Ten Years in America

According to my passport, as of August 5th, I have lived in America for 10 years. Somehow, no profound thoughts occur to me. When I try to look back, no grand ethnographic synthesis or thick description suggests itself. Perhaps all the profound observations about America have already been made by Alexis de Tocqueville and the The Simpsons.

So all I really have when I ask myself, “what do I think of America and Americans,” is a collection of non sequitur impressions that have stuck in my mind. It is not that I have no opinions on the Big Themes of America, like Race and The Healthcare Debate. It is just that other weird, isolated thoughts strike me as more important for reasons I cannot fathom. To celebrate my 10th year in America, I’ll share two of the sorts of impressionistic thoughts that I’ve collected. I have many such thoughts. Maybe by the time I die, the collection will start to make sense.


America has lots of little animals, like chipmunks, raccoons and squirrels. Yet America has produced no equivalent to The Wind in the Willows. Ignoring over-anthropomorphized Disney characters, you have to conclude that America is primarily fascinated by its larger animals, like grizzly bears and moose. I’d like to see the American story told from the intimate perspective of small animals running around in the bushes. This picture of a raccoon (from Wikimedia, creative commons license) and this other picture of some ducks in Lake Cayuga that I took, are somehow not prototypical images of American wildlife.




Americans like their food to be separable into parts, along visible construction lines. When they blend, they do so clumsily, as in Sloppy Joes and meatloaf. Even culturally close comparisons reveal a vast chasm between America and the rest of the world. Compared to the English cucumber sandwich, the American burger-and-fries platter lacks that integrated, holistic feel (pictures from Wikimedia, creative commons license). I think Americans are suspicious of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.


English sandwich

Do you have other non sequitur thoughts? Do share.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. Re point #1, Does the cartoon” Pogo” qualify as small animals commenting on American society?

  2. Hi Diane, thanks for the pointer. Pogo does indeed seem like a great WITW analog. Looks like a complete anthology will be available for the first time this December, so I’ve added it to my list of stuff to buy. Can be preordered now.

    Here is the link for folks who want to try Pogo via this site.