A view at the paradox that is America:
But plenty of other things caught me unprepared: On the way to my hotel, I overhear a couple outside Shake Shack explain that they are on a diet and so want no sauce on their burgers. A white supremacist working at a laundromat owned by an old Asian lady lectures me on European politics and warns me to “watch out for the Blacks” in a jarringly friendly tone. On my way out of town, the city’s Greyhound station, filled with the strong scent of urine, has all the charm of a cancer diagnosis.
No other country in the world kills as many children with guns. As my colleague Michaela Haas reported, regulation of guns is shown to clearly work and reduce deaths. The problem, however, goes beyond fact and into the murky, complicated realm of politics. A few days before, that complexity was made abundantly clear to me when, in the street, I met a retired Native American, Trump-supporting cop, who showed me around his ranch and taught me how to shoot a pistol on his firing range. Friendly and eccentric as this man was – he wore a kilt due to his partly Scottish origins and gifted me a Luke Skywalker figurine – he insisted that comprehensive, tighter gun control was not necessary. We spoke for a couple of hours, but I got the impression that a month wouldn’t have been enough.
My final call was to be New York City, a place that relies historically and culturally so much on its immigrant communities. But it’s a place that is becoming increasingly unaffordable for those who made it what it is: the $20 bagels; the million-dollar Manhattan apartments; the Brooklyn hipster coffee shops; the McDonalds that are taking over Harlem. Instead, I found the people of New York City to be its redeeming feature, especially in Queens, the most diverse county in the nation. The witty Jewish bookstore owner in Borough Park; the mad Greek priest sitting by a souvlaki stand in Astoria; the seventy something gospel singers at the Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem; the Puerto Rican bar owner Toñita in Brooklyn; and the freewheeling jazz musicians at a park in The Bronx’s Pelham Bay. The people of the United States — for all its flaws, inadequacies and dysfunctions — are what make it great.
Many of his observations are concise and similar to mine (and to those of many other European visitors). I wonder, though: the fact that on a personal level so many Americans are friendly and open and helpful, while still holding the most bizarre political ideas: is that what makes us all fall for the whole Midwestern diner full of salt-of-the-Earth real Americans that all journos seem to cherish? But the uniquely American experience is rather that of Queens, New York, I would think.