Just after 9/11, when people recovered from the shock of being attacked, of having lost so many lives, I thought there really was no better place to live than here. Proud Americans would not be intimidated by terrorists. They would stand together, united, and I was so happy to be part of it. I was able to heal much quicker than I think I could have in Germany.
The years passed, and my initial euphoria about living in America wore off. A crack appeared in the clean surface that was the greatest nation in the world. The very same people who stood united had to vote for a new president, and suddenly the USA was no longer united... but very much divided. Republicans against Democrats... people spewing words of hatred towards others. Religious intolerance, hatred towards minorities, pro-life, pro-death, pro... anti...
My entire life in Germany I have not felt discriminated against because of my atheism. Now I belong to the least liked minority in the country. Internalize this, no matter who you are... The least liked minority because of your lack of belief in a supreme being.
The most recent data shows that atheists are more distrusted and despised than any other minority and that an atheist is the least likely person that Americans would vote for in a presidential election. (http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheitsHated.htm)
Distrusted... despised... by people who don't know me, my values, my life. I'm flabbergasted and sad. Sure, I could just not care. And in my every day life I am not affected by it. But do you have any idea what it feels like when you mention to someone that you're an atheist, and their facial features derail, and they make excuses for why they "really have to go now"?
Back to what I'm trying to say though. In almost 13 years I had no choice but to wake up and learn and understand, that the United States of America are NOT the land of opportunity. This is not the greatest nation on Earth. The infrastructure is failing on a number of levels, as our "report card" confirms. Broken streets, ancient bridges, outdated power lines (still above ground!) on rotting poles that collapse during a moderate storm.The list goes on and on and on.
Wars. America loves wars. Something I will never understand. What is it with Americans having to have their hands in every conflict overseas?
So, why don't I just go back to Germany, is what you're going to say now, yes?
You know, I'll be honest, the thought sounds appealing. But, and here's my problem, I may not feel like an American, but I also don't feel like a German.
When I go to German meetings here in Portland, I am always the oddball. I struggle speaking in my native tongue, because I haven't heard it in so long. I sound funny when I speak, I'm told. I'm the one who failed at raising my children bilingually. This is just not an option for Germans. Period!
I'm the homeschooler. Not an option for Germans. It's illegal over there, and the majority of Germans who live in the States, look down on us homeschoolers. I was told by one very friendly guy that homeschooling was bullshit.
I love going to Germany on vacations. I get to go for walks in the local vineyards, I get to wander the little narrow streets in our small town, and I get to eat delicious German food. I absolutely love spending time with my family... my parents, my brother and his family. And I miss them more with every year that I am away. But I feel like the American when I talk to people. And they show me with their words and actions. I don't belong there.
Plus, I love coming home to Oregon. When I arrive at the airport and present my greencard, the guy (or girl) always welcomes me home. I like that feeling. I have an amazing circle of friends. I am surrounding myself with people who are loving and caring, who share most of the same values, and who won't judge me when there IS a difference in opinion or way of life. I live in a beautiful neighborhood with lots of very friendly people. My kids take classes in a community filled with awesome people. Religious and non-religious homeschoolers come to this center, and never once have I been judged for my atheism.
And so, I find myself a little stuck in the middle... not quite American, but not quite German either. It's a fine life. It doesn't affect my happiness... most of the time. This year I was going to apply for my citizenship. I'm going to wait with that for a little longer. I don't feel ready. Sure, I can be a dual citizen... but should I be?