Foreword: Australia has endless flaws and whilst I’m not going to paint a picture that Australia is not in many but different ways just as troubled, in just as much danger from government corruption and just as racist towards non-whites, that’s a topic for another day.
I’ve never been to America, but I can tell you the names of 30 different cities. I can tell you which accents are from what location. I can tell you the name of the “discoverer” who stole the land from the Native Americans which ultimately lead to the genocide of thousands. I can tell I was told this through a fairy tale that painted Christopher Columbus as a discoverer and a hero. I’m not American but I can tell you about how this took place almost 200 years before my own country’s Indigenous population was also subject to the same pain. I can tell you a detailed narrative about how the British Slave Trade stole and destroyed entire civilisations and how still today this deeply inhumane act causes immeasurable pain, for not just those stolen but for those of the mother land they were stolen from. I’ve never been to America, but I can piece together almost a 1/3 of the American National Anthem and I can clearly sing the first 3 lines. I’m not American but I can tell you the first president of the United States, some of the names of the founding fathers that signed the Declaration of Independence, why there are 50 stars on the flag and even some of the First Amendment rights. I’m not American but I can tell you that I’ve known all of this since I was 10 years old but I’ve never been to America.
I’ve not been to most countries, and by comparison what I know about them is little more than nothing. I can’t tell you why any other country’s flag is the way that it is, nor can I tell you the names of any cities I haven’t been to, nor their history or the path of their justice system, not like I can for America. I’ve never been to America but I know more about it than any other country and sometimes I even know more about it than my own, but unlike other countries I’ve been to, I’ve never been to America. I know jam is jelly, and jelly is jello, I know cookies are biscuits, lollies are candy and I know trash is garbage, gas is petrol; and that the joke ‘what’s the number for 911’ was not funny to me because the number for 911 was 000, and I have known all of this since before I was 10 years old. I’m not American and I didn’t learn this at school, I didn’t learn it from my parents and I didn’t learn it from text books or from an Encyclopaedia. I didn’t learn it by talking to people from America nor had I ever had contact with an American, but at 10 years old my knowledge of America rivalled the knowledge of my own country. My knowledge of American culture could be recalled in much the same way because I had learned it all from America through my television screen.
At 10 years old, I knew that America was the land of ‘the free and the home of the brave,’ the only place in the world with true ‘freedom of speech,’ where you were ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and not ‘guilty until proven innocent’ as it was for me. The place where justice prevailed and where freedom of speech never failed. America, the place where children didn’t wear school uniforms, and going to school was optional. The land of pushpops, poptarts and arcades; fast food and home to McDonalds and every movie ever made. The land of little league baseball, backwards facing caps, skater bois, after school hangs outs and summer camps. A place with cool mums and dads who let their kids do ‘whatever they want.’ America, the place with two story houses and white picket fences, rolling green lawns and playgrounds for back yards. America the home of Disneyland and where dreams were made, a place of magic and where dreams really do come true. This was the only narrative I would ever be told.
Over and over again, subliminal messages would fire from our screens as if screaming at us ‘America is great, America is perfect,’ in this never ending loop. Program after program, advertisement after advertisement we were told that even though we’d never been to America that it was everything we always needed it to be and the only thing we should ever care about. At 10 years old, despite that our parents tried to tell us it wasn’t really like that and despite deep down we knew nothing could be perfect, we didn’t want to believe them because for most of us who’d never travelled to the outside world, it was all we knew. To some kids, America was the only country in the world worth knowing about, nothing would ever compare and nothing would ever be as good, not our food, not our clothes and certainly not Australia. Sometimes we would scoff at the thought of having to watch our own TV shows, and they had to be good if they were to draw in our attention. America, the land of equality, freedom and justice for all and yet… we never knew this was all a lie.
I’ve never been to America, but now when you call 911 you’ll go through to emergency because so many children don’t know the number for 911. I’m not American, but two years ago I had to explain to the 6 year old daughter of a close family friend of mine, that Trump was not the president of the world, that he was only the president of America and that he wasn’t our president either. Then I had to explain that Australia doesn’t have a president – so entrenched are we that the perverse pattern still continues on to today. Take a good look, America that is what your country has done for you, ‘he’s not my president,’ and only when I say it, is it TRUE, because I’ve never been to America and Donald Trump is not my president.
I’ve never been to America, but I can tell you when I was 10 years old that I saw the country through my screen in much the same fashion that an authoritarian regime would seem but I’m 16,000 km away. I’ve never been to America but even today when I turn on my TV every single television station will be playing something American almost 99% of the time and hearing my own accent is a novelty. I’ve never been to America but I’m forced to feel guilt and responsibility for a nation I’ve never been a part of. For which even as I say this, you might still argue I was. For a history I didn’t write, for a time I’m expected to understand, for a reality I was never exposed to and was never made to understand. If I don’t, I am publicly shamed for this, for your situation, that I cannot comprehend. Because it is not my country, and I’ve never been and I have my own shame, reconciliation, progression and changes to make. I have my own apologies to make. Much like most Americans today, America shaped my world view, but there’s just one problem, I’m not American. My life is still dominated by American culture but that’s not the problem, and not even why I’m angry, I’m angry because, America, you are still telling LIES.
I learned a long time ago that if you want to be part of the Social Media Universe now more than ever you have to know as much as I know about America. You have to know what you can and can’t say, you have to know how not to offend and you have to know most have zero tolerance for acceptance if you don’t. Often you must give up your identity, put yourself second and you must acknowledge theirs first, and you’ll frequently be expected to know things no one outside America should be expected to know or else be patronised and humiliated with social discourse you’ve never known. And I have witnessed from some, the so-called unity that is really exclusion of all but your own. You have to know they don’t understand your culture, because unlike you it wasn’t shoved down their throats until you had no choice but to remember the first three lines of their national anthem. You have to know they only know America, and for many of them, America is the world and the only world they have or will ever know. You don’t know us half as much as we know you, America, and I don’t think we’ve ever told you this nor have you ever been expected to know this because I’m Australian, not American.
From the age of 15 was when the cracks started to show, when the days of high speed internet began to take off. That was when the false narrative was finally stripped away. No longer was I giddy, weak at the knees and nervous to speak to Americans anymore, it would seem Americans were not gods after all, they were just people like everyone else. In fact, they were a highly troubled and divided nation of people thwart with division, racism and vast inequality, trapped behind a smoke screen their leaders had projected to the world for decades. A smoke screen that was extra thick and especially perverse for my country alone. Ever since I can remember, I have known America, but everything I did know was a lie and I never knew the truth. For that I’m deeply angry and for that I’m deeply disturbed, not because I don’t care about Americans, for a deep nostalgia, unity and even love runs through my veins, but because I spent half my life being told by America that they were nothing short of perfect.
Perfect despite they have guns. Perfect despite that the only gun I have ever seen was on the belt of a police officer and I’ve never seen anyone fire a gun. Perfect but my neighbours don’t own a gun. Perfect despite no Universal Healthcare. Perfect, but going to the ER could mean death anyway. Perfect despite they trial children in court. Perfect despite mass school shootings where thousands of innocent lives have been lost. Perfect despite that police murder people in front of thousands. Perfect despite white supremacy, racism and oppression that I’d have never have imagined in my wildest nightmares and certainly not for America growing up. Perfect despite most voted in a sex offender and refuse to acknowledge a global pandemic that is killing thousands worldwide. Perfect because millions don’t believe in science nor the climate crisis, won’t mitigate its threat and won’t vaccinate for other diseases that threaten humanity. Perfect, despite too many do not even believe in the pandemic.
America, this world of oppression, this world of pain and great division and needless sacrifice. This world of suffering, mass homelessness and deaths from inadequate healthcare; and as an outsider and despite entrenched in their culture, this we never knew about. I’m angry because I had to wait to hear it from Americans themselves, I had to grow up before I learned the truth, they never truly had a voice, and never even tasted what I thought I America was, nor were they aware of these tall tales I had been told, for I continue to shock my friends with the only narrative America had ever sold.
For most of my life I only imagined their life was perfect, I had only imagined they had democracy more intact than mine but the truth is, in some ways they are every bit just like me; except they have never known basic human rights like I have. For some Americans learning I have never lived like them, is too much to comprehend and so envious are they that they lash out in pure hate. I want to say sorry for never knowing their world for what it is, but often I don’t know what to say because there are too many euphemisms and acronyms in the way. It’s all I see, it’s all I hear about and it’s deeply rooted in my identity but I cannot understand, as like a child I’ve watched them fall apart and like a child I’m naïve and never know what to say from the start. I’ve tried to imagine a need for guns, especially in schools, the First Amendment rights and why healthcare was privatised. I’ve tried to imagine the unnecessary pain they feel with COVID-19 and how many people have negligently died, but I can’t. Over the years I’ve tried so hard to understand, so much at times that I’ve cared more about their problems than my own. I have spent long nights and days agonising over their troubles that they often kept me awake at night.
I have never been to America, but for the first time in my life I don’t want to go there, and like millions of Americans I don’t want to be told lies anymore. I’m not American and that much I know because nobody is American like you. What I can tell you is that I stand with you, we only ask for your patience in return and we need that most of all. Please don’t be offended for what we do and don’t say or for what we don’t know, because despite that I still live and breathe American culture still to this day, I’ve never known America and no one knows America like you do.
When I was 10 years old I thought I knew America, but now I realise I never knew it at all and for that I’m sorry and for that I offer my strength and to you I say this: maybe you’re not the ‘land of the free,’ but by god for the BIPOC (an acronym I learned just yesterday) the health challenged and all others who aren’t at the top, y’all are definitely home to the BRAVE.
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