Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 6 - Roswell - UFO Museum and more

While we were visiting the International UFO Museum this morning, I got talking to an elderly couple who lived in Florida but had been on the road traveling around the country since mid-May. I asked them what brought them to Roswell; they said they always wanted to visit the museum, so as they were passing through it made sense to stop.

“What does it mean to you to be an American?” I asked.

He responded, “Well, it’s the best place in the world. I never even wanted to visit any other place. You can do things here you can’t do in other countries….the living facilities are better…”

This vague, “it’s better here” answer is rather typical of what we’ve been getting in every city so far. But of course, we want specifics, so I probed.

“What are some of the things you do here—or you’d like to do—here in America that you wouldn’t be able to do in other countries?”

He paused for a few seconds, questioningly, then timidly replied, “Ummmm….I don’t really know. All I know is that I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want.”

I was really disappointed and frustrated during the week before our trip started when I was asked to write an essay about what it means to be a Patriotic American Citizen. I had a general idea, I could name a few characteristics of each, but I really couldn’t give a working definition of any of the three concepts. I attributed this to my ignorant youthfulness and recent absence from the country. But I’m beginning to think that that’s not it. In the past few days I’ve talked to many people from many states, young and old, and few have been able to give a response that had any real substance when asked, “What does it mean to be an American?”

There was one man, however, who won’t be easily forgotten. Yesterday in El Paso we visited Fort Bliss – the second largest military base in the continental U.S. We were shown around the base by some very friendly folk and ate lunch in the mess hall. The high-ranked soldier who ran the dining services came out and gave us a brief presentation on how he and his staff prepared soldiers to cook tasty dishes for the troops once they were deployed. At the end of his talk, we asked him the famous question, “What does it mean to be an American?” I can’t even remember exactly what he said because I was in such shock with how quickly he responded. He didn’t hesitate even one ½ second (and no one tipped him off that this was question was coming). I’m sure that what he said was brilliant, but all I could think about was how it made sense that it would be on the tip of his tongue: Why would you put your life on the line every day for something which you could only vaguely describe?

P.S. -- we stopped off for a photo-op at the "Alien Zone." Here I am in the UFO!


  1. You're right. So many Americans take their freedoms so lightly. We dress how we want, say what we want, love who we want, and even worship how we want without the threat of the severe punishments (including death) enforced in so many other countries.

    ...leave it to a military representative to know why he's proud to be an American:).



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