The United States is a long way from France, and extra far from the Vosges, where the biggest city has fewer 40,000 people, some of whom have never left the region. I spend a lot of time trying to explain the United States and Americans in a truthful and honest manner. And while most people are kind to me, I also have to spend a lot of time debunking unsavory myths about the American psyche and lifestyle.
This makes it extra hard when I have to face the fact that some of those myths are true. Most people only know Baltimore from “The Wire” or “Hairspray.” I’ve started rewatching “The Wire” from season one because of this, and while I know the show only depicts part of the truth, it turns the screw because I know it’s not false. If you watch too many episodes in a row, you start to feel like your world is burning down.
And for every Fourth of July picnic, family trip to the National Christmas tree, and intelligent conversation I’ve been part of, there always manages to be some gristle in the soup. Today there two people were shot in the head outside of the local outlet mall where I used to see movies. Last night there were politicians who laugh at their own inadequacy. Last year a man from a homeless tent city stabbed his “neighbor” in a fast-food parking lot near the light rail!
How could this be my birthplace, country I owe my allegiance to, and my home? I don’t need America to be full of rainbows and s’mores and shiny, happy people holding hands, but I do need it to be a place I can be proud to call home. And when it’s not, I guess there’s only one thing left to do: go for a long, long run.