Why America?

It’s accepted, maybe even still, that everyone wants to live in the United States.

Or at least, see it and all its famous cities, the ones that set trends in and for the 20th century – places like New York and Hollywood, of course, plus Miami or Las Vegas or New Orleans, and whatever else. I don’t have to list them – you know them.

I think this used to be a cultural thing. It was all, America, the place with the movies! How many flicks over time have shown that goofy Russian or Eastern European guy, still recycling lines that were cool in the States three decades ago, because he just got the memo or the VHS? “Hey, stop! Hammer Time!”

And when ‘The American Dream’ was basically a longer way of saying the word ‘Freedom’, it all meant a whole lot more. Certainly, the country still stands for liberation for many. Even Canadians, in my home of Vancouver, I hear them complaining all the time about how they’d rather not live in a socialist country – they’d rather move to America, where the slogans say your taxes will be smaller. But this is a grass is greener thing, I think, for most. A temporary whine that will disappear when the Canucks win the Cup and they want to be there for the parade.

(And personally, I’d pay more to live in a home where I didn’t have to share the the bed with Baptists.)

Funny thing is, we know the American Dream has faded, at least where exclusivity is concerned.

Many countries have freedom. Slavery, as an official institution, has been banned in every civilized country. There are nations still in the Commonwealth – Canada and Australia, most notably – that really have nothing to do with Britain. It’s a tradition thing, a face to put on their change.

And Hollywood? Well, you can make a movie everywhere now, can’t you? You can write a book wherever you want… start a Vine… broadcast to the world, from your chair in Brandon, Manitoba. Perhaps that’s why the biggest star of the American cultural machine in the past 10 years is actually a Canadian. Or why Swedes and the English have more views on YouTube than Seacrest has on TV. JK Rowling stole Disney’s mojo with Harry Potter – no longer did kids care about a talking mouse, not in the way they cared for a wizard and his glasses.

But don’t be fooled. I know I spent the past few hundred words seemingly skewering the country, but they were only to set-up the elastic band’s reflex. Down with the negativity, I’m about to lay on the charm – like that final rap battle in 8 Mile. (See, there I am dating myself, too.)

There are still too many reasons to visit America – to live there, depending on the situation.

Because I don’t think we were ever attracted to the States for Hollywood or its fame or Ellis Island. I think we’ve always been attracted for one reason – its geography.

Correct me. If I’m wrong.

But there can’t be another country on earth with the sheer variety of the United States. In weather, in food, in culture, in landscapes… nowhere else can you travel to one country and see 10 at once.

How do you even start, if you’re trying to knock it all off in one visit? You can’t. That’s why nobody from abroad says, “I’m travelling to the United States.” Instead, they say, “I’m going to New York.” Or, “I’m going to Vegas.” Or, “I’m hopping the fence.” (Ha, ha.)

New York. Chicago. L.A. Boston and Philly. Seattle, maybe? What about the southwest? Certainly, Las Vegas. The entire south – a massive slab from Texas east through the drawls and misty white suits in Georgia, Tennessee, and the rest. The Midwest. HAWAII. ALASKA.

There aren’t 50 states in this country – there are 50 countries in this country, plus Puerto Rico.

And Florida, of course.

It’s not even in the south, Florida. It’s just below everything else. It’s the Caribbean or Cuba first and second, America third. Just don’t tell Spring Breaking bros I said that.

Take Miami: Every seat in the UN has some area in Dade County, with a pocket beginning with ‘Little’.

Little Havana for Cuba. Little Haiti. You know, for Haiti.

If you’ve had the pleasure of investing an hour in Anthony Bourdain’s Miami episode, filmed for The Layover in 2011, you know it took the guy what seemed like a full five minutes to do his trademark map-based intro for the city. Because it’s impossible, it seems, to sum up everything note-worthy in one 30-second summary.

In New York, they’ve got Little Italy and the rest. San Francisco? A Spanish name with a famous Chinatown. Los Angeles? It’s like the world loaded on one paint brush and flicked through a screen door.

All of America’s metros, they’ve got towns and sections within their borders, with blocks and diagonals that slice through neighbourhoods of Vietnamese or Japanese or Portuguese or Polish or Korean or Bangladeshi or Indian or Canadian.

Give me a Canadian example, you say? Well, what do you think Scottsdale is?

So what if America isn’t the West anymore? The West was always just an idea, anyway. A place to escape to, a destination. It’s not fixed – you can always be East of somewhere.

The needle will move. The borders will rope and recede. But America will always be America.

And at least, you know, they won’t apologize for that.

2 thoughts on “Why America?

  1. Hey, thanks! Yeah, I’ve been a bunch and all over. I live only a few minutes from the border in B.C. … If you’re heading there, feel free to reach out over here for tips or ideas.

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