Carolina: Cruising Past 70: WOW: Becoming an American, Part 1

Monday, September 30, 2013

WOW: Becoming an American, Part 1

This post will come in 2 parts.

Taos Pueblo, a thousand years old and a World Heritage Site
This is Part 1.When I voted in the last US presidential elections in 2012, I was completely amazed at the whole process. It was convenient but, most of all, it was trusted by the people, so unlike how it is in the Philippines. The fascination with America I was born with is definitely not misplaced! After 10 years here, as in the Nat King Cole song “Fascination”, that fascination has turned into love. I just love the public library system. Though not a federal system, each county, save a couple, freely opened its doors to us and gave us library cards even if we would only be in the area for a few weeks. It was almost like that in community centers nationwide where we were able to use facilities such as swimming pools, fitness centers, etc. Public buses and commuter trains ply an extensive network of roads and rails that makes travel easy and affordable.

Desert View of the Grand Canyon, at the East Rim
Montezuma Castle National Monument
The National Parks System that preserves the natural beauty of America for future generations to come has no equal in the world. Through Bill’s Senior Golden Pass which he bought for $10 (I now have one, too, since I turned 62), we have visited, for free, 29 of 49 National Parks. We have also been to 82 National Monuments and National Historical Sites and both national parkways: Blue Ridge and Natchez Trace. I have probably seen more of America’s geography than the average American could ever have (the average is 10 states, according to the US Travel Challenge), and much more than what reading about them could ever do!

West Point 
From the southernmost point in Key West, Florida, to the centermost in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, to almost the northernmost point in Fairbanks, Alaska, and from the easternmost in Bangor, Maine to the almost westernmost also in Fairbanks, Alaska, I traveled through the forty-nine continental United States of America with Bill. And we have both been to Hawaii, albeit at different times. Our wanderings have given us memories of picturesque pretty places that are not even part of the national parks service. Such memories will stay with us till we can no longer walk and are just able to reminisce.
Old North Chutch in Boston

I was lucky to have been awarded a 6-year (junior and senior high school) scholarship at the American School (now International School) in the Philippines in 1961. There I learned more of American history and missed the chance, actually, to learn about the history of my own country. But the story of America came alive as we traveled around the country. It became most intense when we got to the northeast where the colonies dared to fight for its independence from Britain, the southeast where deep division in the country raged In a Civil War not even a hundred years from its independence, and the southwest with its indigenous past well preserved interlaced with the influences of the Spanish colonization, just like the Philippines.
Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the
Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were signed 
We have been to thirty of the forty-four American Presidents’ homes, tombs, and/or presidential libraries and museums! We have also been to the homes of many famous men, heroes, characters larger than life, founders of enduring institutions, pioneers, and dutiful first ladies, who helped shape American history. And when I visited institutions like the US Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House or the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, I felt a surge of patriotism I never felt before when I was just a tourist visiting these places.

Joe Louis's fist immortalized
We even came ‘face to face’ with cultural icons, religious leaders, examples of men who had their American dreams fulfilled, and even celebrities in the sports and entertainment worlds. My future as a fledgling writer was encouraged by visits to the homes/tombs of famous authors. We visited factories and/or headquarters of products made in America and noble institutions that serve the world, borne out of American excellence and innovation.  Some institutions are housed in world-renowned, unique, or historical architecture, some of them among the tallest, biggest, longest, etc. in the world. We even found unique museums and went to places where events I had only seen on TV are held. I began to take great pride.

Plymouth Rock, with the year 1620 inscribed
I also met the people of America and learned about American culture. Steeped in sixty years of an Asian upbringing, including several years in Seattle while I was teaching and baby-sitting huddled with my family, I was thrust into an almost totally white community of RVers. I met a handful of African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American couples. As a matter of fact, we met more Caucasian Europeans and Canadians. The Economist reports that visits to national parks have plateaued and they are beginning to court Asian-Americans to become part of the American outdoors. In other words, I did not see much of the real demographic of present-day America, much less what it will be in 2050 when Caucasians will be the minority!

with Ricky and Mega @ Martha's Vineyard
Freedom Tower in Miami
And so I missed the kind of camaraderie I left in the Philippines. There was not a lot of noise; there was, in fact, a lot of being alone. Caucasians are not as clannish as Filipinos so I increasingly felt isolated. There was even no continuity in the few friendships we built because we are all, after  brief encounter in a campground, far-flung from each other.America may no longer be a melting pot. Perhaps, when the first waves of immigration from Europe came, the lines between the Scots and the Irish and the British were more readily rendered porous, even when the Italians and Germans and Swedes came in a second wave. But when African-Americans were granted their freedom, Asian-Americans arrived, and Hispanics from Mexico and Cuba crossed the borders, the atmosphere changed. As a matter of fact, intermarriages for Caucasians are highest with Native Americans. The question, ‘Who is an American?’ was easier to answer before. There is now not one American look, one American voice, or one American dream for America has become a microcosm of the world.