A View of America From Scotland
I’m an American living in Scotland for the past 18 months. I left the concrete-filled, traffic-jammed, farmland turned shopping mall Philadelphia suburbs and now live in northeast Scotland in a seacoast village of 3,000 people, just outside of Scotland's third-largest city, Dundee. For those that don’t know, Scotland is as far north as Norway. It doesn’t really snow in the winter and rarely gets below freezing. There’s plenty of sunshine and decent weather, despite what you might hear.
Most everyone in my town says hello to each other on the street. The air is clean. There are no billboards. There are wind turbines everywhere. Recycling is almost a religious experience. The target date for net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases is by 2045. We actually know most of our neighbors. I can walk to and play on the 13th oldest golf course in the world. I don’t worry about getting shot if I cut someone off inadvertently while learning to drive on the left side of the road.
There are no mass shootings. Handguns and semi-automatic rifles, and pump-action shotguns are banned. And, for all the gun lovers reading this, there are still plenty of guns for hunting and personal protection—over 277,000, in fact. Go through the licensing process, and you’ll have your weapon. Don’t have more than one beer and drive; you could easily be banned for life.
Yes, gas is expensive. Medical care is covered through a national health insurance program, funded by taxes. Not really a preventive system like the US, but good enough when you need it, and you don’t pay a single dime. There isn’t a Whole Foods or a Starbucks nearby, but there are plenty of local coffee shops and more than enough organic healthy food in shops and markets.
From business executives to taxi drivers, every person I have met is fascinated by America and deeply puzzled how we could elect Trump in 2016, regardless of whether his mother was born and raised in Scotland. Most people are relieved to see him on the way out now.
I’ve watched the chaos unfold all year in America, saddened by the impact on people’s lives and livelihood. I know people who are getting financially ruined and on the verge of being evicted.
There are many wonderful things I love about America. The country is beautiful — The mountains in Utah and Colorado, the red rocks of Sedona, the California coast, the Adirondacks, the islands off Seattle, and so much more. It was my home for many years, and it’s been good to me. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I had.
It’s a land of excess too. Big box store shelves are lined with everything, dozens of brands, dozens of choices. There’s a lot of things many people have that most people don’t need, but that’s not what we’re told. We’re told we need more, more of everything. It’s unnecessary.
Now on to the election. Joe Biden, from what I know, is a decent, well-intentioned man. He and Kamala are saying all the right things right now. Yes, the nation needs healing, and the rhetoric needs to be cooled off. Most Americans are tired of the vitriolic rants. We’re tired of hearing double talk and the latest tweets. We want to see all people treated with respect and dignity. We want to see people of color-treated like those of us that are white. We want to feel safe. We want peace and decency in our elected officials. I hope Joe can do some good for America, but he’s going to need a lot of help.
Scotland is a beautiful country. It’s rugged. It’s wild. It’s full of history — history of its people being thrown off their land by the English conquerors. The women are collectively strong because they had to pick up the pieces when all the young men were shipped off to war or when the whaling industry was turned upside down and men lost their jobs. Women stepped up and became the breadwinners.
Scottish people are proud of their country. And, right now, there’s widespread dissatisfaction with how the pandemic is being handled. Many businesses are closing. People’s lives are being ruined. The hospitals are not overflowing. Not even close.
It’s not perfect here, but I love the simplicity of life and being able to step outside and breathe the cool air blowing over the North Sea.
Wood pigeons and a dozen other variety of birds visit our background filling it with chirping and cooing. As much as I love America, I appreciate living where life is less complicated, a bit slower and where people have a sense of community and connection.
I hope Joe Biden does the best he can for the country, and the pandemic subsides. I hope the talk of mandatory vaccines disappears, and people stop hating each other because they have different skin colors or have voted for the opposition.
May America heal up and get back to being what it is supposed to be — a country that was founded on inclusiveness and freedom.