We’re The Same People
By Jack Mandaville
Only a real asshole would claim to speak for 315 million people. Only a real asshole would claim to be an expert on the American experience, especially considering both the environmental aspects and human aspects of this country are, arguably, the most diverse in the world. And only a real asshole believes that America has a flawless past and perfect present—although I’ll admit I indulge in the semi-sarcastic ‘Murica (or ‘Merica) banter on the internet.
I’m not an expert on America. But I will give you a little piece about my past and how it shaped my view of this great nation.
I have lived in four distinct parts of this country during vastly different phases in my life. I have spent time in 47 of the 50 States. Thanks to the military, I have friends in almost every state—from every conceivable religious, racial, economic, and political background. I also know all the lyrics to Geoff Mack’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” The last two weren’t really that big of a deal, just thought I’d toss it in there. Take all of it for what it’s worth.
My name is Jack Mandaville. I grew up in frosty Minnesota, spending my winters ice fishing on frozen lakes, playing neighborhood hockey on flooded outdoor rinks, and eating the ever famous Norwegian plate known as a Hot Dish.
I joined the Marine Corps out of high school and spent the better part of four years at Camp Pendleton—sandwiched between Orange County and San Diego County. My barracks were a ten minute jog from the Pacific Ocean on one of the only undeveloped pieces of land in Southern California. I soaked in SoCal culture like the majority of Marines who were stationed out there.
After my discharge, I spent the majority of my twenties in Texas. I lived in Austin, spending many a drunken night walking down Sixth Street and conversing with the freaks and weirdoes that inhabit that city (RIP Leslie). I went to Texas football games and dined on that city’s fine BBQ. Then it was down to San Antonio—an underrated municipality that comes off as a mix between Mexico City (without the crime) and Venice (without the Italians). I ate some of the best Mexican food known to man.
My last stop was Midland. The tumbleweed metropolis situated in the Permian Basin is exactly how people imagine Texas. I worked as an oilman, sweating it out in unbearable heat while covered in crude. I rode a bull at one point (just for .8 seconds). I spent time on ranches.
Now I work full-time for Ranger Up and live in North Carolina. I’d like to tell you a tale about me sailing through Cape Fear or hiking up the beautiful Smokies in the East, but I’m afraid I can’t. At 30 and gainfully employed, I find the most exciting thing I can do is put in a good day’s work and spend my downtime watching Netflix with a drink in my hand. Regardless, I have hit up some of that sweet Carolina BBQ and have been to a few Tarheels basketball games.
My point in telling you all of this is that I have spent a considerable amount of time in some separate cultural hubs of America.
So here’s the one thing I’ve noticed from all of my experiences: Americans—although different when broken down politically, economically, geographically, religiously, or racially—are not that different when it comes down to it.
That’s not what we’re told when we watch the news or when we read comments on Facebook. We see a lot of a division in those arenas (e.g. People on the right thinking Obama is personally trying to destroy their lives just like people on the left thought Bush was personally trying to destroy their lives from 2000 to 2008). Well, guess what. Both of those mediums—and others—are not accurate portrayals of real life.
The Americans I’ve known all share common traits. We are still a country built on rugged individualism, and the people I’ve met—regardless of the aforementioned demographics—fit that notion. Everyone is hungry for their piece of the pie.
We respect excellence. We respect those who strive for excellence. There is nothing more American than the underdog story.
We’re still a country open to receiving the poor, the hungry, and the huddled masses—even though the methods of approach may be different.
Being Unapologetically American isn’t about denying the negative parts of our past. We are a country that has made major mistakes, just like other nations. But we never find ourselves in domestic purgatory like others. We’re always advancing and evolving. Our system is set up to allow civil liberties to thrive if the people want it bad enough. We’ve proven that time and time again when brave Americans were willing to fight for it. The American experience is about the people, not who’s in charge at the moment. It has always been about that.
On this day, it’s important to remember that. Break down political walls and look at your fellow Americans as equals. Soak in the fireworks, food, alcohol, and other community bonding elements that bring us all together. This day is everyone’s birthday.
And when you wake up tomorrow, don’t forget that. The America on the Fourth of July, our Independence Day, is the same America we can enjoy every day.
So to my boardshort and flip-flop wearing friends on the West Coast, up to my hockey and fishing loving friends up North, down to my Tex-Mex and BBQ eating friends in the Lone Star State, out to my whatever the hell it is you do friends in North Carolina, and everyone in-between, happy birthday to you.
Thank you for being an important part of this American experiment.