This I Believe

Donna - Lake Jackson, Texas
Entered on November 25, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe I’ve been giving America a bad rap.

I admit this, openly, and I have no excuse.

It seems common for one to critique most harshly that to which one is closest, and I close to this U.S. of A, having not been out of it, save for a couple of brief jaunts in Canada….strange, considering I live a few hours away from Mexico.

I have asked myself, why? Why, when thousands upon thousands of people risk their lives to find the simplest existence within these precious borders, do I hold such contempt for my own land, my own culture?

Perhaps it is because I grew up being called “fat”, yet I often have to decide between paying $2 for a small bottle of water or $.85 for a 48 ounce fountain drink.

Perhaps it is because I feel my soul cringe when I hear a person list among his or her hobbies “Shopping.” That bears repeating: Shopping is considered a hobby. Think on it.

Perhaps it is because, from years of conditioning, when I am in a room with a television, my eyes are automatically drawn it. I could be sitting at a table in a restaurant, engaged in conversation, with a plate of luxurious food in front of me, and I will still look at the screen. Hell, I could have Brad Pitt and George Clooney each respectively holding a gun to my temple and telling me that they would both concede to live with me in fully-financed sin if I would but look them in the eyes. I guarantee my gaze would still be glued to the T.V.

Perhaps it is because, several years ago, my nurse in the stem-cell transplant ward had found her then 26 year-old cancer patient crying uncontrollably. Maybe it was because the hairless wonder had to be on a morphine drip to drink water. Or maybe it was because the hospital’s financial department had just called the patient on the phone (not knowing the number rang in a hermetically sealed room six floors above their offices) and threatened the patient with legal action for money.

Perhaps it is because, if I were to drive 100 miles in any direction from my home, 75 to 90% of my journey would be flanked by strip malls, most of which are about the same color and construct as sun-bleached dog feces.

Perhaps it is because folks in our political administration talk of war in terms of “win” or “lose”, as if it is a late-season bowl game to be played in some far away stadium. (Many of these same people believe the word N-U-C-L-E-A-R is pronounced “nuke-yoo-lerrr”. Go figure.)

Perhaps it is because I’m lonely, and I talk to my cats too much.

Whatever the reason, I realized that I have been too harsh on my homeland. I mean, hey, this is America (or Uh-merr-ih-kuh, if you’re big on nuke-yoo-lerr defense). I am lucky, nay, blessed to be here in this Land of the Free. So, long before the Christmas decorations bloomed in my local chain department stores, harbingering the approach of Thanksgiving, I decided that I need to define what I am truly thankful for (other than common acceptance of grammatic structure that’s ungood). After three half-hour prime-time network T.V. slots, two impulse purchases and a $.68 frozen pizza, I came to the following conclusion:

I am thankful for public restrooms.

Do not underestimate the sincerity with which I make this claim. I am relieved (for lack of a better word) that I do not have to wear large skirts and open-cut knickers for practicality’s sake. I do not have to step over running rivulets of sewage in the streets. I do not have to pronounce my left hand as “dirty” and commit it to the singular service of self-cleaning. As I travel around these United States, commuting daily for hours upon hours, I can confidently know that, on 75-90% of my journey, I am within ten minutes of a restroom, whereinwhich I may safely urinate, or micturate, or… well, other-ate, and all for the low low price of a gallon of gas and/or something that contains high-fructose corn syrup.

It is in this that I find peace and solace, knowing that I live in what may be the greatest nation of toilets in the world.

God Bless the American Standard.