I’ve just returned home after spending a week in the United States. I travel to the U.S. quite often—easily 8 or 10 times a year, but more often than not I am there for just a day or two and I often see nothing but an airport, a convention center or church, and a hotel. This time was different. Over 8 days we drove 3400 kilometers, from Michigan, through Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee and down into Georgia. We stopped often, drove around the cities, did a bit of shopping and spent lots of time with people. When I got home, I opened a word processor and just began to write and ramble, trying to think through this journey.
I am very comfortable in the United States, having been there so often and in so many different cities and states. I love America and I love Americans. But still, it is not my country and there is always a sense in which I am an observer just as we all are when we are in a place that is not our own, like being in someone else’s home or being a first-time guest in a church. It has been a year since I spent any significant amount of time in the States, and especially time traveling through the States.
Media around the world has spilled millions of gallons of ink on describing the American economic woes. I returned home to find a copy of Maclean’s (Canada’s answer to TIME or Newsweek) with the cover story discussing the looming double-dip recession. The words “America is Doomed” are plastered at the top of the page. I knew that I was going to be looking for evidence of all of this; I wanted to see if this was just the media creating the news or if there is truth to it.
America has always been the land of extraordinary wealth; the malls and theaters are always packed, the stores always thriving, new neighborhoods always springing up. This is how we, the rest of the world, perceive America—as a nation that loves to own, that loves to spend, that has immense wealth. Yet according to the media, this is exactly what is being threatened today.