After about two weeks in the United States, there is too much to keep in. Writing seems the only sane response to the variety of experiences that cannot be but leave an impression.
I could start with the initial wonder, those couple of days walking around in a haze, the filmset that was movie around me, that I didn’t want to touch anything so that it would not become too real. The steam coming out of put holes in the streets of New York. People walking like they have nowhere to be except right there, in that walk, walking the walk, as stand-ins, always ready for something to happen. The woman in the metrostation randomly starting to talk to me about her life. The people asking me if I have a problem with black men. The New York skyline from a rooftop in Astoria, and it not sparkling me as it should.
Or I could share the discombobulating experience of speaking German while in the States, seeing grey squirrels on a big university campus going about their business just like everyone else. The street signs telling you where to go, what to do, stopping the freedom of movement, the freedom to think. Baudrillard was right, he was so right about everything. It makes me want to write a paper a la Baudrillard about the United States – but is there anyone to share this experience with? Anyone with time to think with me, about these things?
The Ground Zero monument in New York and the water that is going so fast that it washes away all our sins… but who are we in this concrete mass of gigantic proportions? Where can my thoughts go when the sounds of the water and the laughter of the tourists forces me to face nothing but my commercial entity? And I asked where the monument for the Civil War was, being in Washington DC. But the obelisk in honour of the first president, the little Greek temple to remember the first World War and the glorification of those fallen in the second, I guess there was no more space – except for a cemetery.
Or am I not allowed to say these things? I’m not sure anymore. I’m not sure what to think. My University ID card says on the back “Surrender upon demand”. I feel that is a very good summary of my first impressions.
I had never been here before, and who knows what the future brings. But these next four months are going to be very interesting. And not just because of the upcoming election… But because I’m expanding my world, the frame in which I am always already trapped has just expanded. I have arrived in a country where everything is much more black-and-white than I had ever imagined possible. Where one can have very friendly housemates who share strawberries in the morning and tell you how they hate a certain group of people. I feel as if the razor blade which is the line between truth and illusion, that area of simulacrums within which we move about, has become sharped over night, and I’m here to take it all in. Feeling lost, but being able to find my way through 45 minutes of riding my bike through a beautiful trail along a little creek to get to the university (yes, I will be sore tomorrow!) Feel alienated, but understanding everything around me. An easy country after the strangeness of Shanghai, but the feeling of being an alien in New York, in Washington DC, in the US of A, is a much more profound feeling of alienation than I have ever experienced in China.
I don’t know anything. Yet. Still.
But at least I learned I’m not into skylines.