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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blind vs. discerning patriotism

First and foremost I would like to thank all of my friends for the positive response to my Paris Diaries. Telling a good story is easy when you have such a great audience and the third edition is on the way! Your open-mindedness helped me deal with the other kind of comments I frequently received, when telling about my trip. This article is addressed to those, whose responses to my travel journals were less than favorable.

I do not understand you. Yes, I saw many things in France that I really liked. I admire the French for their ability to enjoy life, their fondness for good food and smart clothes, their refusal to destroy beautiful old cities in favor of parking garages and ultra-modern corporate towers, and their sensibility when choosing a car. Yet, when I tell you about those things, the only response I get is, "Well, then why don't you just buy a ticket and move there?" Okay, so if I started telling you about someone I really admired, your response would be, "Well, then why don't you just go and have plastic surgery done to look just like them?" ? What kind of twisted logic is that? I do not understand, how the ability to see the good in other people and places equals lack of love for the people you are with or the country you are in right now.

Folks, those of you who were born in this country have no idea how good you have it. Setting illegal immigration aside for a moment, even those of us, immigrants, who get here legally have to go through unimaginable hurdles to obtain what you have just by virtue of being born on the American soil. Interestingly, it's always Americans (those who were born here), who make snide comments, when I speak positively of another country. The immigrants know better than to question the strength of my affection for the United States - you have to love this country to jump through all the hoops put up by the Department of Homeland Security.

I love this country. In fact, I love it so much and I so want to make it better, that I will not be afraid to point out the negative, so that we could start looking for a way to fix it. I do the same for the people I care about - if I don't tell them that they are being rude or inconsiderate or cruel, who else will? I will continue traveling the world and looking for the best practices in the way other countries are run. Then I'll do my homework and see how we can implement them here - because I love this country.

The French and the Canadians have free health care, which must be working pretty well, or else there would be all the dead Canadians stacked along the north border - let's talk to them and ask them how we can have it too.

The Swedes are able to give new moms and dads almost a year off from work - paid - to be with their babies and give them ten additional sick days for every child they have. Let's see if we can do the same for the new moms and dads here (unless you think that 9-10 weeks is enough time for a woman to spend with her newborn and to adjust to a new baby in the house, in which case I really don't want to talk to you.)

Most European countries don't deface their ancient architectural marvels with security railings and orange tape - if you are too stupid to notice the stairs or to walk too close to the edge of an old crumbling wall, it's your own damn fault - that's called cleaning out the gene pool. There are no stupid lawsuits, when someone trips and falls over their own kid in a department store or spills coffee and burns himself. Hmmm, talk about an improvement! Every country has something good to offer - even my native, long-suffering Ukraine, where people manage to be hospitable and kind, despite corrupt government, polluted air, poisoned water and radiation. Why shouldn't we admire them? Why shouldn't we learn?

Maybe if we weren't so darn snooty toward other countries, they would be willing to learn from us too. For example, European states aren't doing so well with wheelchair accessibility and it saddens me greatly, that so many beautiful places are as good as non-existent to people with disabilities. Perhaps we could give them some advice in that area - we have a lot of expertise. Both Europe and America struggle with the issues surrounding public transportation - we both have it, but it's just not as good as it could be. Perhaps, if we cooperated, we could come up with something outstanding in this area! I am sure there are many other projects that could yield remarkable results if both sides of the ocean contributed to the solution.

Patriotism is a wonderful thing, except when it's blind. You might serve your country better with your eyes and your mind open. Give it a shot!

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