The Greatest Thing About America

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I can stand on any street corner in Tokyo. I can learn Japanese until I can speak like a native. I can embrace their culture, eat their food, wear their clothes. I can dedicate my life to everything Japanese, but I will never be Japanese, no matter how hard I try. I will always be Gaijin. The natives will know instantly, just by my appearance, that I am not Japanese. It will be obvious.

I can move to Paris (quelle bonne ideé!). I can study French until I can speak like a native. Because of my large nose, some people on the street might mistake me for a native and ask me for a cigarette or the time. My impeccable French may briefly fool them. But I can never be French. They will know soon enough that I am not truly one of them.

On the street in the United States, I see all sorts of faces. I see Moroccan faces. I see Vietnamese faces. I see Chinese, Libyan, Mongolian, Saudi, Czech, Khazak, Tajik, Uzbek, Korean, Thai, Nigerian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Spanish, Mexican, Bolivian, Colombian, Venezuelan, Brazilian, Guatemalan, and Ethiopian faces. And yes, I see Japanese and French faces too.

I never look twice at those faces. I never wonder what they are doing here.

Folks talk about American Exceptionalism, and folks immediately think of our military power; our industrial might; our ingenuity. Indeed, we are powerful. Indeed, we can be ingenious. The History channel is full of powerful and ingenious cultures that have risen and fallen. The U.S. is a country not without problems, just like other countries. We accomplish great things. We make disastrous errors. We build and destroy. We can be prideful. Those things are not exceptional; they are ordinary; they are common.

There is, however, one exceptionally magnificent aspect of America: We are everyone. We come from every place. All names are American names, and all faces are American faces. There is no other country in the world that can make such a claim, and that is something to be proud of.