Five conclusions after four years of living in the USA
The other day, it was four years since my arrival in the United States — the first ever visit to this country, from which this unexpected and difficult emigration began. It is now possible to sum up some of my first impressions of this country. The results of these, of course, subjective. In general, America is so diverse that it has its own. The emigrant stories of people living here differ so much that it seems that we are talking about different countries. A lot depends on what time and on what grounds a person came here, how ready he was for emigration, what he expected and what he got in the end. Therefore, my observations reflect only "my America" - although much of the above coincides with the opinion of others.
I can single out five things that have become a kind of discovery for me: not pleasant either.
1. Democracy exists. In recent years, Russian propaganda has been so actively trying to convince us that freedom, democracy, the rule of law and so on are just myths, illusions that serve to cover aggressive foreign policy, corruption and conspiracy, even the most progressive people are involuntarily infected with common cynicism. American freedom and the rule of law in their living embodiment often come as a surprise even to those who theoretically believed in them and were good to the United States before coming here.
Is it possible to imagine in modern Russia that the president is demanding that the special services stop investigations and personal loyalty, while those who withstand tremendous pressure do not give up and continue to follow the law, not afraid to go against the “powerful”? Can you name at least one case in the post-Soviet space where an ordinary judge blocks the decision of the president? Or a governor who is openly challenging the government? Is it possible to imagine that a person with frankly opposition views may take a serious government post, and any protest rally only requires notification, not agreement? And even those who sincerely hate this country can do it openly, without fear of repression. In the USA, freedom is not just a beautiful word, but a way of life and the basis of people's mentality. They will be genuinely surprised if you tell them that you can live differently.
2. Civil activity. This item inevitably follows from the first. Civic engagement in America rolls over. It manifests itself here in everything: in the diversity of human rights and political organizations, in social activities, philanthropy, creativity and true exotic, when pillow fights can be organized in the center of the city. Art festivals right in city lanes, Christmas performances in parks of small towns, parties with decorations in the style of "Harry Potter", exhibitions of flowers, buns, socks and everything your heart desires, charity fundraising, days of flowering of everything that at least theoretically able to bloom, closed women's clubs, where, like half a century ago, they play bridge - it’s just impossible to list everything. America is seething with activity, and everyone is able to find something to do here.
3. Legality is not equal to justice. And now about the less pleasant. America is extremely bureaucratic, and many of those who came here in recent years can confirm this. And it is not only about long-term queues to receive documents or organizations like the DMV, over which they even joke in cult films and cartoons. This country is subject to the procedure so much that this subordination sometimes turns it into harm.
On the one hand, the postulate that the law is the same for all is, in its essence, absolutely true. We came here because we were tired of bribes, nepotism, selective justice and the fact that the state chooses its “favorites” depending on its views and at the same time cracks down on dissidents. However, it turns out that the rule of procedure also has its downside. The system can be manipulated, and the procedure used in its own interests, and very often the outcome of a particular case depends not on its actual circumstances, but on the presence of a good and highly paid lawyer. And very often, some benefits are received here not by those who are worthy of them, but by those who know well what needs to be done to get them.
Many immigrants who have been living here for a long time gave me examples of dozens of stories when people were deceiving the “system” and enjoying the fruits of their deception for decades. As a result, those who have studied well the possibilities of obtaining various benefits and are able to “fit” their history to the bureaucratic requirements can get almost anything from this country. On the other hand, honest workers who are not sophisticated in matters of privileges and legal subtleties often cannot count on any help.
Most people from the post-Soviet space are accustomed to personify the state. However, America as a country appears to the emigrant as completely faceless. Indifference from the bureaucracy is the inevitable price for freedom. Look for opportunities, make your way, advertise yourself, prove that your story is true, look for benefits or grants and deal with the documents yourself. It’s rather naive to expect from America that you will be “noticed” or “figured out for themselves”. The story of Cinderella, in which the reward for honesty and hard work comes to the heroine unexpectedly and herself, almost never comes true here. In addition to being a good specialist, you need to be able to make your way here, and you need to be prepared for this. And still it is necessary to remember that Americans far from always keep their promises, and you are guaranteed to be able to rely on something only in the case of an already signed contract.
For many people from the post-Soviet space who are accustomed to the fact that “talents need help, the mediocrity will come through themselves”, it’s hard to get used to, that in your emigration affairs here they will look primarily at compliance with formal requirements, and not at something else. On the other hand, the “personal” approach on the part of the state, which is customary in the post-Soviet space, constantly threatens to slip into arbitrariness, when the authorities define “their own” and “strangers” depending on their own whim (or bribes), and actively help by “drowning” »Other. It is difficult to say whether there is a balance between the faceless procedure and fair treatment of a specific person, but it seems that no country in the world has defined it perfectly. One thing is certain - the bureaucracy, even imperfect and sometimes easily manipulated, is still indisputably better than dictatorship.
4. Vulnerability. Americans, indeed, can be extremely naive. Special Prosecutor's indictment Robert Mueller already described in detail the picture of Russian interference in the American elections - a vivid example of the exploitation of this quality. America is often compared to a teenager: stubborn, creative, optimistic, freedom-loving, ready to create and discoveries, but at the same time very naive. Many Americans, indeed, easily believed the Kremlin propaganda, even without seeing its source.
It is customary to believe any word, and in the event of a collision with liars, not only officials but also ordinary Americans are being deceived. Democracy, indeed, is unusually strong in one and vulnerable in the other. There are no mechanisms to protect against lies, manipulation, disinformation, creating chaos. America does not impinge on freedom even those who openly wish her evil, as long as they act formally within the law. Ordinary Americans in the mass are open and gullible, and this is rather a good trait. The merciless and insidious superpower of the United States is coming only in propaganda, when in fact they have their own shortcomings and weaknesses. But, as it happens, this disadvantage is the inevitable continuation of dignity.
5. Invincibility. With all its shortcomings and vulnerabilities, with the imperfection of the bureaucratic system and, at times, the inability to defend itself, with the slowness of reactions (sometimes important matters are considered for many years), America is stronger than any dictators and rogues who take advantage of it. Yes, often she “does not believe in tears” more than Moscow, sometimes she is short-sighted and naive. Nevertheless, this country has been able to create unique conditions for creativity, work, creation and development - both of an individual, as well as technology, and science, and society as a whole. "Noah's Ark of Man" is variegated and imperfect, but time shows that it is this imperfect model that is more successful and more effective than many others in the long run. It may be difficult to get used to America, but there is definitely something to love here.
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