The urge to roam and explore is only tempered by the need to belong. Maybe that’s what makes Americans different. And Australians. We are all from somewhere else. Even so called Native Americans came from someplace, although from where exactly is a source of seemingly endless scientific debate. High school texts are the last to change and the idea that what the Canadians call First Peoples came across the Bering land bridge is, while still the most likely explanation, no longer a slam dunk. When exactly is even less certain, but they were undoubtedly searching for a better life. Room to spread out. What Lucy wanted for Christmas. Real estate.
For all our orgasmic admiration of all things European – “free” health care, late night dining, brothels- Europeans envy one thing they don’t have: room. With space comes opportunity to grow. Like a root bound potted plant, transplant a young European into fertile American soil and he will suddenly sprout new shoots. I’ve seen it. They may not become gun toting cowboys and they will mercilessly criticize the culture and the food (unless they’re from the UK then they’ll only criticize the culture); they will still purchase SUVs and Levi’s at prices not accessible to many of the folks back home.
Millions of immigrants over the past four centuries risked their lives, which were let’s face it pretty shitty, to get here. Others were brought over as African slaves; the first workers who took jobs white people wouldn’t do. All else being equal the slaves were the only ones who would have chosen to stay home but no one asked Kunte Kintae (played by Lt Commander Jordy LaForge) his opinion. The fact that LaVar Burton started out as a slave and became the chief engineer on a starship THEN host of Reading Rainbow, is just one of the many things that make America great.
The theme of venturing out in order to find a home where one belongs is oft repeated in our history. Italians, Irish, Pols, Germans, Chinese, Jews all tended to settle into communities where they were surrounded by like minded and languaged people at least until they realized that wasn’t much better than what they had before. So they decided to venture out and Merica became what the great historian Dave Barry calls a “fondue pot”.
In our history Americans have always had that one scapegoat. The one group upon whom the derision of the rest of us was heaped. Chinese. Negroes. The Irish. Now it’s Mexicans, or perhaps Hispanics in general.
Truth is we seem to be wired for suspicion. It goes back to the first Homo sapiens and the Neanderthal next door (call him Andy. He only went by one name. Like Bono). Andy would invite you and the missus over for bbq mastodon. The superior reasoning ability of the young male Homo sapiens made him wonder about the Neanderthal’s true intentions. Mrs. Homo sapiens just noticed Andy’s hands. Very Trump-like apparently. Andy was really plotting to hit the prehistoric Ward Cleaver over the head with a club and start banging the missus. Evolution at its finest.
Even thousands of years ago society was a smelting pot; so called because everyone smelled like fish. They didn’t bathe much in those days. Scientists say that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred regularly, so they apparently didn’t mind the odor. This means the millions of modern humans carry Neanderthal DNA, although contrary to popular belief they aren’t all republicans.
Even then we were trying to figure out how to live together. Here we are, so we must have had some modicum of success, even if we have to use the term “civilization” rather broadly.
Rodney King famously asked “can’t we all just get along?” It certainly doesn’t seem that we can; for any period of time anyway.
Maybe we will blow ourselves up in a nuclear Armageddon. If we do it won’t be from some republican or democrat Neanderthal but a modern human with a medieval mindset who thinks he is cleansing the earth from evil.
Curtis LeMay wanted to bomb Vietnam back to the Stone Age. I’m no longer convinced we ever left.