Who's sleeping? Them or us?

charis: Yea, I read your 4th of July post after I posted mine. So you're the outsider inside. Cool. :)

Swee Ping said...

And also the creation of world wide web :D

anon#1 said...

to add to the united.colours.of.benetton swirl, Obama’s half-sister is half-Indonesian and her husband is Canadian Chinese whose parents hail from Sabah ;P