Bernstein and Gershwin
No, not necessarily the best. No, not divinely ordained as the best, but a great country.
Every time I hear one of my peers talk about how much they wish they didn't live here or so eloquently state that "America sucks", I often want to stop and ask them what it is that makes them feel this way.
No, I am not a fan of either war that is going on. Yes, I am well aware of some of the sordid history of this country. Yes, I think the military-industrial complex is a bit frightening. No, I don't believe all the stories of American exceptionalism.
I do think that my generation often overlooks some of the great things about America.
Yes, I think Italy/Sweden/France/Germany/Scanda-who-via/Japan/Australia/South America are incredible places with incredible cultures and history. I happen to be fortunate enough to have seen some of these places and I think they are wonderful, vibrant places with much to be learned from. That's why I've traveled and will travel—to remember that I'm part of the larger world and the way I do things isn't the one right way.
It does just sadden me sometimes that many Americans my age have no idea some of the great cultural accomplishments here. Each morning at work I still marvel at the skyscrapers of Chicago that were created in the aftermath of a great disaster. I still can barely believe television and computers are real.
But for me lately I have been learning more about some of the artistic achievements in this country. In fact, the more that I hear of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein my mind is just boggled by the creative energy they exhibit and the way their music fits into western traditions but is also so American at the same time.
Watching the New York Philharmonic play the music of George Gershwin (see below), a Russian-Jewish-American, in Pyongyang, North Korea last week and seeing the way that even the most controlled people in the world reacted to this music really made me proud to be an American.
Fine, call me cheesy, but at least I am proud of where I live on some level.