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Growing up in Hawaii provided me with a very unique outlook upon the world, both internally and externally. Internally, even though I grew up in “the United States” I was a Caucasian (yes – a “haole”), which meant I was essentially a minority in Hawaii. Externally, I grew up very distant in both proximity and thought from Washington D.C. and the struggles of the world. It was a unique and beautiful time and place to mature as a young mind.

I left Hawaii, as many young haoles did when they finished High School, and went to the big, scary “mainland”. I never really felt like I “fit in” on the Continental United States, but who would after growing up on a little paradise of an Island in the middle of the Pacific? One aspect of this great new realm of 48 connected States spanning from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean that I enjoyed was how incredibly huge it was. I remember driving essentially around Oahu as a teenager within a few hours before I was back where I started one crazy night. You certainly couldn’t drive California to Florida in a night, let alone return to the scene of the crime that very evening!

After exploring the States, at last count I had physically been in 38 of them, and entering Canada and Mexico a few times each, I turned my thoughts to Europe and other continents. I finally was able to embark upon my European journey after my MBA had been completed at a very interesting point in time. The date was December 2001, just months after 9/11. I remember waiting for my flight out of Jacksonville, Florida to Delta Air Lines’ hub in Atlanta, Georgia for the first leg of a long trip to Amsterdam. I sat there and watched a really cute girl play cards very sweetly with her Mom a few seats over from me, while two men in full Military gear with strapped M-16’s menacingly stared down everyone entering the departure gates. I tried to picture what Honolulu International Airport looked like – could they possibly have Hawaiians strapped to mow down angry terrorists too?

Europe was fantastic and exceeded my hopes. I visited Amsterdam, Munich, Zurich, and Paris to name just a few exciting cities. Everywhere we went people were very sympathetic when they found we were Americans. The United States had not invaded any countries yet, and the people I spoke with, being the curious – outgoing person I used to be, were all very apologetic about the entire event – sincere remorse.

I re-visited Europe again in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. Every time I did, the hostility and anger among the general population about Americans grew. I found myself having to explain very quickly that yes, I was American, but no, I did not condone our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, or really anywhere else. The sympathy had been destroyed, and replaced with anger, distrust, and venom. I did not run into too many people in Europe that felt threatened by Iraq or Afghanistan, but they all seemed very concerned about the actions of the United States. I became more and more disenchanted when I returned Stateside, and saw our policies being more and more destructive to world peace.

In 2006 I turned my back on the States and left, vowing never to return to live. I found myself a Country that would steal just as much of my paycheck from me as the States, but at least they had no real standing Army and was not invading any countries or killing any civilians. However, even this can be disputed, as you can see here.

Now everywhere I go, when people find out that I am not Canadian, but in fact, yes, a hated American, I cringe. I grew up in Hawaii. I detest what the United States government has done, is doing, and will be doing in the near future before it crashes and burns. I am a Man without a Country to call my own. I will never fit in anywhere – I sure hope Hawaii can muster the strength to Succeed from the union so I can return home. To my great disappointment, I do not believe I will be booking any one-way flight reservations to Hawaii any time soon.

I am a hated Ex-Pat, for that which I detest more than those who hate me do.

My indoctrination into the Public School system of the United States of America occurred at the ripe young age of five years old. They quickly taught me how to sit “Indian Style” on the floor, listen carefully when they spoke, be mindful of the other children around me and how to stand at attention and pledge allegiance to a drab, faded flag that hung grimly in the corner of the classroom. I worked my way through the brainwashing, primarily due to expectations from the authorities and adults around, until I graduated from my local Public High School – fully unprepared for life, but I had a piece of paper that I could frame, if I chose to, that would look nice hanging upon my wall.

I performed manual labour to allow myself to attend painful Public Community College classes at night, so I could expand my mind and put the memories of brainless time card punching behind me as quickly as possible. In order to obtain the education that would actually teach me meaningful, market required skills, I had to take a multitude of “liberal arts” classes to learn how to feel guilty and be “more well rounded”. I had some difficult choices to make, but some were actually interesting to me. I always loved to read and fancied myself a writer, so the Literature classes that were available caught my fancy, and even gave me some hope of creative learning.

I had taken countless English and literature classes before, and this one was reasonably interesting, but did not blow me away. I looked at the reading list and there was one book I had heard about but never read – The Stranger, by Albert Camus. I heard mixed reviews from those in class that were already subjected to this book earlier in their education. “Oh crap – not that boring book about some guy without a conscious”. One person belaboured, and then they proceeded to trash every other book on the list as though they could have picked better books while closing their eyes and surfing Amazon.com, randomly clicking away.

I read The Stranger that Winter for the first time and was absolutely underwhelmed. I found that I wanted to do just about anything else, including housework, which I assure you that I don’t enjoy in the least, than read that book. I made my way through it because I had to, damn it, I was performing manual labour so I could pay for the honour of driving all the way to campus and spend a half hour trying to find parking so I could be late to class and learn how little I understood about “great” literature.

Why did I not enjoy and appreciate the brilliance of that little book delivered by Camus, as eloquent a writer as there ever has been, in such a simple and understated style? Was it because the timing was not right? Maybe I just wasn’t mature enough at the time? Perhaps my disdain for authority and the fact that I “had” to read this book made me uninterested? To be honest, I think it was a combination of all of these things.

I have now lost count of how many times I have read The Stranger, but I would have to say it is in the double digits. I have purchased that book, because I lost it in a move or a break-up, or a so called friend borrowed it and never returned, probably about 6 or 7 times. I used to love to write in the margins different ideas, questions, accusations and also underline my favourite passages. I always learned something new, identified hidden meanings that I believe Camus buried just below the surface, handing me a shovel and a blank map telling me “go for it Russ, find it”. I have discussed the Stranger with so many different people in my life, at vastly different points in my life. My life. It has been impacted by this little gem of a book.

If you have not read this book, please do and let me know your thoughts. If you have read it, please share your thoughts about it with me.

-Russ