Born and raised in Indonesia, my education on American culture was limited to Hollywood flicks, sitcoms and McDonalds ads. Nevertheless, I maintained a fascination for America and realized that, even with such a lopsided education, we Indonesians care so much about what is happening in America. I understand the language; I know the colors of the flag, and I used to wear an American flag outfit proudly — something I avoid now that I live in America.
However, in Indonesia, it seems there are two sides: those who love America like it is their own country and those who despise America as if their relatives had been killed by American soldiers. Yet even this second group quietly dreams of living in, or at least visiting, America. Personally, I somehow ended up having a serious love-hate relationship with America.
The longer I live in the States, the more I know about the nature of Americans, which I absorb from interacting with people around me and avidly reading the news, both print and digital. Unfortunately, the people in my circle are not really in synch with me politically, including my husband.
When I met him in Bali in October 2004, political affiliations were not part of the conversation. We talked mostly about ourselves and how we could make our future work.
Then, later, after I had permanently moved to Arizona and gotten married, I had still yet to catch on to his ideology. I was too busy navigating the changes in my life: moving to the US, exchanging wedding vows and being pregnant with my first child — all in the same year.
After some time had passed, I realized it was not enough for me to just stand on the sidelines, gawking at America as if it was not a part of me. I needed to make a serious effort to try and understand it.
I started paying more attention to American society and politics. This dawning realization was spurred on in 2008 when Barack Obama ran for president.
I did not know much about American politics, but I had firm views on big issues, such as immigration, gun control, gay marriage, abortion and healthcare. To a certain degree, I supported Obama because I despised his opponent, John McCain and McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin.
This became a problem when I discovered my husband was a registered Republican, who proudly voted for Ronald Reagan (and not so proudly for George W. Bush). “Oh my God,” I muttered to myself.
Despite the fact that my husband is an educated Republican and not an ultra conservative who watches Fox News, the frictions between our ideologies are inevitable. The bumper sticker Women for Obama made him cringe. “Please don’t put that on your car. You can keep it at home, not in our bedroom though,” he said.
When Obama won in 2008, my husband was upset. He tried to be positive by saying, “That’s OK, I’m glad my wife is happy!” When Obama won the election again in 2012, he did not even try to hide his anger.
I squealed joyfully when news reports showed Obama winning Ohio, which basically sealed the deal for the popular Democratic nominee, but my husband did not take it well.
“What the f**k!” he yelled, followed by angry outbursts. His reaction was shocking to me, and I realized I had not completely registered that our political views were as different as night and day.
I have since learned that America is not as liberal as I thought. Like most Indonesians, I perceive America as the liberal nation promised and embodied by Paul Krugman and every Huffington Post reader. I am often taken aback by the statistics. For example, there’s a huge number of Americans who are against women having the right to choose an abortion and those who refuse to accept the legalization of gay marriage.
Slowly, I start to feel that America is not the place for me, especially living in a red state, Arizona.
When I heard about the tragedy that befell Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, I was outraged.
“I hate it here,” I said. “This would never have happened in Indonesia. Do you know why? Because we don’t sell guns! Only bad guys and cops have guns. Common citizens fight with knives or throw rocks at each other; they don’t buy a gun at the neighborhood store and start blasting away, killing kids at school!”
I began to be selective about my news reading. I am still an avid reader of liberal media, but I get sick of how both parties twist the news to fit their own agenda. As a former journalist, I am ashamed to admit that I would rather read Entertainment Weekly than The New York Times or watch 30-minute sitcoms rather than CNN’s headline news.
After a decade of living in America, my view on America has changed. I am still trying to find the balance between the bad and the good. I celebrate the freedom to dress myself in any outfit that pleases me without being harassed. However I worry about things, too. “What if one of my daughters’ friends takes his parents’ gun and brings it to school?”
Today I realize how silly it was to hang an American flag in my bedroom when I was in high school, but I am here now. While I am here, I might as well learn to love America, my Republican husband and the fact that the sitting government is supported by my husband’s political party who are trying to eliminate immigrants and refugees — my kind of people.
I want the America that was promised to me in my childhood. I feel shortchanged because now I see that everyone and everything is not so beautiful in the Land of the Free. I feel I have escaped from the imprisonment of Indonesian traditions into the dangerous jungle of American freedom where I am as free to show however much skin I want as I am to pull a trigger.
Uly Siregar is an Indonesian writer and journalist. She teaches at Mary Lou Teachers College in Arizona, where she lives with her husband and three children.
I have visited many other countries and always been impressed with the cultures, beauty and people of other nations in the world. I appreciate the readers of this blog from around the world, and I have even been in another country as they celebrated their founding day. Today is our special day in the United States, as we celebrate our country’s founding.
I posted previously why I love my country, but I’m thinking the list might be endless.
In honor of my great nation, here are 10 reasons I love America:
Freedom – I have dear friends who fight to defend our freedom. This freedom gives me the right to do what I do without fear of government intervention.
Adventure – I love a capitalistic and entrepreneurial system of government and I’ve experienced both the ups and downs of our system.
Diversity – Every nation, race and color is represented here. We are integrated with diversity, which has made our country stronger.
Risk – This country was founded with risk and risk-takers are still applauded today. I would struggle personally in any other environment.
Determination – Throughout our history, Americans have had a desire to succeed at any cost.
Patriotism – We love our country. Period.
Volunteerism – When there is a need in the world, Americans will be among the first to assist. We may argue about our politics, but when there is trouble around, Americans come together and you want Americans nearby.
Beauty – I’ve traveled a great deal in our country. I can’t land on a “most beautiful”. Mountains, deserts, beaches, lakes, rivers, plains, and swampland. We have it all.
Opportunity – It’s still true. If you work hard enough, persevere through failures and setbacks, you can still achieve success in the United States.
Economy – Yes, I said it…and I mean it. Our economy has seen better (and worse) days. We still have much to be thankful for with our economy. Poor here is still rich compared to most of the world.
God bless the United States of America! Happy Fourth of July!
Why do you love your country?
You can read my previous posts:
10 Reasons I Love the U.S.A. (A more humorous look.)
The Real 10 Reasons I Love the U.S.A