Americans are cool

I am a first generation immigrant. I was born in Indonesia and immigrated to Holland when I was two. It was in Holland where I had first contact with Americans. We would go to one of the military bases on fourth of July for the festivities. The Americans were cool. They drove big cool cars. They had a swagger. They were friendly. They were welcoming. They had big fireworks. They were just cool.

In 1960 at the age of 9 my family immigrated to the US. I loved everything about the US. Everyone had a lot of stuff. And the people who welcomed us here gave us stuff. It was overwhelming. Potlucks at the Lake Grove Presbyterian church were fabulous. Jello salads with every imaginable and unimaginable addition. Casseroles of all sorts. And hide and seek after. My first trip to the local Piggely Wiggely was over the top. So much stuff. I had a quarter to spend and I recognized Chicklets. They were 25 cents back in Holland. I gave the cashier my quarter and happily headed for the exit. But she beckoned me to come back. It was a bit scary since I didn’t speak English. She put some coins in my hand. It turns out the Chicklets were only a nickel. I was dumb founded. Clearly I had the good fortune of landing in the land of milk and honey.

I had lots of friends and a great life. There were some things that happened that in our modern PC world would be considered offensive. In junior high some of my friends named me Chocolate. Sometimes they even called me dirty Puerto Rican. I really didn’t care. They were my friends. I loved them and they loved me. I don’t think they even knew what a Puerto Rican was. I certainly didn’t.

Recently my sweetheart Margaret and I went to New York. We wandered all over Manhattan. We got around by subway. Every time we asked for help New Yorkers, including cops would go out of their way to be helpful. A woman who led us to our transfer subway line remarked that we were so nice and friendly. I thought she was nice and friendly. I’m told that New Yorkers can be rude. I didn’t see this.

Americans are still cool. Since the presidential election, some people on both sides of the divide are behaving like idiots. Americans being cool has nothing to do with politicians. Politicians in the final analysis have to bend to the will of the people. They often don’t want to but they always have to. They don’t lead, people lead. They follow. They’re irrelevant. I think we get what we expect. I expect people to be loving and kind. I expect people to be helpful. I expect Americans to do the right thing. And usually this is my experience. This doesn’t mean that America is the greatest country. I think most people think where ever they live is pretty great. What makes America great is the people. And I still believe Americans are cool.


One thought on “Americans are cool”

  1. Hi frank, I’m glad you choose happy and because you ‘expect people to be loving and kind’ they will be. There is a lot of negativity to wade through these days and sometimes I’m not happy but I always remain ‘laughy’. This means I never miss an opportunity to make a joke or laugh at someone else’s.

    I am a first generation emigrant from the US. I came to London when I was 9 too. Being a US immigrant in the UK has been an interesting and hilarious ride. At the first school I went to in the UK I was told on a daily basis to ‘go back war you cum from you shtoopid yank!’ and I would retort ‘give me a plane ticket and I’ll go’. It was so funny that these children didn’t know where I came from and called me a yank which was a term used to describe American soldiers during the second world war, as far as I know. I can just see those positive, bright-eyed children going home to tell the ‘long legged’ people that there is this this new child in our school all the way from America and the elders spray, ‘tell er ta fuck off the shtoopid yank!’. It’s a shame that some humans, who are disaffected, need to hate in order feel any sense of power.

    I turned my anger into a laugh. At this same, first school I didn’t have any uniform because my dad couldn’t afford it to begin with (typical Jerry!). Around the second week I wore my ‘Girls Lib’ Tshirt (oh the idealism of the 70s). The girls were asking about what it meant and I was confident that it was a secrete message to girls that they are ‘betta than boys’ (I was picking up the accent and starting to blend in – Ha Ha!). The girls were intrigued and started telling the boys off for being racist towards me. It wasn’t long before I was organising games during playtime. We loved British Bulldog, a very physical game where you charge forward, one group against another, and try to get through to the safe wall. I introduced the act of helping each other rather than everyone for themselves which led to lots of accidents and the play master calling it all off. The boys loved this because they could be really heroic with the girls and hold their arms to pull them through.

    I never experienced any hatefulness towards Americans after that time. I have, however, experienced a never ending litany of jokes, asides, demeaners, and head tilts with sorrowful eyes, especially after the current political situation ‘over there’. But you know what? as a predominantly Scots-Irish human on this planet, with no doubt a bit of Chinook and Mexican on the American side, the last giggle is with me. I may have to move north to join my people and build a wall around that stinky golf course. Now that would be cool!


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