How does one sum up America? After traveling the country for several months, cruising the back highways and meandering in and out of alleyways and cities, I thought I would come home and have some sort of epiphany. I would be able to spit off the clichés and the generalizations, and have a predictable cathartic experience. Instead, arriving home has left me with more questions than before. What is America? What does it mean to be ‘an American?’ I have come home to social media flooded with divided politics, hurtful language toward others, terrorist attacks, and so much blame. I’m confused because that’s not what I saw on our trip. That’s not the America we experienced. We were welcomed into strangers’ homes; we marveled at land preserved by grassroots organizations and politicians working together; we ate food cooked with history and pride; we felt safe because we trusted and respected our neighbors.
So how does returning home, and returning to our routines, suddenly make us sad, and even sometimes bitter, towards our own country? I need to remind myself to look through photographs and reminisce about all the good. So much good.
Which leads me to the conclusion of our Great American Road Trip, the finale of “Tales From The Trail(er).” Instead of attempting to forcefully categorize America and the people we met along the way, I want to start a campaign:
This isn’t idealistic. I’m not going to preach that we all need to ‘spread love,’ because that absolute language gets lost as we all attempt to navigate the spectrum of reality. But instead – choose to see the good. Start sharing stories that inspire you, start sharing pictures of people and places that make our world better, and challenge others to do the same. This doesn’t by any means that we should ignore the hardships and battles raging in our world today. But instead of placing blame and sharing stories that break each other down, focus on yourself and take action to build up the good. One of my favorite quotes that applies as much to design and architecture as our social world is from the famous inventor, architect, and designer, R. Buckminster Fuller. He said:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Let’s stop tearing each other down and start building up systems that inspire hope and positive change for all. Open your door to those in need, cook a little extra food just in case, and dig deeper into different perspectives.
So how do I sum up America? It is a vast and complex place, but with so many brilliant minds hard at work: from the tech advancements in Silicon Valley, to the dad teaching his child to cook the perfect crawfish, to the musicians spreading cheer in New Orleans. Despite what some may say, America is already great; we simply must choose to see it. #choosetoseethegood