Tuesday, July 05, 2011

coming in fourth

I owe an anonymous woman in Ajijic an apology.

She wanted to know if someone was going to put together a Canada Day celebration in Ajijic.

The question surprised me.  There just seemed to be something unusual about celebrating a national holiday in a foreign land.

I know where that comes from.  Most of my years overseas were in the service of the American federal government.  We were taught to keep a low profile.

Of course, there was always a Fourth of July party at the American Embassy.  But that was a diplomatic tradeoff for attending every other nation’s holiday at their embassies -- under the legal fiction that each embassy is built on its own sovereign soil.

I felt rather smug in my logic.  Until I was confronted with one of my first social engagements in San Miguel de Allende.  Did I want to attend a Democrats Abroad Fourth of July picnic at a Mexican hotel?

A deconstructionist could probably spend a week developing the odds on why I wouldn’t attend.  I have a strong dislike of politics.  The weather was a bit blustery for a picnic.  And the event was sponsored by Democrats Abroad – and I am neither.

But I am here to meet people.  I joined Babs earlier in the day for a coffee klatsch with a group of Americans who live either full time or part time in San Miguel.  It would be an interesting group to meet up with each Monday.

Babs and I were then off to join Fred and Ron at the picnic.  To be honest, it was a bust.  If the sign had not announced the event was sponsored by Democrats Abroad, it could easily have been confused with a Rotary Sunday brunch buffet in Pocatello.

Other than a couple of American flags, there was nothing to indicate this was the fourth day in July – or why the day has any caché.

The four of us sat down and were joined by two other men I had met at church.  I have been here four days, and I have discovered one of the dirty little secrets of any social gathering – no matter the size of the city.  The same group of people move from party to opening to concert to church.  What Stephen Sondheim jokingly called: “The blob.”

And because I have been focusing on relationships, I really did not give much thought this year to what this celebration of independence means for The States.  Several fellow bloggers have commented that the country seems to be obsessed with fear.

I am not certain that assessment is correct.  I have seen something quite different on my trips north.  Maybe it is just the flip side of fear.  But what I see is an odd demand by Americans for certainty.  Guarantees that we will be healthy, safe, financially secure.  That we will not have our feelings hurt.  And with each demand for a guarantee, we give up just a bit more of our freedom.

And where did this notion come from that failure is not an option?  Whatever happened to the attitude of doing your best.  Maybe getting the stuffing knocked out of you.  But getting back up and trying again?

I have great hope for The States.  As I do for Mexico.

Both countries have a lot going for them -- always have.  Failure is an option.  But it should not be the goal.


Don Cuevas said...

There was an U.S. Independence Day get together organized up at Santa Clara de Cobre. We didn't attend. I'm also in favor of keeping a low profile while living here. Also, rain was inevitable and mud was predicted for that largely outdoor celebration. We tend to have an aversion for large gatherings of expats, but not our guests, who we carefully hand select and try to keep the total number under 12.

We'll be meeting today with one of the organizers for lunch plus some other people. We'll be indoors or, weather permitting, on the patio. I'm not going to bring my flag.

Saludos, Don Cuevas

Felipe Zapata said...

That we will not have our feelings hurt. Boy, there's the biggie. From it, there radiates a million problems. And some are very important and disastrous.

Steve Cotton said...

And it looks as if the weather will be better.

Steve Cotton said...

I think you may have commented on some of those in the past.

tancho said...

Any function that has more than a handful of people is an about face for me. I cringe at having to be social when not on my terms. 
Winner, losers,  none of that, just think how everyone will feel. You simply cannot have any losers.....what about their self esteem?
You are right most of the time, that failure has to be an option, without failure one can not strive for results and learn any lessons.....
Sounds like SMA is boring you to death? Or is that my misguided perception of that retirement haven.

Steve Cotton said...

San Miguel is not boring me.  I am thoroughly enjoying meeting the people here.  I am certain the conversations will get a bit meatier as I get to know people better.

Jonna said...

The possibility of failure is part of the drive to succeed, I don't think you can have one without the other.  

We also went to the annual BBQ at the US Consulate's home, except they held it on the 2nd instead of the 4th.  I found that amusing.  It was a benefit for some good causes, the food was excellent, parts of the blob were there (I love that) along with quite a few Mexicans either being polite or curious about our native customs.  I'm not sure they got the right idea from the buffet of octopus and salmon but if they went for the hot dogs and hamburgers, they would have had a true experience.  

Steve Cotton said...

The picnic I attended served hot dogs and hamburgers.  But I think someone forgot to tell the cooks that hamburgers are suppdsed to be grilled and not served as steak tartare.  I guess there is always the possibility that someone was trying to reduce the size of the membership of the San Miguel de Allende Democrats Abroad.

Nita said...

Failure not being an option might have started about 30 years ago with the local school systems. This seemed to be an age where every child was made to feel that he could succeed even though he could not. At that time "No Child Left
Behind" meant you were passed to the next grade  whether you had mastered everything or not.

Irene said...

 You are neither a Democrat nor a broad?

Steve Cotton said...

I am glad someone took the bait on that one.  It was too good of a line to let go.  My history teacher in my junior year of high school said: "During the American Revolution, the colonies borrowed money from aboroad.  She was very rich."  Only about a quarter of the class laughed.  I suspect these days, he would be spending time in the principal's office.

Steve Cotton said...

It is interesting you say that.  My housesitter and I were having a similar conversation on this very point yesterday.  The goal of our education system now seems to be that we hand out paper rather than prepare our children how to think as citizens of the republic.

Emanuel1969 said...

We, as we expect many who read blogs about Americans in Mexico, very much appreciate Mexico for her people and culture etc.

If you will, permit us to say here, reading repetitive gripes about the United States of America on expat blogs is becoming tiresome.

Bloggers can write whatever they want, but we don't think readers are inclined to continue reading what amount to rants and vents that ultimately convince the reader that the author is some sort of social misfit with issues that can't be resolved by living abroad.

Mexico is an incredibly beautiful land with extraordinary natural beauty,; yet there is no country in the history of the world that has, by virtue of her ideals of liberty, justice and opportunity drawn the greatest multitudes of prospective immigrants (today more than ever) than the United States.

Isn't there a very high percentage of expatriate Americans who ultimately return to the USA?

Ademas, nos cuesta mucho creer que los que van a vivir en Mexico ni siqiera aprenden espanol!

Steve Cotton said...

I am a bit confused.  As far as I know, I have never attacked the United States.  That would be a concern if I did since I have taken an oath to do quite the opposite.  Blogs are designed to elicit conversation.  And when polite conversation ensues, the mission has been met.

For the record, as any regular reader of this blog knows, the United States are my country.  They are a great experiment.  And the greatest strength of that experiment is that we are constantly attempting to improve it.  The fact that citizens of the republic disagree on where the country should go is something we should see as positive.

And, yes, some expatriates do return to The States.  I did after my years of living in Britain and Greece.  Just as expatriates throughout the world return to their own lands.  Including, Mexico.

As for learning the language, for most of us it is an ongoing and humbling process.  But well worth the effort.

Emanuel1969 said...

"Several fellow bloggers have commented that the country seems to be obsessed with fear.

I am not certain that assessment is correct.  I have seen something quite different on my trips north."

This is the bit that prompted our response.

We read the same nonsense and appreciated that you disagreed.