I am the only American at my workplace. (To be fair, there is one young woman who has dual citizenship and spent a few years in California, but her formative years were spent in Europe and I don’t see her as culturally American. I don’t know how she sees herself.) So, at least from my perspective, I am the lone representative of my 350 million countrymen and women.
This is not an easy role to have, especially since the Dutch are so damned practical and reasonable, and so many things about America are not. I have been asked to explain everything from the big issues – gun control, the Clintons, obesity – to much more subtle questions, including the way we switch our fork back and forth between hands when we cut and eat our food. (That this latter point would be a matter of considerable concern among Europeans took me by surprise.)
Few of these questions have easy answers. I am aware that, as a (very) liberal Democrat from a (very) blue state, my beliefs don’t represent the majority of Americans. Sometimes my response depends on who is asking the question, and how interested I think they are in my assessment of American politics and culture. Sometimes I have no answer, as I feel I haven’t done the work required to have an informed opinion.
But I had no trouble voicing my strong and long-held opinion about the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage. I had explained to my coworkers that I was monitoring the SCOTUS blog on Friday afternoon, waiting for a decision. As I checked the news around 5pm, I saw that the decision had been announced and already the commentary had begun and then the internet exploded into rainbows of celebration. I could barely contain my happiness as friends shared their joy and relief and amazement. My Dutch colleagues were nonplussed: the Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, in 2001. To them, it seemed long-overdue that the U.S. would do the same.
To me, as well.
I won’t presume to know the politics of my readers, although I know enough of you personally to know that you join me in my celebration. And though I understand that for many Americans this decision seems like a harbinger of the End Times, I will not apologize for my joy that my gay friends and their marriages – which are as complex and mundane as our straight marriages – are fully equal in the eyes of the law. Our country – my country – made monumental steps this week in the direction of justice and dignity. And I will be proud to explain that to anyone who asks.