When you go on a journey, you discover that the world is full of dangerous people.  My life has been no different.  I’ve come far and faced off against many villains.

For example, when I was a child, I was told that evil American capitalists wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on me.  But then I moved to a different land and found out that it was, in fact, evil Russian Communists who wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on me.  That was confusing, but then things got even more complicated.

When I lived by the northern European seas, abortion and gay rights were considered good things, and anybody who opposed them was strange.  But when I lived in the American desert, I learned that abortion and homosexuality were sins, and anybody who supported them was immoral.  Now I live by the Pacific Ocean, and once again it’s those who are too religious and too traditional that are suspect.  I’m having a hard time keeping track of all this.  Maybe it would be easier for me to tell the good guys and the bad guys apart if I had stayed in one place and didn’t move around so much.

What makes it even harder is that so many people wear magical disguises and are not what they seem.  For instance, those who aren’t Christian aren’t really American, even though they pretend to be.  Just like those who aren’t Catholic aren’t really Polish.  Ah, but hold on–it’s not enough to know that someone is wearing the Christian label.  If they are liberal, they aren’t really Christian.  You see how tricky this gets.

Now I feel as if I’m living in a cursed time, because everyone is starting to look like an enemy.  The conservatives aren’t true patriots and neither are the progressives.  I’m supposed to be on the watch for thieves who will steal my money through taxes and robbers who will steal my work by paying me too little for it.  There are hawks who want to attack everyone and doves who want us to get attacked.  Gun nuts want to shoot me, but then again I hear that those who favor gun restrictions want to see me defenseless and shot.

So how do I move forward on my way when I’m surrounded by dragons?  Could it be?  Is it possible that I’m the only one who’s right and everybody else is wrong?  After all, many wise men and women around me are making this claim–that they are the only ones who hold the key to true knowledge.

Believing that those who think differently from you are monsters to be fought is one way to journey through this world.  I find the travelling lighter and easier when I don’t carry all that heavy weaponry with me, though.  The dragons are imaginary anyway–they’re just imperfect human beings, a lot like me–and our battles are unnecessary.

Since I used to live in Holland, I have to say something about Miley Cyrus lighting up a joint on stage in Amsterdam.  Yeah, I realize this was meant to shock the Americans more than the Dutch, but it was still such a cliched move.  So here are some genuinely shocking things Miley could do in Holland:

*Do a pro-life protest–unlike pot smoking, that’s something people in Amsterdam aren’t used to seeing.  I have no idea if MIley is pro-life, but hey, who cares?  These days, it’s all about controversy for the sake of controversy, right?

*Attend a church service–now that’d be shocking, and it’d probably make for record high attendance at the church.

*Cover up a little–hell, that’d surprise everybody.  Dunno if today’s pop starlets got the memo yet, but the almost-naked look no longer qualifies as “pushing the envelope”.

*Have multiple children–I’m torn about this one.  Europe could use more kids, but do we really want Miley to procreate right now?

*State her disbelief in global warming/evolution/science in general–although coming from an American, this wouldn’t exactly be shocking.  Sadly.

*Organize a street cleaning party.  Holland apparently has a major problem with street litter, or so my Dutch friend tells me.  Maybe she’d get a medal?

*Perform a good song.

I know, I know, that last one is a gratuitous cheap shot, but I couldn’t help myself.  Go ahead, Miley, do something that’ll really shock them (and us)!

My Dutch friend is coming to visit and I am so very excited.  We haven’t seen each other in many years–we went to high school together.  I suppose we will now see just how much of an obnoxious American I’ve turned into, in spite of my blog name.  We have had a few long conversations on the phone, and there were some predictable cultural differences which popped up, but also some things which surprised me…

That my friend is a big environmentalist *didn’t* surprise me, as this is pretty standard in Europe.  In fact, her work in Holland is as a sort of environmental/sustainability coach.  When her family and she visit the States, they almost always use Amtrak and they bicycled around New York City.  Have I mentioned that they visit the States a lot?  Yep, the Dutch get a lot more vacation time…grrrr.  My friend has seen a lot more of America than I have.  I have warned her ahead of time that we are living the typical suburban American lifestyle, with a giant carbon footprint.  She confided in me that she secretly loves cars.

Like most Europeans, my friend is weirded out by how many guns there are in this country.  However, we also discussed the other extreme.  Not only is it illegal in Holland to carry a gun or a knife with you for self-defense, there is apparently a law there which makes it illegal to help defend anyone who is being attacked, even if it’s only with your fists.  As a bystander, you are only allowed to call the emergency number–their equivalent of 911–and watch.  Anything beyond that makes you legally responsible for what is considered another assault!  My friend and I agreed that this was ridiculous, and that by the time the police get there, the victim will likely be dead.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear that my friend and her husband sometimes think that the Dutch should be more like Americans.  They like how practical and realistic Americans are, and how hard they work.  So America is still loved and respected by at least some people in the world.  This gave me pause, and reminded me that it’s all too easy to bitch about the place where you live.  Although my friend did mention that as far as income inequity, she wishes things would be “more equal” here.

Well, she arrives tonight, so there is plenty to be done.  I don’t know how much time I will have to blog over the next week–I only have a short week to show off all of the fabulous Portland area to her!  But if there are anymore interesting political and social observations I get out of this culture clash, I will be sure to post them here.