What do I like and dislike about America?
It’s hard to comment. It’s like asking what I think about life, or the world. What do I like and dislike about 300,000,000 people from every conceivable background spread out over the better part of a continent?
And compared to what? Most of what’s good and bad in America can be found elsewhere as well.
Also, people talk as if America were a religion, which it’s not. The result is that discussions about “how I feel about America” naturally turn to kitsch, bombast and cliche. It’s hard to join the discussion without joining in its vices.
Looking over what follows, it doesn’t strike me as kitschy or bombastic, but mostly as boring. Read farther, if you want, but you’ve been warned. These are notes to myself.
Anyway: America’s home to me. It’s what I’m used to. Things here mostly fit my habits. Also, man’s social, and America is where my connections are. My friends, family and relatives put their efforts into it, and it’s made them what they are. How can I be indifferent to it?
I like all the kinds of people here, at least mostly. Whatever the problems, they do what they can in their own way. They’re not perfect, but there’s more good than bad in them. And I like the land. (Still, all that’s true of people and land pretty much everywhere.)
I like the remnants of the past: New England villages, Midwestern and Southern county seats, the older parts of New York City. They provide a connection to a more complex and complete human reality than America now seems to offer. That suggest it’s somehow still present, which is pleasant to think.
I like a few of the more modern things too. I like the older modern things more, though, like New York up to the ’50s and movies up to the ’60s.
I like a lot of the cultural life that exists outside pop culture and below what passes for the highest of high culture. I’m perfectly happy, for example, going to the Gowanus Artists Studio Tour.
I like the comparative freedom. You can complain about its limitations, with some justice, but there are lots of resources and things aren’t all nailed down. You can go your own way and try out new things. If you want to homeschool you can. We don’t have hate speech laws, at least not yet. We’re not Canada or the EU.
I like the willingness to self-organize, and the readiness to give charitably.
I like the populist tendency. It lets a little humanity back into an over-organized world. Maybe I’d like it less if standards and ideals weren’t so misdirected at the higher levels. As it is, though, I like it just fine.
I like the religiosity. It goes with populism. It’s another way of saying that the people at the top don’t have it all figured out. It means that the quotidian is not everything, and the world needs that today. It’s not everything it should be, but something is better than nothing!
I like a lot about American government, especially its older forms: federalism, local control, limited government, diffusion of initiative and responsibility. the respect for law and preference for consent. Also the implicit religious sanction. All that’s dying, though.
I like having the right to comment as a co-owner on what’s going on.
I like the fact that we resist socialism and haven’t accepted the treaties on women’s and children’s rights. Whatever problems we have others are worse off in some ways.