“How does someone from Nebraska end up living in Lisbon?”
I am asked this question every week by American and British visitors to the Portuguese capital, and I am always simultaneously baffled and insulted. Why is it that someone born in the Great Plains shouldn’t have the experience of living in Lisbon? It is not dissimilar from attitudes I encountered living in various part of the United States — disbelief that someone born in Omaha could be intelligent and capable critical thought, able to enjoy literature and languages and the arts. Why should I not be here, walking these streets, loving the buildings I pass every day or the summer light dimming with autumn as it illuminates the churches and basilicas of my neighborhood? What has always remained unexamined by those asking me how someone born in Omaha should come to live in New York, or San Francisco or Lisbon is why they find it such an anomaly — but that would require probing into their own prejudices, something the American liberal is seemingly incapable of doing.
I remember too many occasions living first on the east coast, and then the west, that my opinions or ideas or analysis were written off because I was born in Nebraska, despite having left the state at nine years old; despite having been educated on the east coast. After moving back to California from New Mexico, my thoughts were disregarded as unsophisticated by colleagues in San Francisco because I was “from” New Mexico, and what could I possibly know about diversity, inclusion and the professional standards of the Bay Area — this all coming from executives born, raised and educated in the south, mind you. I suppose that fifteen to twenty years of residing in the sheltered liberal enclave of the Bay Area had inculcated in them an identity of being from San Francisco, and therefore more worldly than the rest of the country which, by and large, is seen by citizens of the Bay Area as too ignorant and backwards to be considered worthy of respect.
It has occurred to me since 2008 that in a country like the United States, a society given to deepening polarization and hubris, that the inability of educated liberals to confront their own varied and plentiful prejudices is no different than that of the conservatives they eagerly paint as racist, illiterate rednecks. It continues to puzzle me as I meet visitors from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington DC, New York City and Boston that they should be so shocked on encountering a compatriot living abroad and speaking any language other than English, simply because that person was born in Omaha and not Manhattan. They talk avidly about the politics of the Republican Party, the Trump Train and the need to “get out”, as they put it, before going on to praise CNN or MSNBC or the Democratic Party as bastions of truth and progressive thought. I am only too happy to point out that CNN happily sold us illegal wars in the Middle-East, that MSNBC spent two election cycles furiously slandering progressives running for office and all who supported them, the Green New Deal or a single payer health system. My encounters with seemingly educated American liberals abroad only serves to reinforce my own exhaustion with the American liberal in general, and my great relief to no longer be surrounded by them, especially during an election year. There is no one more prone to voter shaming and brow-beating than a liberal during an election year, and today, as you know, is election day.
I am not the most worldly or sophisticated person, but I am intelligent. I may not be from the most coveted zip code, but I have found beauty in all of the places I have lived, and have found intelligence, humor, sophistication and beauty in the people I have met there. I don’t know how to answer someone when they ask “how is it someone from Nebraska should come to live here”, I only know that I did come to live here, and that where I was born does not incite the Portuguese to incredulity — they simply pleased with my efforts to learn their difficult and wonderful language.
Honestly, if you are so insulted and mystified by a simple curiosity such as why someone from The Great Plains is living in Lisbon then I think you need to grow thicker skin and reconsider your choice as a blogger.
To add insult to injury you dare call out an entire party of liberals and it is for this reason I am unsubscribing from your right wing blog that that insults people while stating you have been insulted. Good grief and good riddance.