Dare to venture past the Red, White, and Blue; You’ll be surprised at what you find.
Imagine. You’re strolling on a pristine sidewalk. As your shoulder grazes a variety of t-shirts, sweaters, and blouses, you hear exotic tongues and authentic accents harmonizing in the air around you. Look up and the intricate glass structures are never-ending, curving every which way into the vast blue skies. The glass glimmers in the startling yet comforting sunlight, making the experience all the more surreal. Tucked behind these glamorous and sensationalized buildings, is a bustling yet modest community. With international vendors bargaining on the sidewalks, salsa dancing in the middle of the streets, and plays showcasing unknown history along 8th avenue, everyone, including yourself, fall victim to the contagious energy.
Where is this?
New York City?
Nope, Nope, Nope, and NOPE!
Welcome to downtown Calgary, Canada, located at 51.0478° N, 114.0593°, towering at an elevation of 3,428 feet, and home to 18,114 people!
Recently, I had the honor to travel to such a remarkable place. From the stunning views to the close-knitted culture, I was completely moved by the dynamic of the city. However, I found myself wondering something:
We hear of New York City’s phenomenal city skylines, Los Angeles’s sunny beaches, Chicago’s deep dish pizza, and New Orleans’s vibrant Creole history. But why not of Calgary’s clean streets, Banff’s breathtaking views of Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade, Poland’s fascinating Crooked Forest, or Japan’s flowering Hitachi Seaside Park?
Our country is beautiful and self-sufficient without any doubt. However, I find that many of us Americans are obsessed with our national treasures and are more than just “caught up” in the fast-paced nature of everyday life. To me, many of us truly believe there is nothing worth consideration outside of our own borders.
I remember learning about the difficult transition for astronomers from the Earth-centered geocentric model to the Sun-centered heliocentric model. The fact that there is a term — Americentricism– coined for Americans who believe U.S. culture and lifestyle is superior to others rests my case. I believe many of us choose to be oblivious to foreign intricacies whether it be Spain’s tomato-throwing Tomatina festival or international relations like China and India’s agreement to maintain border tranquility. The result of this oblivion: we remain ignorant introverts, only familiar and cultured in our own values and principals. We thus lack empathy, knowledge, and humility. According to a CBS News article, How Americans are perceived by the rest of the world, this self-centered perspective may be responsible for some of the impressions citizens of other countries have of us:
“The first word that comes to mind when I hear the word America is ‘Arrogance.’ They are big and loud and they are in charge of everything.” – Christopher Darroch, 39, actor, Toronto
“An American friend visiting … came with the idea that he is going to find another America here … I believe they should understand the values that we have as Arabs, embrace them and try to go to a more local level to comprehend why we think and why we live the way we live.” – Summer Abu Ltaif, outside the American University of Beirut
“A black-and-white look at the world. They miss nuances.” – Knut Braaten, 43, handyman, Oslo, Norway
This argument may be unsettling and even inflaming to Americans everywhere. However, my goal is not to bash the United States or its people in any way. Because I so firmly believe in the tolerance and acceptance that have become U.S. mantras, I hope to remind and if need be, startle Americans, including myself, to practice their preaching, to truly showcase what it means to be a progressive, cosmopolitan society.
So, I urge you to recognize that there is a world worth seeing past the Hollywood sign, dare to assimilate with the culture of your trilingual neighbor, and stay hungry for knowledge both inside and outside of our borders.