American Culture: Exposure Will Open Your Eyes
To most people, cultural acceptance extends past the borders of their own country. They feel accomplished with the simple thwarting of their xenophobia, calling themselves culturally adept because they didn’t stare at an Indian’s bindi. This is all great, grand, and wonderful to quote an old movie. Kudos to those who picked up on it. However, there is so much misunderstanding and naiveté of the diverse subcultures that exist here in the United States. It’s similar to those people who are commended on their charitable donations to other less fortunate countries, or their non profit accomplishments in a famished third world, or their adoption of an in danger youth from some poor village. In no way am I negating the humanity behind those actions, but those things also exist in our own country, as do subcultures.
One of the things traveling has blessed me with, is culture. But a different type of culture than what most think when they hear the word. I’ve had beers with people my age, who just got out of jail for cooking meth, covered in tattoos they made from burnt razors and toothpaste. I’ve also had beers with chemical engineers, doctors, inventors, and really well off businessmen. That’s a broad range of human decisions. There is not a lot in common between those two classes of people, and for all the classes in between for that matter. However, there IS at least two commonalities, and that is that no matter how you weave the web, it seems that no one person truly understands the way the other person lives, and no one person knows the other party’s story. I try to keep an open mind in any interaction with any person. I’m sure trying to interact with the traveling rock climber living in his truck with a dog for the majority of the year isn’t easy to do either.
For every different job I have ever done, I have been exposed to new ways of living. To new human choices, American choices for that matter. Different outlooks on what the American Dream is. The truth is, there is no American Dream, there is just your dream, and whether or not you chose to have a dream or just do what everyone else is doing. Whatever it is, it’s yours! And it’s most likely different from the person next to you, across from you, or the guy in the car going the other direction. There seems to be a rise in Civil Rights talk in the past year. Gay marriage has been a big stepping stone towards a more progressive, open society. The recent police violence has brought back up the racial segregation dispute that has sat not so dormant like an elephant in the room for years. It all comes down to cultural acceptance.
So yes, you did a great job not staring at the bindi, and not whispering “psssst, what’s that on her forehead?!” not so quietly to your friend. Great. But you look down your nose at the American born white guy who showed up to shingle your house in dirty clothes, covered in sawdust.
These are the basic, American, cultural clashes of the day to day grind. Something I have come to learn being a physical laborer the past few years. I have a college education. I was raised in a middle class military family, by a father with two bachelors degrees and a masters degree. I lived in 10 different houses in 8 states before I graduated high school Summa Cum Laude. I’ve been awarded scholarships for academia. But since I’ve been a carpenter, never have I felt more separate from different classes of people. I’m not down on my luck, and I don’t think I’ve made any bad choices. I’m just trying to earn some money for travel and physical labor is a quick way to make a buck with a very minimal commitment.
All of this boils down to a few interactions I’ve had with homeowners around the Sioux Falls, SD region. Believe it or not, Sioux Falls is a booming town. Houses are popping up like pimples on a 14 year old in this town. The cost of homes is going up, and the average custom built home is pushing $400k on the south side of town. The “south side of town” is a scene. People love to tell others their house is on the “south side of town.” It’s like saying “no it’s real fur.” These homeowners have an airiness about them, and it seems like every time I step through the door I’m staring up the bridge of someone’s nose. They have no idea my background, they have no idea that I don’t HAVE to do carpentry, but that I’m doing it to travel. They have no idea that I’ve seen more of the United States than they have or ever will see, I’m just the shaggy haired kid with a beard wearing dirty pants who’s there to install their cabinets. The same story applied when I was working on towers. Most of the CEO and office type workers I had meetings with had no idea I was a small business owner, or that I was just 24 until I told them. They were all surprised when I told them I was college educated, usually beyond their own education.
Every one out there is writing their own book. Everyone out there has a different story to tell, has suffered a different set of consequences, or found a new set of opportunities. If we could begin to accept everyone for who they are and not how they appear, what their job is, or what you think their social class is, then this whole racial and sexual segregation thing would be a little easier to tackle as well. Maybe we all just need to take a few baby steps, and for once try on someone else’s shoes, to quote the oldest quote of the quotes.
I implore you narrow minded, sheltered goofballs of the inside world to explore new boundaries. Explore new experiences. Explore new cultures. Explore new, new. Through travel we can all educate ourselves to the problems of the world, of our country and we can all begin to develop a more rounded outlook on human experience. Through understanding, political arguments become discussions and banter can become solutions.
But what do I know, I’m a 24 year old dirtbag blogger with 59 followers and a tendency to lament across the vast interwebs.