Work duties necessitate my attendance at the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting, starting Friday, in Denver. Given the state of the pandemic I can’t say that I’m thrilled to be attending, but work is work. What really prompts this post, however, is the travel arrangements. The agency I used is based overseas. They customarily send a fact sheet about the country to which you’re traveling—in this case, my own. It was fascinating to read how the rest of the world rates the United States. Overall we receive a pretty good score, but there are a few items of concern. One is that mass shootings are not uncommon. The guide laconically states “Due to the wide availability and proliferation of arms across the United States, high-profile shootings occur.” This is not wrong.
It goes on to note that if you can avoid being shot, crime rates are overall low in the US. Disease, apart from Covid-19, is well under control. While organized crime and gang problems are mentioned, it notes that open conflict between states does not exist. It seems that, despite the rhetoric of certain politicians who like to use hatred to get their way, we do tend to cooperate pretty well. We have plenty of micro-cultures here, and I know that I’m only comfortable living in a northern one. I like four distinct seasons, and I don’t mind shoveling snow, but I’m getting away from my guide. Hurricanes are a risk on the east coast through November and wildfires are possible in the west, also largely through November. Earthquakes are localized and infrequent. We live with a heightened risk of terrorism, but our medical care is good. If expensive. We have good dental.
While I didn’t really learn anything about the United States per se, I did learn a little about how others view us. We are a nation with tremendous resources and great potential. Our melting pot nature is, I believe, the source of our cooperative strength. We are still, after two centuries, suffering growing pains because there are some who want things the way they used to be in spite of the incessant, almost daily, changes that take place. There is no turning back. After the apple has been eaten you can’t unlearn that knowledge. The recent elections spoke pretty clearly: we believe in democracy and we support women’s rights. That’s how we see ourselves. How the world sees us, however, may be quite a different interpretation.