A friend and former employee now living abroad said he was not coming home for Christmas this year because he is so fed up with America that he will never return. I reminded him that America is filled with the descendants of people who said the same thing about their country of origin.
He complained bitterly about getting mistreated by everyone from classmates to coworkers to even people at the craps tables in Vegas. He said Americans are rude, arrogant, judgmental and homophobic. He said we are chronically blind to our own transgressions.
He boasted of traveling to 70 countries and said that without exception, other societies were more pleasant and they knew how to mind their own business while maintaining a "live and let live" attitude.
His behavior was self-described as "whiny and angry" and it made me wonder how many of our ancestors were equally critical of their birth country, which Ironically, caused them to immigrate TO America from every country in the world.
Upon hearing his rant, I implored him to be less judgmental too, and I challenged him for lumping all Americans together, which is a mistake usually made by arriving foreign nationals and not native born Americans.
I countered with my opinion that more Americans are critical of themselves than citizens of the homogeneous societies he extolled. I argued that American aggressiveness and frustration is productive and not destructive. In fact, it has been a source of great strides toward equality.
I reminded him that America has been the hope of the world's rejects and misfits since its inception and America is the most unique social and economic lab on the planet which makes it a work in progress, and not the finished product he demands.
I pointed to my ancestors who were Swedes on my dad's side and Scots-Irish on my mom's side. I related to him the stories from my paternal grandfather who talked of going hungry during bad Swedish winters and the stories of my mom's ancestors who got their asses kicked where ever they tried to live and breed.
Our discourse took a recess before acrimony spoiled it but we will undoubtedly resume when he reads this blog. The only thing we agreed on was our exclusive claim to the high ground.
Most American immigrants have similar stories and their DNA reflects the perseverance and dogged determination of previous generations. Americans are the products of those who were tough enough to survive and prosper in an unknown land, some were forced here while others got fed up with conditions in their birth country where they either had no opportunity or did not fit in, ironically just like my young expatriate friend.
The frustration my friend feels with America is shared by an increasing number of people around the world because the "idea" of America has been over sold like the gold rush flyers of the 1800s, while in reality, those who gained the most from the gold were seldom the miners but more often those who mine the miners.
An organizing document that claims one person is less human than another is terribly flawed, and we all know that America was built on this flawed foundation, but just like organized religion with all its flaws, the best of it is framed around ideals that should not be abandoned.
So my message to my expatriate friend is simple and sound. The best soil in the world was found by your ancestors so come home and grow where you were planted instead of wandering from country to country where each has its own set of problems.
Come home and be refreshed by our brand of Kool-Aid so you will stop making the mistake of lumping all of us together because a visit will remind you that our views are as diverse as our origins.
My friend should also be mindful that expressing unpopular religious views or criticisms of customs in some of the 70 countries he extolled will have serious consequences and that won't happen here.
So come on home to America where you can rant and rave all you want and help us change things for the better. Come home. We miss you and America needs your energy, your hands on knowledge of the world and your leadership.