I’m currently spending time in the U.S. Midwest and as is always the case when traveling between two diverse societies – like Israel and Ohio – cultural differences are initially glaring.
There are the obvious ones like the abundance of “stuff” in America – stores, products, restaurants, houses, space, libraries. People are pleasant and in good moods and why not? The economy’s good and the war is “over there”.
There’s the convenience of shopping and just plain simple convenience. A phone call solves most problems and gets most everything taken care of. Or a mouse click. No schlepping to 5 different government bureaucracies lugging a file the size of Manhattan to tend to this or that.
And of course, it wouldn’t be the U.S. if things weren’t sized so very grandly. A “small” soda is massive. Ditto “small” anything. Take my advice if traveling to this region: Order the kid meal or be prepared to bag it.
Because, as was the case in Starbuck‘s yesterday with the well-intentioned fellow who upgraded my small frozen coffee to medium – “I needed to finish up that container,” he winked – your dinner plans may go south. Mine did and my dinner companions sat insulted as a full-stomached me refrained at the restaurant they had been touting all week long. “The coffee was too much for me” I claimed in my defense. They were unimpressed.
Other differences are more subtle. They’re like undercurrents. The lack of social contact on a routine basis. The lack of underlying stress. And notes of racial tension.
I hear it in comments, see it in the looks when I’m in culturally diverse neighborhoods and notice it because in the “burbs” where my parents live, people of color seem for the most part to have gone missing. I actually noticed that I noticed an Asian guy this morning.
The racial thing occurred to me also this morning after reading Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.’s editorial on Isaiah Washington‘s troubles with Grey’s Anatomy execs. Apparently Washington has now pulled out the race card.
What grabbed my attention was Pitts Jr.’s statement: There is epidemic racism in this country.
I know it’s here and I know there’s been tension in this city for years leading up to and following the 2001 race riots. It’s still palpable.
Merely an observation: CLEARLY, the Mid-East doesn’t have the corner on the unresolved conflict market.