I covered my ears between bites of pancakes, bacon, and drip coffee. Understanding everything, from the TV in the background to the Ray Ramano impression four tables away, was overwhelming. Background noise brings funny moments though. The barista who has “totally got [me] if you’re hungry, bro” or the jock telling his airport pickup “just waiting on my clubs, man. Yeah, Door 4, after the clubs. Nah, still waiting on these clubs”. It feels like any other country. And like any other country, a part of me is out of place.
The shock comes with fresh eyes to see my home. Everything is big here. It didn’t help that I landed in DFW first, then took a train around the airport as if it was an entire city. There’s a sense that if you aren’t going somewhere, you’re behind. Benches in parks and on sidewalks are empty, less the homeless. Never had I recognized how beautiful some of our buildings are, or how good wait service can be. Things are far away from each other no matter how nice they would be close together. I saw a girl walking her cat with a leash – maybe that’s new for everyone. Windows down, music up is still the best way to drive. People customize their license plates: KREWELA and LOVESXY have been my favorites so far.
A long list of values has built this place into what it is today. While they have led to grandeur, they occasionally betray us. Our individualism often fails to support collective systems: immigration, healthcare, and education to name a few. Our love of capitalism keeps our focus short term. Free speech has had the unintended consequence of misinformation. Solving these problems is difficult because they demand a shift in culture in conjunction with a shift in systems.
The responsibility of our time, as it is for every generation, is to defy the impossible and build a world that has never existed. But for us, the stakes seem much grander. For the first time ever, the future is a place where we can protect everyone from the wolves of poor health and financial insecurity. There, our time is culture, inequality is self-imposed, and justice reigns above all. Our grandchildren will have their problems, but the systems and ideas we pioneer here and now will lay the foundation for a society only dreamt of in science fiction.
Every action by every individual builds this future. Not only with a vote or a dollar, but with a vision. Building the future is not someone else’s job – it cannot be offloaded to someone in Washington or a boss. It is a collective responsibility. We don’t have to agree on how to get there or what it will look like, but we are asked to contribute with our actions. Work on a problem because you’re a problem solver. Hone your craft because you’re a craftsman. Help a neighbor because you’re neighborly. We do things like this because that’s the kind of people we are. Culture, our future, what it means to be American, and what it means to be human are all defined by who we decide to be today. Let’s be deliberate. Let’s be exceptional.
Thanks for taking a sip,
I wrote this after arriving in the US mid-December. Argentina, Peru and Chile have a special place in my heart. But this place is something special.