Sunday, April 18, 2010

Generalizations and Reflections

Here is a recent reflection from Anna Yoder, serving in a partner program of Radical Journey. Anna is serving in South Africa and yet I think she captures many of feelings that I hear around the DOOR network.

It's really hard to sit there, unsure what to say, when people make generalizations right at you. This surprisingly hasn't happened a lot since we've been here, but earlier this week it seemed to come with full force. I was sitting in the office trying to work on BCA's annual report when someone came and started talking to me forever about how Americans are.


Don't get me wrong, I am the first to admit that there are lots of things that have gone wrong in the States. After all, we have a lot of blood (and high fructose corn syrup) on our hands. Part of the reason I wanted to do this program as to get out of the United States for awhile. I have found that it's hard to explain that to people here, even if they don't like the US they are often surprised when I say that as whole, I do not either.

I've been struggling with this a lot since being here. I miss home, which means I miss the States. And that sounds weird and out of place to me. Yet, when I think about that, it's not that unnatural since what I love about the States comes down to people (well, and ice cream. Ha) – my family, friends, and people who have impacted my life (and that I'm tired of being far away from). When this someone told me that Americans (as in our Radical Journey group here) are more prone to stay in the states as oppose to the Canadians who are more open to it (I'm not sure where this guy got this from), I wanted to tell him that for me I guess that is true but it comes down to the fact that Barb, Sanford, Aaron, Janice, Titus, Michaela, Leah, Jeron, Kare, Jille, Drea, Laura, Krista, Steph, and Jills live there than easy access to cheap, corn feed and filled food.

Regardless, I get really frustrated when South Africans come up to me and tell me everything that is wrong with the States, especially when they loop me in with their generalizations. I find it very difficult to say anything in these situations. Sometimes, I wonder if would do anything if I spoke up for myself at all. After all, the States needs to be lectured on lots of things. Often, it is also that I don't even know what to say. How do you tell someone who tells you to your face that all Americans are materialistic and only care about clothes and make-up when hello! I'm right here in front of them with practically no make-up, my hair frizzy from the humidity, and the fact that I've been wearing the same pair of pants consistently for the past week.

I'm pretty bad at sticking up for myself, especially when I sometimes agree with everything they are saying. Still, I don't like to be lumped into the "you Americans" group, when I rather be lumped in with those environmental, pro-Palestinian, God's kingdom on earth, anti-corn syrup, anti-blind consumerism, jubilee economics, simple living, third way Jesus' shalom type of hippy freaks so would rather challenge the system they live in rather than become just like it or run from it. Obviously, I don't have these things down. But it's hard to express that there is so much more to me than being an America. Or that doesn't always have to mean the terrible connotations that it holds throughout the world. Maybe God has placed me there for a reason – to be a part of a movement that challenges what my government is doing with my tax dollars, that doesn't live with a blind eye to the world, but rather engages, yet never fully participates in order to bring about radical generosity and love to the places I find myself in.

I want to live in a way in which people are confused as to why I don't fit into their "you Americans" generalizations. Am I there yet? I am not sure…

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