Mary is right, it’s gorgeous out lately. The sky is that fabulous blue that only God can create, the air is crisp, so much fresher than the humid summer air, and it’s finally time for hooded sweatshirts, jeans and boots and long sleeves. I think, as a Midwestern American my “grass is always greener on the other side” mentality comes from growing up with the changing of the seasons.
You see, every spring I await the day the weather is nice enough to head to the lakefront, enjoy the warm weather and get a start of color to my skin. I’m aching to take off layers, wear sandals and play outside. But toward the end of summer, I’m sick of the heat, I want cool days, even rain, a break from the sun. I complain about the heat, the humidity, and plot my way from air-conditioned structure to next air-conditioned structure.
I know by November I will be complaining about the cold, plotting my way from heated building to heated building, bundling up, cursing snow and cursing having been born in Wisconsin. Really, how can I be so fickle? I do this every year?! While I am speaking in the first person here, I suspect many of my Midwest-born comrades can relate to this experience.
To be honest, this is all so mundane that I never gave it much thought until I started getting to know people from more homogeneous climates. I mean, some of my Mexican in-laws were asking me if I thought it was cold the other day when it was about 60. I tried to explain that I felt it was great because we had been through the hot summer and now we were ready for fall. They sort of laughed, but not being followers of the greenest grass, they didn’t necessarily relate.
The more I get to know people from Mexico (and I used to analyze the same traits about Chinese I met), the more I ponder how different our cultures and backgrounds really do make us. Some people seem to really think that basically all humans are the same, but I think that’s a little naive. Many Americans, for example, think that we are bettering the world by bringing our form of capitalism, democracy, and let’s face it, consumerism to the world. But the combination of these principles done our way doesn’t necessarily translate into good for other cultures. In developing countries like China and Mexico a growing “middle class” has more money, but kids are getting fatter and fatter as they devour convenience meals, chocolate and Coke that we market there. People who once lived simpler lives and were basically content with what they had now bear children who now long to live in big suburban houses and drive SUVs.
Last night I was listening to an American journalist who works for the New York Times in Iraq talk about how our government expected there to be some sense of a unified social framework underneath the regime of Saddam Hussein, but that wasn’t true. Now we seem to have instigated a near-Civil War. We are trying to form a Western-style democracy there but the people there don’t trust government, nor the U.S. nor their neighboring ethnic groups. Our way doesn’t always work, and now we have to find something that does.
I’m not so sure where I am going with this, except trying not to be overly critical, but I no longer go through a day without wondering what we are doing to our world, our society and our environment. I can’t listen to the radio without being a little depressed about what is happening in Iraq with the war, to the poor of New Orleans, to our nations slums, and in the budding capitalist societies all over the world. It sometimes strikes me that I should quit my job, leave everything behind and travel all over the world before it all becomes too much like the place I would have left behind.