Jack (writer) 🎺, thanks 🙂 Good to see you too. I know how big and diverse the US is. I go there every time I can! Over the years, I’ve been to California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, New York and Vermont. I’ll be back to NYC (third time there!) in a couple of days :) I’m not going to teach a former soldier about that but what I love about travelling is meeting people and confronting my own preconceived ideas with what I can find on the spot.
For instance, one of my favorite travels in the US was in Texas. In Europe as well as in the US, Texas means “caricature of the redneck conservative American”. The funny thing is that of course the caricature is true, but it is also way more complex. I’ve had great discussions with many walking clichés in Texas, but more often than not I’ve been surprised by what/who I found. For example, there is this guy in Terlingua Ghost Town. He sells knives and rocks in the middle of the desert (right outside Big Bend national Park). His shop has many pro guns and pro self defense stickers all over the outside walls (“nothing I have is worth your life”). So we were like “oh ok, here is another regular Texas conservative”. Turns out the guy is a Canadian, he’s as progressive as you can be *in Canada*, he’s a former teacher in a Native American reserve and has posters mocking the tea party and Sarah Palin everywhere in his shop. I liked that encounter a lot, the guy was very friendly and he was a mix of several seemingly mutually exclusive caricatures... just like most actual human beings.
Anyway, I talk about Terlingua because this is a very interesting place where I’ve had some epiphany about the US. It’s a small town, former ghost town, now inhabited by 200 hippies and artists, almost only far left wing, some of whom live without running water or electricity. We’ve spent unfortunately only an evening there, talking to and photographing these people, that are pretty much opposed to whatever preconceived idea I could have had about Texas. And then it hit me: I got how huge the US are.
I mean, everybody know it’s a big country, you can see it on a map, you can see it by the window of the car every time you go from a place to another there, and you hear/read it every day. But this day I *felt* how big of a country it is. I was in that small town surrounded by 100 if not 200 miles of desert, while being at a walking distance of the Mexican border. I felt insulated even from Texas (with these people living their own misfits life) and at that point the distance between me and Washington DC was greater than the distance between any place in France and fucking Moscow.
So yeah, I can say I experienced how huge and diverse the US are because I really felt it in my body, once. I don’t live in your country (but I certainly intend to at some point) but I really know some parts of it, and I don’t get my facts about it only from the media (and especially not from the European media since those can only “translate” the news to the European culture, which is quite different).
Yet, I sincerely think violence is a much bigger problem there than it is in the rest of the developed world -even though not as much as many media (I’m looking at you, Fox News) would love to make us think.