Ray Dotson – Out Of His Niche

Hi there. I’m Ray Dotson. Some of you may know me from reading FreshBlogger.com where I usually (occasionally) blog. I’ve been so kindly asked to provide a guest post for Life In The Country and can’t say how honored I am to have the opportunity. Being a blog about living, and particularly about living from the perspective of a personal known to most out here as Snoskred, I thought I would write a little bit about living from my own perspective.

I live in the northern part of the State of Kentucky (it’s actually officially a Commonwealth, but there’s no real difference) in the United States. This is what the East and West coasters call ‘fly-over country’ because they consider it not worth stopping in, but only a part of the country they fly over when going from coast to coast.

Most people in the world probably think of the big cities in the USA when they think of America. Images of New York City or Los Angeles would come to mind first. Maybe they would think of all the wealth and prosperity and glitter in those bright, shiny places, home to celebrities and politicians. A lot of the people in the United States do live in these big cities and do live along the East and West coasts of this country.

However, there are many people who live in between and a great number of them don’t ever visit the coasts or see the big famous cities, other than on television and in the movies. I’ve read somewhere that a significant portion of Americans never travel beyond 50 or 100 miles from where they were born. I wonder if this is still true.

As for myself, I’ve traveled around the states a little bit, but I’ve never been to New York or Los Angeles and only briefly passed through Chicago. I live near to and work in a medium sized city called Cincinnati, Ohio. Some of you may have heard of it before. It’s a place with a peculiar sort of fame in that the great American writer Mark Twain once said that he’d like to be in Cincinnati when the world ends because everything happens five years later there.

What’s humorous about this is that it still rings true a hundred years later. It’s a city with several million people living within about a 30 mile circle, but feels like a small town in so many ways. Though I live across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky, I was born in Cincinnati and lived much of my younger life there. Today, I work at a community college in Cincinnati and spend quite a lot of time in and around the city.

Cincinnati is an interesting place with quite a lot of history. It was founded at the end of the 18th century during a time of many bloody battles in this area between the native inhabitants and European settlers. Contrary to popular belief, many of the natives of this land got along well with the newcomers from across the sea, while many others fought tooth and nail for several hundred years. There were literally hundreds of tribes of people living here who split their allegiances between the British Empire and the American revolutionaries.

Like in those days, America is a place of many different tribes and allegiances. Most of us here in the United States, though, work hard for a living and take our two weeks of vacation each year, like many other people in the industrialized world. Well, except we seem to take less time off of work for some reason. I’ve often wondered if this has come from the Puritan roots of America.

The first settlers to this country were strict religious types who were fleeing persecution from the authorities in their native countries. Many others were criminals, indentured servants, and poor people looking for a new beginning. When they arrived here, I imagine a number of them were shocked at the harshness of this land.

In the first colonies, existence was tenuous. Starvation and disease took a great toll of those first generations. A lack of diplomacy combined with fear and desperation likely precipitated serious problems with those who already lived here. Sounds like fun, huh?

It seems that each country in the world has a sort of common characteristic that has developed over time due to the events that have formed them. Consider that the British Isles was invaded continuously by European tribes for hundreds of years. The population was almost completed wiped out by war and disease time and again in the Dark Ages. As a student of English Literature, it’s clear that the English language’s strange structure and plethora of irregularities stems from the influx of so many different cultures and languages.

In the United States, it’s the sense of rugged individualism that seems to be a defining trait. What this refers to is that ability of a person to stand up for his or her own beliefs and pursue their desires regardless of the opposition, whether it’s harsh weather, dangerous animals, or disapproving peers. I’m not sure if they teach this in schools anymore here, but when I was growing up, this was something that was taught with pride. These days, however, it sounds more like a pejorative in a world where individualism often is subservient to collectivism.

Don’t misunderstand this as being a talk about politics or diplomacy, but a sort of casual observation of American culture by someone born and raised here. A rumination, if you will, on the soul of America. Clearly, there are both negative and positive aspects to this idea of rugged individualism.

I think many countries reach a stage when they have to decide who they really are. They come to a point of national cultural adolescence and the changes they go through can be tumultuous. The United States, being a relatively young country at not much more than 200 years old, has been going through something like this for several decades now. Think about the smart mouthed 13 year old as the 1960’s all the way up through the jaded 18 year old of the 1990’s. The next decade or two is about coming of age. Being legal. It’s an exciting, but scary time.

Though, I’m fascinated by the rest of the world’s cultures and have a great desire to travel all over this beautiful planet, I love living in the United States and I also love being an American. I’m not afraid to say it. There are mistakes that have been made, but mistakes are what people do best. Hopefully, we can all learn from our mistakes and make the future a better one, individually, as a society, and as a world full of people with fundamentally similar needs and desires. Without any commentary on present politics, the United States is still a great place to live, and despite some things people may hear in other parts of the world, it’s a very welcoming and tolerant place in many regards.

Ultimately, people will think what they want, but I hope I’ve given you a little perspective on a place you may know well or may not know at all. I welcome any comments and thank Snoskred once again for the opportunity to share my words with her readers.

Thank you Ray, a very appropriate post for Election Day here in Australia, where my country is currently deciding who we really are. We might be the same as we’ve been for the last 11 or so years, or we might think it is time for a change. Either way an evening of cheesecake and my favourite election analyst, Antony Green, looms ahead of me.

In many ways our country follows your country and we’re about the same age. But we get 4 weeks of holidays a year. And some lucky people among us get even more than that!

Remember, you can get out of your niche tooall bloggers are welcome. Just contact me.

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