Thursday, March 14, 2002

it almost didn't make sense for me to come to DIS this afternoon. ben and i parted at norreport, him saying are you sure you don't want to come [to the worker's museum]? a pretty day; we've been walking for a while; there's still three hours til my myths midterm, i could have gone and wanted to (the ancient posters in the window depict a huge scowling russia fending off small, scurrying, obsequious eastern europe). but i came here instead. met heather, chatted refreshingly, until we were approached by two KU students with notepads and strained smiles. would be consent to be interviewed?
after some innocuous background-type questions, they launched into our interpretations of america. what's the american dream? are we influenced by the countries our families came from? from the positions they now have? what makes an american an american? does the government have a responsibility to take care of its citizens? what's america's chief flaw? (heather and i both agreed so i summed us up: "just write CLASS in big letters")

it was interesting. our answers contained flotsam and jetsam of media and democracy (heavier emphasis on the former), hard work and good fortune, consumerism and individualism. americans are americans when they surrender to it, appreciate the freedoms, vote, send their kids to the skools, absorb the culture. so anyone could be an american, pretty much? well, yeah. that's the idea, isn't it?
and us? what's our american dream? largely heather and i concurred: we had the advantage of growing up in houses. for us the dream isn't to go forth and own land in the 'burbs ("although it's important to own things," says heather) but to be successful and fulfilled. for her, that means career and cids; for me, a creative life filled with stimuli; for both of us, comfort.

"are you, do you think, representative of america?" we exchange glances, look each other up and down, reflect that we're in denmark. how could we be representative? i go to a small liberal arts college on the east coast, i explain; we're more leftist than is normal. (queen of understatement: yes, that's me.) heather purses her lips and shakes her head. i don't talk about this stuff with anyone where i come from, she says. it's hard to know. does everyone conceive of the u.s. this way? we objected at points that we couldn't speak for the country as a whole; it's huge, diverse.... our interviews shook their heads at that: generalize, they told us, try. so we tried.
the last point i made was about alienation. people aren't as connected to each other, they don't feel compelled to take care of/ responsibility for the general population. heather chimes in, it's the individualism thing again. they nod and scribble. we sit back. in a way, we have just been held responsible for the general population. they smile and thank us and drift away; heather and i hug goodbyes, wish each other great breaks, and do the same.

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