Having lived for extended periods of my life both in the United States and in India, I feel as if I belong somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean — so maybe I can look at both sides with something that can possibly be called objectivity, or at least a view from the outside. I love the United States, the variety of people, climates, scenery, and ways of life here. In addition, I love the openness and immediate friendliness of Americans.
Most importantly, however, America provides an amazingly good life for an ordinary person. Rich people live well everywhere, but what distinguishes America is that it provides a remarkably high standard of living for the ‘common man.’ A country is not judged by how it treats its most affluent citizens but by how it treats the average citizen. We moved from one of the largest democratic countries in the world halfway across the globe to this land of opportunity.
Even middle-class people in the underdeveloped world endure hardships that make everyday life a strain.
One problem is that the basic infrastructure of the Third World is abysmal; The roads are not properly paved, the water is not safe to drink, pollution has reached hazardous levels in cities, public transportation is overcrowded and unreliable, and there is a two-year waiting period to get a telephone. Government officials are poorly paid and are inevitably corrupt, causing the general people to pay bribes to get things done. Most importantly, however, is that the prospect for the future of the children there are dim.
The care and compassion that I have experienced in this country have crystallized my perception of the United States as being a truly great nation. The U.S. stands out as a beacon of hope to other countries. This is a nation that can transcend the political divide and rally as one in times of crisis. This is a nation willing to fight for what it believes in yet caring enough to dole out billions of dollars in international aid to developing countries. This is a nation where its people can dream, and if they truly believe what their minds conceive, they will achieve it someday.
To mention the present, this August was a very tough month for the United States: Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and wildfires in Northern California. There were too many disasters in a single month to face. Some people were stranded on rooftops, having chopped their way out of attics. On the other hand, some families were disoriented wading through rib-high waters, towing their belongings behind them in anything that would float; bedsheets hanged from second-story windows where people had rappelled to safety. Cities opened shelters and sent manpower, supplies, and equipment to places in need. Rescuers dangled from helicopters and charged into rushing flood waters to rescue Texans from danger.
Corporations and celebrities used their power and platforms to raise millions in disaster relief. Journalists put down their notepads and microphones to lift folks out of the water. The event that impressed me the most, men and women of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities and political perspectives sacrificed their personal safety and comfort in common cause to rebuild what Hurricane Harvey/Irma had destroyed. It made me cry. These Hurricane Heroes are authentic American heroes – men and women driving into a lethal hurricane to rebuild shattered lives. It was inspirational to witness their dedication and commitment, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude and admiration for how these Hurricane Heroes choose to live their lives. Natural disasters have a remarkable unifying capacity.