The puzzles media tell.
I read a news article the other day about a man that burned and killed his six children in a home fire while trying to murder his wife, thirty years his junior. She apparently had an abortion because she was pregnant by another man. I was appalled.
As I read the article I found myself thinking certain things that I am not proud of because it illustrated some deep-seated clichés and assumptions. I thought I left those behind. Obviously not. As I continued reading I formed a picture in my head of the characters and setting. I am ashamed by the scene I crafted. But after hearing and reading nothing but bad news about America for nearly a year, I immediately assumed the worst. To my relief, the story did not happen in America. Not. In. America. I realize now that it isn’t important where it happened. It could have happened virtually anywhere, but it was a story that I associated with a fabricated, shallow view of America.
Even though I am from America and spent thirty-three years there, in less than a year away my view of the country has changed dramatically. In my heart I know that each story is but a small blip on the radar of a much larger narrative that is impossible to understand. We learn from stories; they can inform our feelings. But stories are only an entry point into something greater than all of us. Culture. You know, how yogurt and cheese are created. Oh, and that funny thing that clings to each community with so much resilience.
The snippets of culture we get from the news and media do not paint an accurate picture. Don’t get me wrong, it paints a picture, but like a puzzle, many pieces are missing, usually the good parts – the main course.
Please bear with me.
I think often back to when I was in America preparing for the big move to Japan. Almost everybody had their opinion; they knew everything about Japan and weren’t afraid to share. There were books, fiction novels, and travel guides. There were movies and documentaries. All of them showed me something about Japan. Some of it true, most of it false. Granted, all information needs to be taken with a grain of salt and a few filters.
Was any of it accurate? Yes and no. On a very shallow level it’s all true, but once I started wandering the streets I began to discover the slippery interior pieces of the puzzle. I’m sure I’ll never discover them all but that’s part of the fun. And just like building a puzzle, I tend to find the edge pieces first and move in from there, finding some pieces by luck and others by sheer force of will. Sometimes, I try to force unruly pieces into uniform slots but those stubborn things keep popping out.
I’ve become an outsider and it is frightening. My home country has become foreign and my host country is foreign. I guess I’ll just keep searching for those evasive puzzle pieces.