Sunday, March 02, 2008

Spare Change for Heineken and Herb?

S. and B. gave me a ride home on Friday night, and they asked - "So would you ever consider staying on in the U.S.?"

This is probably the fourth time this month somebody has asked me this question. And although my reply is always straightforwardly, no, not in my circumstances (with the bond, the family yadayada...), the question intrigues me.

The truth is - I am fascinated with the American life.

People here, as much as they can be politically skeptical and jaded, give every and any ideal a chance. There is an optimism in the basic goodness of human nature and fellow man that I yearn to be present in Singaporeans.

To put it simply, they give people chance.

In Singapore, we can be sitting next to any old auntie on the MRT and if you are like me, chances are you wouldn't give the auntie the time of your day, or consider if she could be educated and have opinions that matter. The only time we pay more attention is if the person is well-dressed, speaks poshly and carries a branded handbag, looking like she works in the finance sector. Or if it is a student donning a well-known school's uniform. Then, we scrutinize the behavior, and search for any character flaws.

Here, you can be a homeless bum boarding the bus but the bus driver will say "Mornin'" to ya anyway. Why not? A bum is still human after all, and deserves a greeting just like any of us, no?

At Harvard Square, I walked past one sitting on a milk crate and holding up a cardboard placard. On it, simple and neat handwriting (better than mine!), candidly expressing-


Only in America.

Of course this isn't home to me. It never will be, not without my family with me.

But I do admire the simplicity that lies just below the surface of this very affluent, somewhat morally liberal-minded, but highly complex and savvy group of people I interact with on a daily basis.

I am also struck by the sheer patriotism they share. In one episode of EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION, the team tore down and rebuilt the single-storey home of a US marine returning from Iraq from 2 tours who has 4 kids and had lost his leg in the war. People on the show just kept singing praises about the soldier's courage, his giving so much for the country, and now in fighting on to keep his family together even though the wife left him. I had never cried so much watching a home get redone!

We need more TV shows like this in Singapore, IMHO.

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