This is a guest-post by my cool and brilliant colleague Professor of Spanish language and literature who also blogs as Clarissa on issues of feminism, literature, journalism , immigration, politics, and her love for the Kindle. Originally from Ukraine, she migrated to Canada, and she got her PhD at Yale University in the United States. She has recently taught at Cornell University before coming over to our prestigious SI University. Hers is the first in a series of guest blogposts coming on this blog in the coming weeks. Thank you Clarissa for the post. Find her blog here.
When I was 22, I emigrated from Ukraine to Canada. I was fully prepared to experience a massive culture shock but none came. Sure, it took some time to get used to the idea of a credit card and a check-book, realize that a bus driver doesn’t give out change and there is no need to negotiate the price of a ride with the cab-driver before getting into the cab, and figure out why maple syrup can be poured on bacon and eggs. The process of learning these small things was really fun and caused me no shock whatsoever.
Five years later I decided to go to graduate school in the United States. Having lived in North America for a while, watching American TV and reading American books and newspapers, I expected even less of a culture shock on this change of residence. I was only moving to Connecticut, where the climate and the way of life were supposed to be pretty similar to what I had gotten used to in Canada.
Boy, was I ever wrong. A massive culture shock hit me immediately after crossing the US border and remained with me for years to come. It took time and effort to understand this new reality, learn to like, and eventually even love it.
I the US I discovered a deeply divided society. Glaring class inequalities, the likes of which I never saw back in Canada, racism, religious fanaticism, gender inequalities, economically devastated areas with the kind of poverty I never saw even back in Ukraine, crime, violence, inept governmental strcutures. All this was very different from the US I had seen in movies and TV shows.
But soon I also discovered that yet another US exists. The country of intellectuals, thinkers, artists. The country of hard-working, kind, generous people, who have not abandoned the struggle for the perfect society they inherited from their founders. The country of intellectually curious people. The country of people who hate injustice and inequality. The country that deserves better than the corrupt structures governing them.
When people read the very critical things I write about the US on my blog, they sometimes ask me, “Why do you live in this country if you dislike it so much?”. But I ask, does hating injustice and inequality mean hating America? Or is it just the opposite?
I love Clarissa’s blog because of the way she looks at the world. Even though she hasn’t called it that, her blog is a travelogue of sorts as well – a response to the American society from the viewpoint of an immigrant. And as expected of someone of her level of brilliance, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and she says what’s in her mind no matter whose ox is gored. I particularly like the way she responds to the people who make foolish or hateful comments on her blog. I wish I could be that quick-witted sometimes.