Greetings from Savannah, Georgia, USA. I am attending the annual meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research, something I have been doing quite regularly for 22 years. My sleep is finally back to normal, but I get to disrupt it all when I leave for Australia tomorrow.
I was Atlanta for 48 hours earlier in the week. Besides working on some projects at Georgia State, I spent a couple of hours at our old house and surrounding community (where I launched a commando assault on Super Target and Babies R Us). I was surprised how little nostalgia I felt for anything, but that could be because I have been away for only 3 ½ months. The one exception was when I went to our house (it’s still for sale!) and walked through the Will’s old bedroom and his play area. I was momentarily overwhelmed with sadness as I thought about the times V. and I had spent painting his room and getting ready for his birth. It didn’t help that I miss V. and Will very much!
I saw a lot of old friends in Atlanta, and even some older friends here in Savannah. Many people have asked me what I miss most about the U.S. My first answer is always “my friends and family.” And then I have paused while I try to think of something else. If my questioner waited long enough, “peanut butter” was usually my next answer. Actually, I have found myself nearly every day wishing I was back in Australia, which has really surprised me. Besides seeing my little family in Toowong again, I miss the general friendlier “tone” of Australian society. Here in the States there is still so much public animosity surrounding race, religion, and politics. Sure, Americans are a friendly, happy lot. They are, after all, my peeps. But there is something not quite right about the way I have seen the Fox News Channel playing in the background nearly everywhere I go. I ate a burger in front of a TV in a diner the other night, and had the unpleasant experience of watching the hateful Bill O’Reilly for 30 minutes. The scorn that he regularly dishes out has made his show the most watched on cable TV (my guess is that he pulls in more viewers each night than does the top-rated show in Australia). I witnessed such spite firsthand as I walked the streets of Savannah, as the accompanying picture taken yesterday shows. Do democracies really require such extreme divisiveness to survive? I think not. Perhaps such hatred and intolerance is what leads to their eventual unraveling. I hope not.