I’ve decided that there’s many ways to get to know a city. This summer, I got to know Argentina by sitting with my colleagues around our lunch table at work, sipping mate with my host stay mom, and walking down Matienzo and Luis Maria Campos, streets that I could walk by heart now, tracing my way from the ice cream store at the tip all the way down to the fresh flower stand outside my window. And then there was China. There was walking down that rubbly path to the Great Wall with the best partner in crime I know. There was seeing little babies toted around in their mothers’ baskets and sharing youtube clips from SNL with my students as we silently protested against the firewall that closed us in, the political system that would not let us dance our dance.
But then, there was coming home.
There was that feeling I always get when my plane touches down in America. That rush, that excitement, that feeling of belongingness. That knowing that I love this country so much, that even as I hunger to understand this world in which I live in, I can always find my piece of it here at home, in my country.
In the lives we lead, it’s easy to get to know the 10 mile radius outside our house. Our grocery store, our neighbor, our favorite little place to eat.
But if I’ve learned– no, come to understand– anything this weekend it’s that America is not tiny. And our problems are not small. America rolls and cascades, dips and recedes and extends far beyond out own hometowns and neighborhoods. And yes all of us can choose to understand our country based solely on the part of it we call our own. But to do so would be to forget what exactly this country stands for.
This weekend I have knocked on doors until my knuckles have hurt. I have walked down streets that my parents would kill me for going through. I have seen the inside of a campaign from a church, a home, a funeral parlor and I have sat at a table in the house of a woman who opened her home to me and my friends. I have shared a meal with girls like me whose histories have been written in sunny California and hearty Ohio, in the middle of the cornfields in Indiana and up among the city lights of windy Chicago, down south to French town in Louisiana and up through to Virginia. And I’ve learned that perhaps one of the greatest things about our country is that there exists an accountability, a bond, an allegiance from sea to shining sea to our sisters and brothers who live not just in states and cities far from our own, but too across oceans and in countries far beyond our shores. Americans… we take care of each other. We open our doors and our living rooms and our hearts and we hold each other up.
This political season hasn’t been the best at reminding us of that. It’s been once littered with negative campaign ads and character attacks, two sides at war in a country that needs no more battlefields. At times, it has felt like there has been less of an honest conversation and more of a spin session unraveling before our eyes. And I have been disheartened and upset, feeling the naivete of my youth juxtaposed fiercely against the disillusionment that comes with young adulthood.
But last night when I sat around that dining hall table with women my age and women far older than me… as I heard stories and hopes and concerns exchanged, I was reminded that even if our pundits and our politicians cannot sit down at the same table, we as citizens can. That if there exists this capacity in the heartland of America, there sure does too in the capital. And that as long as we do this, the country I know and love so dearly will never cease to be my own.
Because that, that is the country that I know is finding it’s way back home.
So today, won’t you stand up and use your voice?