As people of the frontier, we often have an idealized and hard nosed opinion of personal liberty and freedoms. We don’t much like other people being in our business. We also don’t much force our way into other people’s business. Despite some of the political global rhetoric about America butting in around the world, playing at being a world police force; as a people we do not interfere with how someone else lives their life. This is generally considered a quality that Americans have, we leave people alone, live and let live.
I say a quality because it is a thing of quality. I have lived in a few places, been to a few more, and seen that the individual freedom that one has in the average American town is rarely matched. By this I mean that we live and let live, and this lends to the general sense of freedom that people often feel when they visit America, or immigrate to America. I have had more than one old man, that came to make America his home, tell me that America smells different, that it smells like freedom. And I postulate that part of this smell of freedom is actually many more senses reacting to a drastic change in environment.
When one makes land fall in America, one is suddenly bombarded with a visual spectacle. There are people of every type and character, color and look, they are numerous and everywhere. I myself have been struck by this in my re-introduction, returning to my homeland after a year of work overseas. You see people dress how they wish, do as they wish, and go where they wish and all of them have an unmistakable look about them that says, “going his own way.”
This is a most excellent quality in the American people and the American experience, yet we should keep in mind that America started out and grew up in an incredibly strict and controlled society. Our first colonies where strictly religious, closed to outsiders, developed under threat of attack, and homogenous for a very long time. This insular nature gave American its first characteristic, the unwavering confidence that first allowed our people to push West. Confidence in a goal, confidence in the outcome, and confidence in their ability to overcome all obstacles. Confidence in ourselves was our first great act!
Now years and maturity have worn down some of that confidence, and perhaps that is for the better, but I’ll suggest that that confidence is what made us successful and attractive to every other people in the world. Further, that confidence grew in our more modern area to allow our people to be self assured and to live as they thought best, the way they wanted to; Americans are strange in that we are just as susceptible to fades and fashion as any other group in the world, but the spell is shaken off faster or we return to our simpler natures more quickly. America is one of the few places in the world where fashion is not key to signs of success; in fact most of the rest of the world bemoans our lack of style. I’ll admit it, American millionaires and billionaires simply lack much of the style of their counterparts across the world. They’re not as flashy, as gaudy, or puffed up as many of the wealthy in Europe or Asia, the only thing I believe the rest of the world maintains better in style is a cool sharpness.
Needless to say, American confidence ignores all the rest of the world, we live as we desire to live. We might look at others and wonder why they are dress a certain way, why they decided to go one way or another, but there is little social constraint holding people to a fashion standard, or profession standard. Trial and error will prove if someone is wrong or foolish, and until they are proven foolish we simply let them go about their business.
We live and let live. And even if it is a little strange and unsettling at times, it remains attractive.