Anyone, anywhere, who hears the name “America” already has a first impression about America; either positive or negative. It doesn’t matter if he/she is 18 or 80, and located anywhere in the world.
If abroad those impressions are a mixture of street talk, music, films, and of course, relatives who may have traveled there or live. One man from one village can go to America, and everyone in that valley has a impression of America that no government can conceal.
I knew such a family from Dayton whose father had come to America from a village in Slovakia before WWII, taking work in a steel mill. He left a wife and son back home. Just before the war he went back to bring his wife to America. But he had to leave his 6-year old behind with relatives to secure the family lands. Once in America, Papa and Mama Miluks started a new family, his youngest son my best friend for many years from the Army. In the late 1970s, while on duty in Germany, he was allowed to travel to Slovakia and meet his eldest brother and see the village and old home place, and of course, take gifts. When I visited his family in Dayton Mama Miluks showed me the special place she kept all her letters from her son, who she had not seen since 1940. But those letters! She wrote many-paged reports every week for over 40 years, giving a weekly account of things going on with his papa and brothers and sister, learning quickly to never speak of certain things, for by ’46 the Communists had moved in and her letters were first read and redacted by postal censors, cutting all references to the availability of consumer goods commonly available in America, especially food. Her son, in turn, would reply with heavily redacted letters. He would die in the early 1990’s of the general poor heath common to socialist countries so was never able to join his family. He never met his other two younger brothers or sister. And of course his last personal memory of his parents was when he was 6.
But I am quite sure every adult in that village had clear impressions of America because of Mr Miluks, who went to America.
I tell this story because one, it’s true, and two, it is, next to the Christian’s ideal of Heaven, an impression of America as a place that one has never been and most wants to go, which cannot be duplicated anywhere else. I have met people in several countries and four continents, including Palestinian Arabs (on an overnight sleeper in Russia) and from all I hear basically the same thing, “If only I could go to America.”
(This is not what we are seeing today on our southern border, by the way, so I won’t take this discussion in that direction, although just 30-40 years ago, down there, where I also lived, this was a common refrain, “If I can only get to America.” I deal with this subject in an upcoming conversation about Assimilation, which should be a topic of policy discussion if we can ever get fully in charge or our government again.)
So, abroad, America is viewed through two entirely different prisms, divided by two classes: 1) the political class and 2) all the rest[…]