Inspired by the Brit list, here is mine.
In drawing up my list, I hearkened back to my travels outside the U.S., and asked myself: what were the things I missed most whilst Over There, and what were the things I was glad to have or see when I returned?
My Top Ten (in order):
- the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
- the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
- the notion that what isn’t expressly forbidden, is allowed
- checks and balances on government
- the freedom to succeed or to screw up (and then to try again)
- a jillion TV channels
- huge pickup trucks
- restaurant- and other choices
- interstate highways
The first five on the list are self-evident, especially as they are almost universally absent from foreign countries; and I’ll talk about that in yet another post because it deserves a longer exposition.
The last five points are personal, but important.
Only when your TV is confined to a few (usually State-controlled) channels do you realize how nice it is to have a choice — even among dreck.
Large pickup trucks are lovely — they are powerful, not really necessary (unless you’re pulling a large trailer or farming) and one of the things that tourists comment on the most. And the fact that pickup trucks are by far the most popular choice among ordinary Americans says it all.
Drive along a non-U.S. highway with a gnawing hunger and see how hard it is to find a restaurant of any description along the way. Granted, our choices are often only from the Usual Suspects (the top 30 chains), but at least there’s a choice. In Yurp, you often have to go into a town to buy food, which is okay if you’re a tourist, but it must suck if you’re a local.
Nothing says “America” like a damn rodeo: tough people doing a dangerous thing for fun.
It’s only when you’re trying to get from point A to point B without having to go through C, D and E that you appreciate the freedom associated with our highways. Now, as rule I myself try to avoid the stupid things as much as possible; but when you need one, it’s there for you to use.
Conspicuously absent from my list are things that are uniquely American, but that don’t touch me: the Grand Canyon, the Empire State Building, Broadway shows, the Rocky Mountains, etc. etc. Landscape features are just things — the Grand Canyon is a large hole in the ground, the Hoover Dam is a chuck of concrete, every country has a Broadway, the Alps are just as stunning as the Rockies, and so on.
But a busy shooting range and gun show (see point #1) are so much more American than anything one may find elsewhere, and ditto all the other related stuff in each point.