On 11th of September, 2001, it was less than a year since I had moved to United States. Until that day, I had had it easy. My freshly minted green card gave me an option to choose which side of Atlantic I would call my home.
That day, my potential home became a "dangerous" place. It would have been so terribly logical to use my other option, pack my bags and run and run. Back to Europe, for it was not involved with terrorists, was it? Or I could have packed some canned food and vanish for next ten years into a shack in some woods somewhere, just to stop harassing someone by the very fact of my existence and my lifestyle. Dig in, hide out, wait to let it pass... And then I suddenly discovered that I actually did not have a choice. I could not do it. We live here, we have chosen this kind of life as the best we ever knew. America welcomed us with open arms and without prejudice. Hence I have been feeling this kind of unredeemable debt.
I felt no such thing back in Czech, but here, it has been quite strong. It is... this certain pride
in all those people who managed to wrestle all these riches and functionality of a free society out of
a primitive wilderness. And I mean an unyielding, raw nature. Just take a look at the eastern side
of Sierra Nevada: a scenery like cut out of those heartbreaking newscasts about miserable terrorist nations,
who kill out of sheer feeling of hopelessness. Is it a wonder that they are so desperate and mean, when
they must live is such a cruel desert with barren mountains behind their backs? Hogwash!
In America, even in the middle of a wasteland, shabby towns keep on thriving, with small farms, telephone, mail, churches... And with composed, kind folks. How they make their living, I don't know, it most certainly includes plenty of hard work and a constant stubbornness, just to settle in such a place. Their determination and toils were matter-of-factly accompanying this country right from its beginning. So was a rule: don't whine and don't give up. A man would stand by his freedom and his right to control his own life. The freedom is not there because someone dispensed it, arranged for it, or even forced it upon them, but because these people have always been ready to defend it. This freedom brought their ancestors here, the maladjusted ones, who transcended a fossil Europe; they sacrificed a relative comfort of then most advanced civilization just to prevent others from directing their lives. It's in their minds, their character, their way of life, not in laws or regulations.
If I gave it up and ran, I could never be this free again.
I would perhaps reach a safer place, where I would not need to take risks. I would
dissolve myself into a statistic, becoming a small gear in a well controlled social machine.
I would let someone else make decisions for me.
They would determine whether I may carry a weapon and whether I may shoot an intruder with it or
discourage a nationalizing official claiming imminent domain. But most importantly -- I would try
hard not to stand out, so that my neighbors would not feel compelled to mark my car with a coin,
expressing thus their envy that I could afford a car, working overtime while they already
sunbathed in their back yards.
It would actually be easy, comfortable, safe -- and cowardly. But of course -- I am still afraid that I'm sort of more "vulnerable" here. Yet a lot more, I am afraid that sacrificing even the smallest and most insignificant freedom to fear for one's own safety and comfort is a step towards mandatory burkas and Gulags.
We have an anniversary. I am not the type to march somewhere, waving a flag. I simply get ready for another blow, promising to myself that even if I were to lose everything, I would start anew from scratch. Just like all those outcasts and maladjusted had started, those who had formed this world for me. They seem much closer to me now, although we were never family.