By The Hunger
Some have visited all 50 US states, but how many really know the 51st State, the United State of America, the country? Although Russia has 46 provinces, 9 territories and 4 autonomous districts, the U.S. has more “states” than any other country on Earth. Sometimes the difference between states and countries is minuscule. State, country, what is the difference anyway? 50 different slices of American pie, each with its own history, culture, ethos and state flags! Can they really all be the same?
The USA is one of only a few countries that is socially acceptable to make politically incorrect statements about. People have no qualms making statements about the U.S. or Americans, but if one were to make an equally disparaging statement about another country or its citizens then it could easily be perceived as prejudicial and most definitely be viewed as politically incorrect.
I cringe each time I hear someone say, “The States, why would you want to go there?” People’s geographical and cultural ignorance of the US is staggering. How could one dislike it much? Alaska to California, Hawaii to Oklahoma; these locations read more like different planets than states.
I understand people have issues with a certain “Brand America,” the fact they know more about America’s history than their own says a lot about America’s presence in the world. But in doing so they are in fact taking aim at the 51st State rather than any one star or stripe in particular.
The problem is we only seem to meet the same seven American giants travelling the world: Californians, Floridians, Washingtonians, New Yorkers, Illinoisans, Michiganders, and Bay Staters (Massachusetts). It’s no surprise Atlas Al hails from Seattle, Washington and I ran into him in South America. Those from more liberal states are more likely to be less close-minded and more open to foreign cultures. Who has ever met a hot Nebraskan when travelling abroad? I never have, but I’m sure they exist just like in the other 49 states.
My personal observations tell me it’s a whole lot harder to meet an Alabamian overseas than it is to meet someone from Michigan. I guess unless I go to the states, the closest I’ll get to my dream Kentuckian bird is a zinger burger at my local KFC.
“Only 10% of Americans own a passport,” right? Wrong. Europeans in particular love to point out this “fact.” I’ve heard so many different official stats on Americans’ passport holder status. According to an interesting online article How many Americans have a passport, it’s closer to 37%:
The quick answer is: Yes, most Americans do not have a passport. The number of Americans who have a passport, according to the most recent statistics issued by the State Department in January of 2011, is 114,464,041. Given the country’s population of 307,006,550, about 37% of the population has one.
37% is a low figure, especially when compared to their Western counterparts, 71% of The UK population have passports. But when compared to the Chinese who have 20 million passports or 1.5% of the population, it puts things into perspective. Reasons as to why America has fewer passports than one would think include: geographical size, isolationist mentality, financial hardship, cultural ignorance, quality domestic tourism, short vacation time, passport cards, the list goes on.
If I hook up with a Californian, is she a cultural cross-section of America or an MTV version? The American flag might be one of the easier flags to get, but I argue it could potentially be the most diverse. Although an American flag is earned regardless of state, I wonder which state best captures the USA. The original thirteen colonies perhaps? No chance, the USA has come a long way since then. The truth is it doesn’t matter, all of the states make up the same country
The American flag is a flawed 50-piece jigsaw puzzle, and I can’t complete it until I meet more of its diverse pieces. The US is a country where it’s possible to meet people from such incredible domestic and foreign diversity without having to own a passport. Imagine the potential and the possibilities of the 51st state if more Americans went abroad.