Over the past several months, I have been confronted with, hit with, and kindly presented with my own innate Americanism. This is something I perhaps should have expected but, alas, I was much more looking forward to the learning I got to do about the Balkans when I first set out from the comforts of my Italian apartment. This series seeks to nudge me towards unpacking what my home country means in as many different contexts as I see fit. This particular post seeks to outline some of my feelings thus far, and set myself up for any further over-analyzing I might hope to accomplish.
The title of the series is Americus because America and the normal nicknames are boring or too problematic. **Fun onomatology break brought to you by wikipedia** America is the feminine form of Americus, which is the Latinized version of Amerigo Vespucci’s name (okay so yeah Americus is also problematic because explorers, colonization, etc.), which is an Italian form of the medieval Latin Emericus, which derives from the Old High German name Haimirich. Haimirich means “ruler of the home” from “haim” meaning home and “rich” meaning powerful. There are a crazy amount of modern names deriving from Haimirich (seriously though).
Even the name of my title evokes a discussion on my Americanism/privilege/insularity (synonyms??). When I say “America” I mean the “United States of America”, as America is an entire continent and saying simply America implies the US is more important or more deserving of the name- this has been pointed out to me many times. I see the point and also disagree to an extent but eh that an extra long paragraph.
Anyways, through discussions with others of different nationalities, albeit mostly Western Europeans, I have realized more and more just how American I am not only in speech or mannerisms but in my interests and my beliefs, and ultimately my personality. America has permeated my being. There is no way to separate myself from America, and my early attempts to distance myself from my home country were not only futile but wrong. I hope that by understanding the ways in which America has impacted me and that by understanding the place America has in this world a bit more, I can begin to truly critique it and also gain a more nuanced awareness of who I am.
Oscar Wilde remarked once that “America is not a country, it is a world.” This is true, America is my world despite how much I desire/d to shake it off.
The poem below lightly touches upon America, and the idea of a western power’s place in the rest of the world. For some context: it was written at a farm in a rural Romanian village, where I am currently volunteering.
Despite their paleness, this family
is ironed into their white-washed house and clay ground
(the same ground they now dig up),
no more out of place than the two flags
placed unapologetically next to the church
with the silver domes at the west entrance of town.
The uneasiness that hangs about the corners
of their home is loud
perhaps only to me. I am used
to having the presence that follows me
easily visible irregardless of my attempts
to hide the corners I did not think existed-
attempts that continued until I realized my own home
was kneaded into my being
long before I was born.