Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Question of the Week: What’s your favorite thing about your country?

It’s Independence Day here in the States, and while that’s becoming increasingly ironic these days, it’s still the country’s official birthday, as 246 years ago today, we declared our independence from those tyrannical English, who wanted us to pay taxes and leave the Indians living to the west of us alone. Bastards! We can’t have that!

I’ve never been the most patriotic person, simply because a country is an artificial construct that doesn’t have as much relevance in my life as some other things do, but I’m still an American. I am very fascinated by other countries, however, and the way people living there perceive their own countries and the States (because the U.S., like it or not, is the dominant country in the world, still). So today’s Question is: What do you like the most about your own country?

I’m a bit corny at times, so I have an esoteric answer first, but a more practical one later. In principle, I very much admire the ideals of the constitution, despite the country rarely living up to them. Despite borrowing from many sources, it’s amazing to think about how radical a document the constitution was in 1787, and how well it’s been able to govern the country. It’s one reason why I’m not despairing too much of current events – I think they suck and I think they’re tragic, but course-correcting is very much a part of American life, and I have a feeling we’re going to get that soon enough. I love the idea of being an American, in other words, because in theory, we’re governed by a sober document rather than tribalism or nationalism or religion or fear. America is, still, a land of opportunity, and its lack of “history” is appealing. What I mean is that in more homogenous countries, which grew up because tribes came together and interbred and then created a singular tribal identity, it feels like the weight of history can crush the individual. I’ve felt it in Europe, certainly, even as Europe has become more diverse over the years. It’s still there, and it feels like it would be hard to break free of it. People like tribes, after all, because they wouldn’t be in them if they didn’t. That feeling still persists in the States, but I don’t think it’s as powerful. Here, it feels like the opportunities to re-invent yourself are more abundant, and more people take advantage of them. I’ve often said I love living in the West, because it simply feels freer. I love history and love studying it, so I’m not talking about that, but I am talking about freeing yourself from your own history. I love Pennsylvania, but even today, when I haven’t lived there in almost 30 years, it feels a bit claustrophobic when I visit. Perhaps the presence of your entire history just around the corner is comforting to some, and I’m sure I’d be happy if I lived near where I grew up, but ever since I moved away in 1993, I’ve felt like someone who is able to make choices based on what I (or my wife) wants, not what is expected of me as part of a tribe. I know, that’s possible for any human, but it feels like it’s more of a mindset of Americans, and it’s more a part of our culture. Because we have no native culture but simply lift what we want from so many others, it feels like we’re not bound by any. Our government – the ideal one, not the one that exists – helped create that culture, and it’s still a big part of being an American. I dig it.

But that’s esoteric. Practically, I think the best thing about the States is something most people don’t consider. Despite our rather shitty health insurance system, the U.S. is not a bad place to have special needs compared to the rest of the world. One reason we haven’t abandoned this budding theocracy is that our daughter gets very good care here, care she probably wouldn’t get in most other countries. Her wheelchair would cause us major problems in Europe, as the cities simply aren’t built to accommodate people in chairs because back when they were built, nobody cared about that. When we went to London and Paris four years ago, we were dismayed at the landscape, which is very unfriendly to wheelchairs, and I know a lot of Europe is like that. One of my daughter’s therapists travels to many other countries, and she says that Europe is, sadly, not the worst place for special needs people – in some countries, there are literally zero accommodations for special needs people, and they’re basically stuck in a room and ignored. So while our health insurance kind of sucks, we have figured out that special needs people need accommodations and we’ve worked those into our legal codes and building standards. That’s not a bad thing.

Anyway, that’s my answer. If you’re reading this and you’re American, what do you like best about our fractured state? If you’re not American, what do you like best about Mexico, or Germany, or Bosnia, or Argentina, or Australia, or Morocco, or wherever you live? Let us know!


  1. You caught me at a weak moment. You write: “course-correcting is very much a part of American life, and I have a feeling we’re going to get that soon enough.” I am most unsure that is true. The arc of justice seems to be pointing the wrong way.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Yeah, it’s a depressing time right now, but I truly don’t think it’s going to last. I can’t really argue my point, and that’s sad, and I understand your concern (because I do share it, to a degree), but I just don’t see how this continues, considering how against public opinion those making the decisions right now are. Maybe I’m stupidly optimistic, but I hope I’m right.

  2. Darthratzinger

    My favorite thing about Germany is that I feel safe here. I don´t have to worry about being shot (or my wife or daughter being shot) because somebody else is off his meds and has stocked up on firearms. I know that if I have an accident there will be adequate medical treatment available (ok, next winter unvaccinated idiots will clog up hospitals again). If I lose my job I won´t be homeless.
    On the other hand I do feel slightly less safe due to the virus and people now claiming that we have to live with it. I agree with that but I define living with it differently (vaccination, masks, social distancing if possible) than most others (keep telling myself “the virus doesn´t exist” so I won´t have to be put a freedom restrainer/mask on).
    Also until the end of February I would have claimed that I feel safe here because Germany has only peaceful neighbours and there is zero danger of a war in Europe. Damn it!!!
    Greg, Germany has been getting better when it comes to wheelchair access in recent years. In big cities there are almost no problems anymore. But I see Your point about France, specifically Paris. My wife and I were there last in 2012 or 2013 and we were baffled by the fact that the subways had plenty of seats or spots for handicapped people reserved but we saw NO subway station whatsoever with a lift or ramp or any other way to even get to the subway with a wheelchair!
    Are You gonna follow up with the question what we hate about our country?

    1. Greg Burgas

      That’s good to know about wheelchair access. Obviously, I don’t spend a lot of time in Europe, so I have only my very limited personal experience and the reports of others, so I admit I could be wrong. But that’s good to know. I’m going to Italy in October, so I’ll have to keep an eye out.

      Boy, a good social safety net is a wondrous thing, isn’t it?

  3. Eric van Schaik

    For the most part I can say the same for Holland as Darthratzinger does.
    We have a saying which translates : just do normal, that’s crazy enough
    Most people in Holland live by it IMO.
    Holland is already very wheelchair friendly. Recently I went to a concert were we had to use stairs, but there was a elevator and a good spot reserved for them in front of the podium so they could enjoy it too.

    For us in Europe is baffling to see why a lot of people in the US want to own a gun.
    Because it’s so easy to get one. I heard this morning that a madman killed at least 6 people on independence day in Chocago… So said. 🙁

    1. Greg Burgas

      Yeah, we had another shooting today, and the Republican candidate for governor of Illinois told everyone to “move on” and enjoy the Fourth, while the NRA and another gun-loving organization tweeted about how “armed citizens” are the reason we’re a country, both a few hours after the shooting. I mean, read the room, people. Sheesh.

  4. conrad1970

    Well damn, I was in a good mood until I read this post this morning.
    Thing is I’m in the UK and I can’t think of one single thing that I like about it at the moment, what a bummer.
    On the plus side though there’s very little chance of been gunned down by some lunatic with an automatic weapon.

    Thanks Greg!

    1. conrad1970

      Man I envy you, all of those wonderful French Bakeries and the cities and villages in the south look amazing.
      In the UK we have shitholes like Liverpool and Manchester. Bakeries? we have fucking Greggs, what a joke.
      And yes I’m still in a foul mood.

      1. Darthratzinger

        What is Greggs? I was only in the UK once as an exchange student in the late eighties and I did like it there but the food was pretty bad. And that´s coming from a kraut!

        1. conrad1970

          A rather shitty chain of so-called bakeries.
          I don’t get why they are so popular, it has to be experienced to believe how dreadful they are.

      2. Filrouge

        The best bakery in town is litteraly in front of my building, and everytime they close for a vacation my heart bleeds. I feel your pain for sub-par pastries.

  5. tomfitz1

    BURGAS: Saw a FB posting from Jessica Chastain smiling ever so sweetly, with both of her fists clenched except for the middle finger. The captions read Happy “Independence” Day from me and my reproductive rights. (Ooops)

    Right now, we still have abortion in Canada.

    But, mass shooting and extreme violence is still becoming all too common. Too many people expressing their opinions through violence and intimidation.

    Other than that, we had a nice July 1st for Canada’s day.

    Still, I wish you a Happy July 4th.

    Stay safe and out of trouble, eh?

    1. Greg Burgas

      Thanks, Tom. I didn’t know that mass shootings were becoming more common in Canada. That sucks. Sorry we’re exporting the worst part of our culture! 🙁

  6. Der

    My favorite thing about Mexico is the obvious: food.

    Food is cheap, tasty and with lots of variations. And the country is big enough that some variations are completely different from one another. Almost every state has its own variation of tamales that is hard to say that you have eaten every single variety tamales, not even the rest of the food.

    Moving from the north of Mexico to the center of Mexico was the best decision I’ve ever made.

    And about the US: I think you are right about the special needs situation in your country. The healthcare for basic stuff? that sounds expensive and painful, but it seems that you have a better special needs accomodations than everyone else.

    But anyway, I’m going to eat some tamales. Or tacos. Or both, because I can

    1. Greg Burgas

      One of the best things about traveling is eating the local food. We have pretty Mexican food here in Arizona, which is perhaps not surprising, but I very much doubt it’s anywhere near as good as what you get in Mexico!

      It’s very weird that healthcare is so shitty in this country but it seems like, for the most part, the special needs portions are good. Very odd.

      1. Der

        to be honest, I don’t know if the USA healthcare is shitty as in “my doctor told me that I was OK and that my cough was nothing but here I am 6 months later dying of lung cancer”* or shitty as in expensive**

        Because from here it looks really expensive, so if you want to do simple things(like a c-section) don’t do it in the US, but if you need a special care/diet/treatment it seems like you have a better system than us.

        *True story btw, It happened to the dad of one of my excoworkers
        **I had some experiences in mexican private hospitals and they might charge you a lot(to mexicans) but those costs seem downright nothing compared to US costs: When my daughter was born, my wife had a c-section plus another operation at the same time(a hernia I think) and spent like two days in the hospital. The cost for all that? After private insurance kicked in, we paid like 2.5k USD. A night in the hospital for the wife because we all thought she had an issue with her appendix? 500 usd. Your healthcare costs are bonkers

        1. We have some really good quality medical technology and skilled medical professionals. However we’re way more expensive for less results than other developed nations.
          It’s also an insanely shitty Rube Goldberg system where someone can get slapped with a massive bill because the ambulance that rushed them to the E/R wasn’t part of their in-network insurance coverage and that sort of thing. And where prior to the ACA, denying coverage for pre-existing conditions was routine; Republicans would like that to be the norm again.
          That’s without getting to the really shameful stuff such as insurers who deny claims automatically (because a lot of people will just give up which saves the company money) and medical boards refusing to revoke the licenses of even incompetent doctors.

  7. I take some comfort that the vast majority of the country are pro-choice, pro-gay and pro a few other things. Even though Republicans and their views have disproportionate weight in American society for a wide variety of reasons, they’re a dwindling minority. That may not make a difference to what happens in the next few years, but it’s still a good thing.

    1. Greg Burgas

      That’s why, as angry as I am about things, I don’t think it’s going to last. I think the Republicans might have gone too far, and the backlash is coming quicker than they expect. At least I hope so …

      1. Edo Bosnar

        I wish I could share your optimism – guarded as it may be. But watching events in my old home country from afar for the past few years has been really discouraging.

        1. Greg Burgas

          Yeah, it has been, hasn’t it? But the reason I’m optimistic is because of the overreach on abortion. I read something a few years ago that Republicans didn’t really want to overturn Roe v. Wade, they just wanted to use it on the campaign trail. They feared if it got overturned, the backlash would be considerable. They’re about to find out if that’s true, and I hope it is!

          1. Edo Bosnar

            Yeah, the abortion ruling is definitely overreach (and it’s been compounded by the also recent and absolutely tone-deaf, callous gun ruling and even the EPA ruling) and I hope like hell that you’re right and I’m wrong.
            But when I look at how successful the project to lock in minoritarian rule (which basically started when Nixon was forced to resign) has been over the past few years, I really have to wonder if the tide is going to turn any time soon.

          2. I hope so too, but the idea they didn’t want to overturn it has been laughable for a long time. A great many of them are true believers; none of them had any illusions what the Trump nominees were going to do on this issue (except Susan Collins who was just sooooo shocked by Kavanaugh’s vote).

        2. Greg Burgas

          I think the more recent ones are definitely true believers, but I’m talking about the lifers – McConnell and his ilk. I think they tried to ride the tiger and aren’t sure what to do with it now, whereas Taylor Greene and crazies like her say, “Saddle up, bitches!”

          1. There’s much truth to that. they’ve been gambling they can exploit the far right and white supremacist movements and now the bill’s coming due.
            It’s telling they won’t even question the Qanon bullshit.

  8. Jeff Nettleton

    What is my favorite thing about America? It’s getting harder and harder to say I have much of one; but, if pressed, it is that there are still possibilities for things to change. Any idealism I had was long ago stamped out, between a wake up call to real politics, while serving in the Navy, during the first Gulf war (a surreal experience of reading one thing in message traffic and another being reported on CNN, and seeing people accept things at face value, after Vietnam and Watergate). More and more I become pessimistic about my fellow man; though, there is always a moment that restores my faith. Still, seeing people stew in willful ignorance, because the thought of making a few sacrifices of comfort for a better tomorrow for all is too much to contemplate. Better to stay in my little burrow, and keep my head down and don’t do something like, I don’t know, vote the schmucks out of office when they fail the people. But, like I say, possibilities, like the school kids who have had enough of being statistics in school shootings and demand real change, not just prayers and thoughts. Like kids standing up to world leaders, saying you are killing our future and we’re not gonna take it. Might it not be long before we have a political campaign with a candidate who uses Dee Snyder to inspire a generation?

    On my bad days, though, I sometimes think that Logan’s Run had the right idea, which just goes to show how shitty the world is, at present, that a distopic tale from the late 60s sounds more like a Utopia. On my good days, I remember the words of Fred Rogers, and I smile. “Look to the people who are helping.”

    1. ” Still, seeing people stew in willful ignorance, because the thought of making a few sacrifices of comfort for a better tomorrow for all is too much to contemplate.”

      I am frequently reminded of MLK’s observation that many people don’t want tension and conflict, and don’t believe that tension and conflict are necessary to get a true peace of brotherhood and equality.

  9. John King

    I have not done much travelling so I can’t really compare my country to others.
    The thing I like most is the convenience – I don’t have to travel far to get there, I don’t need a passport, most people speak English, I know what food I like and what it’s called.
    I like the countryside and wildlife – though I would like that in any country – one advantage over some countries is that hardly any of the wildlife here is significantly dangerous to humans.
    We are in a pretty safe place geographically – no volcanos or tsunamis, we do have earthquakes and hurricanes but they are very rare and mild, and our “moat” makes foreign invasions difficult (956 years since the last conquest).
    We have a National Health service providing free health care (I don’t think any government has destroyed that yet – though they try).
    We have gun control laws limiting the number of spree killings.
    We don’t have a totalitarian dictatorship (though right wingers are trying to outlaw protests and left wingers want to set up a thought police to deprive people of the freedom of belief) and hopefully now that Boris is out we can have someone better running the country (though that is wishful thinking)

    1. Greg Burgas

      I very much enjoyed visiting England a few years ago. I know it’s not the same as living there, but it seemed like it would be a pretty nice place to live.

      I did read a book a few years ago arguing that the Glorious Revolution was an actual successful invasion, but William made sure, through propaganda, to portray as the English begging him to come in. So maybe it’s only been 333 years since the last conquest? 🙂

      1. John King

        oddly enough, English history lessons don’t dwell too much on William prefering to focus on Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell
        …and Elizabeth I
        …and Lady Jane Grey

        (The glorious revolution is probably overlooked due to the relatively low amount of bloodshed)

        Though they make a big deal about him in Northern Ireland.
        My home town has a significant Irish population so the Orangemen band marches past the house once a year
        (one joke I heard is that you can tell if someone from Northern Ireland is a Unionist or Republican by how they pronounce the “Th” in William the Third)

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