Presidents, Birthday Gifts and MLK

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January 21st 2013 was the second inauguration of the charismatic President Obama to lead my country, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my birthday; a lovely trio. Although I spend most of the year outside of my home in the Midwest U.S., I truly love where I am from. Watching the inauguration speech makes me love it just a bit more. I met President Obama while volunteering in Chicago nearly ten years ago quite by surprise. He tried to shake my hand, but sadly, they were covered in bicycle grease. So I showed him my dirty palms, gave him a sideways smile and said, “It’s lovely to meet you.” The U.S. is full or wonderful and diverse people – as is Chile.

Having lived in Santiago for just about four years now, I sometimes make qualified remarks about what I have noticed about the place in my personal experience. I recognize that I do not “know” the whole country from a lack of having seen it all as well as not having been born Chilean. People ask me my opinion frequently. As an outsider, that type of curiosity makes sense. It would be fun and illuminating to be able to see all kinds of things with another person’s eyes. Very few things can be stripped down to gross generalities, and it seems to me that it’s important to be careful with words when making such types of statements. I try my best.

What I can say from the bottom of my heart is that I feel extremely indignant when someone who has never been to the U.S. feels they “know” it, its people, issues and problems. “Oh, Americans are stupid.” “They are fake nice.” “They are all rich.” I could go on, but you get my point. Not everyone says inane shit like that, but there isn’t a lack of folk who do. One cannot learn about a place or its people by watching a Hollywood movie, a couple of YouTube videos or posts on the CrackBook. Real life is much deeper than that.

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