America is in the Heart

MY FASCINATION with America has evolved from curiosity and intrigue to bohemian frolic and unswerving obsession… Tell me, where is the road back home? Home is nowhere… I have merged with the wind, my spirit has no address. Home is where my heart is.

THE IMPOSING flawlessness of America’s grandeur, the virulent allegiance to all that is safe, beautiful and comfortable – make me remember those monsoon rains that never stopped, typhoon wounds that don’t heal, poverty that cut through tin can flesh. While thrust in an ocean of relative ease in America, I deeply miss the nakedness of misery back home… How could I appreciate the blessings of life, if I fail to recognize my humanity’s imperfections?

IT SEEMS like we are overdosing with this drug called “democracy,” this pill called “freedom.” We’ll surely get our fix, provided we abide by the very detailed prescription—otherwise, we’re bummed… The young is exhorted to speak their minds but when words flow, we place these views and stuff in boxes (“criticism,” “judgment,” etc)—the same way we have prepared labels for human behaviors (clinical malfunctions, mental disorders). Are we paranoid of our shadows? Or just lonely in a crowd of paranoid shadows?

GROWING up in the islands, I always imagined frolicking in the snow whenever I dream of America. Such huge expanse of immaculate white… Winter is so openly ethereal yet mysteriously quiet. The snow has become my metaphor of America: An overwhelming sweep of flawlessness over a breathing stillness of earthly murk. A nagging reminder of loneliness, isolation – contradictions that feed my synthetic heartbeat. If I survive these winters of my spirit’s journey, then I survive America—then, I find home…

AMERICA is an addiction to the spirit, a burning spike in the heart that hurts so good... After the snow’s cold mysteries have melted and the scent of perfumed apples have been devoured by toxic loneliness, the body falters. But the soul remains strong… There is a sublime reason why dreamers from forgotten worlds give up a lot to reach America. That dream is not material, not physical… that dream can only be realized when the spirit finally finds it.

BOYCOTT Wal-Mart trash but gobble up Best Buy crap (as if there’s a store in America that isn’t selling Chinese sweatshop goods). And why do I see more consumers at Greenlife and Earth Fare than the Farmers Market? Isn’t the farmers market more local and indie—or “safer”—that packaged goods, organic or whatever? What do we know… the cool/indie store that we so love may now be owned by the monstrous corporate dude that we so hate.

WITH so many blessings to be happy about, life that is comparatively more comfy than most societies, and a people that always profess love, joy, and peace—I am still puzzled about the magnificence of stress and physical/mental punishment that people in America excise on ourselves.

WHEN I WAS a kid, I thought America is Heaven. Americans get all what poor people only dream about. America was a dream, but we all wake up from a dream. I realize, America is just another country on earth. Here, we react to blood and bliss the same way we do back home… That “reality” makes me live.

AN ECONOMIC dump called “import liberalization” had rich nations throwing goods labelled “junk” to poor countries. So I thought what I buy in US stores are safely screened for consumption… But antibiotic contamination in a local grocery as against a “healthy” store, franchise beer vs local brew?

WE recycle a lot. Good. But do we give equal focus on consuming less and sharing more? What value would recycling stuff when our voracious appetite to acquire and consume more remains unabated? I know a lot of rich people who junk their 6-month old couches and things (yup, they segregate them) instead of just handing them over to those who need them? The US’ recycling industry, which is controlled by multinational corporations, charges us money so they could, so-called process our junk… It’s business.

WE ARE buried under the rubble of corporate hash. Wanna belong to society? You must have good credit (AKA high-paying job means more debts), get a car that’s payable in 20 years, a cellphone that pukes beer and tracks down prozac vibes… You don’t have these? Then, you are a bum. 

IRRELEVANT of religious beliefs and cultural truths, Christmas makes me feel that I wasn’t just blown away by the wind onto the earth’s crack, grew and matured, and evolved into body and soul. I came from somewhere somehow... Christmas makes me believe I came from another flesh and spirit—so this is the moment to reconnect. Christmas is about FAMILY. It is impossible to observe it without family around…

I AM so fascinated with so many stuff and things to choose from in America: foodstuff, especially. Whenever I find myself in a grocery—Sam’s Club, Earth Fare, Ingles, Harris Teeter, Publix etc etc—it’s like I am in a culinary amusement park or food display emporium. Back in the islands, only the moneyed shop for foodstuff in groceries—they buy food ingredients in open markets where purchases are not pre-packed and prices are negotiated right there… That is why I find it hard to relate with friends who shun other stores or foodstuff because these may be unsafe. I always believe that US food safety standards are one of the strictest in the world, yet… oh well. As for me, if it smells good and it’s not poison—I’ll gobble `em up!

THE WESTERN (read, American) culture is the stage manager in world’s public ballroom dance; English, the most accessible and popular vernacular; and the dollar, the most persistent and aggressive legal tender. Whether the rest of the world like it or not, that’s how it goes—sit down with Uncle Sam and strike a deal. Look at how the once Sleeping Giant that was China compromised socialism that was fortified by years of Cultural Revolution just to blatantly embrace capitalism so it could deal business with the US… When I was a kid, I thought there were only three kinds of people in the world: Americans, Chinese, and Other People. I guess, I am right, after all, huh?

AMERICA is a giant, neon-lit stage of loud microphones and dancing harlequins—not a cold battleground or dark swampland. If I could place my work on a stage for the world to see, my work will most serve its purpose… I don’t seek to stoke fire in hearts and ignite rage, but—I would like to enflame love in people’s spirits. The transcendence of love ushers peace beyond the dictates of religious bigotry and political/ideological hubris… Maximize America’s huge stage: if mass publication would mean more readership, do it; if the internet could instill some attention, do it; if reading in 100 open mics could help a poet spread his word, don’t stop. In other worlds, mere recitation of a 10-word dirge could mean a bullet on your back… Who wants that? 

WE reached America already wounded. We can’t bleed some more. Our hearts grew immune to bleeding from abject poverty and political turmoil. Tears dried off our weary eyes from centuries of typhoon scars. We don’t openly express strong sentiments over sad events—not because we don’t connect with sorrow. We just don’t want to be reminded of the pain of the past… But we react faster to light moments, we laugh so easily. Laughter fortifies the spirit—like palm trees that don’t just crumble from battering wind. We get shaken, but we don’t fall easily…

WE ARE a very fortunate breed of humanity in America. This is where we could attain and enjoy all imaginable levels of maximum pleasure. We are offered countless choices in so many stuff and things. We get the most of freedom—that we could even ridicule Presidents and caricaturize God. We could condemn ways and vices in one city and then wallow on it in the next. But then, I noticed that I haven’t heard myself laughed in unabated joy the way I did years ago when I was in the islands where misery was a daily meal. Ah, life…

HOW do I survive America? My very vivid memories of hardships and sorrow back home strengthen the spirit that holds me together in one piece. Those are the moments when I deeply appreciate the relative comfort of the physical amenities that surround me, no matter how trivial or simple they may seem; moments when I savor the love that I receive, even though, almost always temporary. Material belongings may seem nonsensical but these are still blessings; love may seem doomed but the warmth that I derive from such beautiful intimacy is still a gift of life that stays in my heart forever…

AMERICA never fails to mystify and fascinate me. The gnawing contradictions of human connections are so flawless and unmistakable that we need to accept them as valid truths of life. Examples: There are endless streams of stuff and things to distract, entertain, coax or occupy us with—yet hubris and boredom cut through the core like cancer. Sexual hook-ups are relatively easy… ways and means to reach out to the next individual or community abound. But loneliness and disconnect drive people to the edge like half death, half life… 

BACK in a galaxy so far away, we don’t have a lot of choices… For example, when you say cooking oil, that’s it—no olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil, argan oil etc. Almost all consumer products and foodstuff are bought in the open market, negotiated eye to eye. Tedious packaging and complex marketing? Nah! I walked in a Subway Subs one day, years ago… the nice “sandwich expert” dude asked me: “What kind of bread, sir? Wheat, rye, yeast, corn, white, green, blue, red, aquamarine, gold, tangerine…?” I get confused and panicked, I thought out loud: “What is he sayin’? I don’t know what he’s saying!” So I just meekly asked, “Do you have a hotdog?”

AMERICA is a huge, imposing cultural, sociopolitical, and economic cloud that swarm the world—that almost all human arguments beyond these comfort zones are rendered blurry. I am endlessly mystified how people’s take on significant staples of life vary in so many angles: sex, relationships, governance, food etc. It’s interesting that most of what I say is deemed complex here; somewhere, those truths are daily activity. The rest of the world see a lot of America, whether they like it or not; but America hasn’t seen much of the rest of the world beyond the surface. Hence, it’s imperative that Americans rediscover humanity beyond this well-endowed, well-oiled paradise.

DESPITE the seeming connectedness of our unrelenting technological hyperactivity, we still feel strange with each other… Our material/physical facades are fantastically connected but our spiritual/emotional fibers are on utter disconnect. While the rest of the world exerts efforts to link cultures and creed via a supposedly common language, English—what happens is wider alienation and blurry interface. In America, we try to speak truths from where we came from, hoping to belong… We try to channel these human nuances via English as communication device—yet we still lose the message. We get lost in translation a lot. But then, what if we all follow what our hearts say? I feel, belonging wouldn’t be this dazed and confused.