I just watched an episode on CNN of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown that brought tears to my eyes. Seriously, it presented a city (indeed, a region) in which I spent eight unhappy years in an entirely different light. The city I remember as deeply conservative, decidedly unsophisticated, and intellectually stunted apparently has changed.
Before I go too far off the deep end, Houston wasn’t a backwater when I lived there. It had its share of ethnic expressions in the way of restaurants, “culture” in the form of opera and symphony and theater, and open-mindedness in the existence of the Montrose neighborhood. But it was in more ways than one a conservative and unwelcoming place, afraid of chance, proud of many of its uglier roots, and deeply in love with the automobile. Based on my last visit, I’d say its love affair with the automobile has morphed into a full-on and deeply unhealthy lust, exacerbated by combustion fumes that trigger explosive auto-erotic reactions. (See what I did there with words?) But otherwise, the Parts Unknown episode suggests the city has matured in ways that make it extremely attractive. In fact, as I watched people from Nigeria, Mexico, Viet Nam, India, Singapore, Zimbabwe, and other places express their love for the U.S. and what it has done for them and, especially, their love for the people of Houston and Texas who have welcomed them, my heart swelled with pride and hope.
For those who aren’t familiar with Anthony Bourdain’s program, let me say I once thought he was an arrogant blow hard. Now (not just because of tonight’s episode), I am ashamed that I allowed a closed mind ripe with preconceived notions to judge him. His ego must be pretty damn big to allow him to prance around the world as a food and culture expert. But his ability to pull it off with more than a little believability suggests to me that he’s a pretty damn well-qualified food and culture expert. His obvious embrace of the underdog appeals to me. His fierce opposition to (and mocking dismissal of) Trump’s imbecilic southern border wall gives him many brownie points, too. The people with whom he speaks also dismiss the wall as the work of an idiot, but they never say it. Smart. The asshole in the White House might well command their removal from the U.S., citizen or not. But I digress into my unadulterated loathing for the scum of the earth.
I love the fact that these refugees from around the globe retain and celebrate and share their cultures. I would hate them to renounce their life experiences in favor of adopting an imaginary “American” demeanor. “American” does not mean we behave or believe or look alike. It means only that we live where we live. I’d relish knowing more about my English history. Or my African history, if there is any. I’d actually bounce off the walls with joy if I were to learn I am certifiably Canadian or Chilean or Icelandic! Ha! Back to cultural celebration. How might we continue to celebrate our cultural roots after that inevitable day when we become, in the eyes of the world and each other, merely “citizens of Earth,” eligible to move freely between continents simply because we’re human? I don’t know. But we should. Somehow.
With all the happiness embedded in the paragraphs above, I am deeply, deeply embarrassed and ashamed to be “American” today. That is thanks only to Donald J. Trump and the deviants who cast their votes in his support. I would give my left nut if it would cause this country to recover from that ugly, ugly mistake. Shit, let me go all the way: remove the billionaire bigot from office and you can have both!