When I was a child, I wanted to go to Africa. I wanted to rescue orphaned animals, liberate them from the clutches of poachers. I wanted to give them a home. It was a simple, childhood dream, a dream that never came true. I’ve had many dreams since then. As a teen, I wanted to leave the hell I found myself in, wanted to spread my wings and take off, to get away, to be free of my chains. I moved to Sweden, settled down; became a father, started over. I wanted to become a published author. I did that too. Apparently, I had another dream as well. Somebody in Sweden once told me, Great Britain is the 51st state of America. What’s that supposed to mean anyway? During the Victorian era, the phrase the sun never goes down on the British Empire, was coined. A Sri Lankan news source credits Colvin R.de Silva with coining the response: “That’s because God does not trust the British in the dark”. That was a long time ago, mind you and a lot has happened since then.
The history of America has, at times, been violent and fierce, been passionate and romantic. I think more importantly though, it has been inspiring. The Wild West, cowboys and Indians (Native Americans), prairies and deserts, herds of buffalo. Great men like Martin Luther King, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Neil Armstrong, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Steven King, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley. Rock stars, pop stars, soap stars and film stars. From north to south and east to west, Yellowstone, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore,the Everglades … America!
You have no idea how I was looking forward to coming to America. Less than a year ago, I was sitting on a plane from Keflavik International Airport to Minneapolis-St.Paul International. My mind was buzzing a thousand thoughts, how would it feel to step onto U.S. soil, how would the people be towards me, the food and more importantly, the coffee. I like strong coffee; black and almost to the point of a spoon standing up straight in the cup! The Swedes are known for their meatballs, Australians for their beer, the French for their escargot, the Germans for their sauerkraut, the English for their stiff upper lip … Americans though, what are they known for? This is what I learned.
America truly is “the land of opportunity”. From the Great Lakes in the north, to the Florida Keys in the south, from the White House in the east, to Hollywood in the west, America really does have it all. It has something else as well, something far greater than its sheer size and natural beauty. It has people of peoples. The first thing I noticed were flags, flags everywhere, flags in long rows, flags hanging from lampposts and buildings, flickering in the warm, summer breeze, flags, flags and even more flags. You are a rich and diverse people, proud of who you are, not afraid to fly that star spangled banner, not afraid to stand tall in the name of all you are. When I came to America, I truly knew I was in America. Not like Europe, where people appear almost too afraid to wave their flag and stand up to be counted. I loved America, loved its people; I loved you! I think what I love the most though is the pride that shines in your eyes, the love of your country with its proud history and native heritage.
Back in July of 1983, Englishman, Paul Young had a number one hit with the song, “Where ever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home). It was actually written by three Americans, Marvin Gaye, Barrett Strong, and Norman Whitfield and recorded by Gaye in 1962. I wasn’t and am not a fan of Young but the words speak to me. I have lived in Sweden over twenty years, but I will never be Swedish. I have lived as an ex pat, Englishman for over twenty years, so I can hardly call myself English. No, I am a human being, a member of this wonderful planet with its infinite flora and fauna and wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home.
God bless you, America! Gavin Hill