Having spent so much time away from the United States recently, I was really excited to come home for the holiday season and the New Year. During my first travels abroad for work, I used to feel as if I needed to apologize being an American in social settings. I felt that I needed to explain that I was not responsible for the political situation in my country to the many people who would ask me to explain what they perceived as a mess here. As I have traveled a bit more over these past few years and spent more time in Europe, I have come to appreciate the positive aspects of being an American. People would often ask me if I was interested in moving over to Europe, and I have even had a couple of opportunities to consider it professionally - it has been an idea that I have toyed with quite seriously for some time now. While I love working over there with all my heart, and I really enjoy spending significant portions of time over there, I always come back to the fact that I love living in the United States and that I am actually quite proud to be an American. As a result, it is always so exciting to come home after long stretches away - it allows my appreciation to grow.
It also makes it this much harder to come back to the harsh realities that are not so pleasant about America today. Two things have stuck out to me as rather upsetting in the political/media sphere upon my return. The first was this editorial in the New York Times on New Year's Eve. I am heartened to see that people in the mainstream media are talking about the events of recent years in such frank terms, but I also wonder why we weren't speaking in such frank terms (in our land of free speech) earlier on. There is also part of me that fears that this is all falling on deaf ears. The other item is the recent events in Oregon regarding their new domestic partnership laws that were to go into effect on Tuesday. The news that came on New Year's Eve that the new laws in Oregon were put on hold was just another reminder that people like me are second class citizens in the place that I call home. If this is the land of the free, why am I still denied such basic civil rights?