Yet there's still something attractive about that creativity and energy. What else would explain why so many people, perfectly capable of seeing our flaws, still consume a big diet of American culture, and millions each year seek to relocate to the USA? Many of them seem to be able to differentiate between the America that represents a rich seedbed (though hardly risk-free) for personal and family opportunity, and the America that refuses elementary provisions for access to health care, makes educational financing as complicated as possible, and whose national leadership seemingly believes that obstinate stupidity is a virtue.
So the SPAR supermarket chain seems to believe that branding their house cola as American Cola gives it valuable credibility. ("Genuine taste, genuine cola," it says on the bottle I bought at the SPAR grocery store across Yalagin Street from me, just past Elektrostal's McDonald's. The product's motto: "If you can't taste the difference, why pay for the difference?") I guess they're not conducting their marketing with fearful backward glances at Mecca-Cola. I was glad to have a bottle of that genuine taste as I sat in this kitchen, preparing my materials for the American country studies class I'm teaching at the New Humanitarian Institute. So reassuring that the adjective "American" still stands for something!
Here are some of the "first principles" I'm using to shape the American studies class:
- emphasize American values and their sources, without concealing our failures and compromises in implementing them
- provide links to the experiences of the Russian nation without invidious comparisons
- describe and demonstrate complex interplays of geography, culture, and politics with actual stories
- don't bite off more than we can chew: trace themes and provide cases, don't insist on unrealistic comprehensiveness or chronological rigidity.
Arriving in Elektrostal; second day of classes.
Righteous links: Putin-watching has certainly become even more interesting. ~~~ Here's a helpful primer on conscientious objection, presented by the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. ~~~ Barclay Press's online book discussion for this month is on Mary Darling's and Tony Campolo's The God of Intimacy and Action. Co-author Darling is serving as moderator.
Two very different Texas videos! (1) The State Bar of Texas unveils a video contest to "Capture the promise of justice for all." (2) The Thunderbirds present Lou Ann Barton.