Would you like some hell with that heaven?

Blogger John Shore quotes a Chinese saying (via “New Yorker”): “If you want to go to heaven, go to America; if you want to go to hell, go to America.”

This reminded me of the discussion we had in my tiny little English class yesterday.  There were only two students yesterday (hey, it was the last day), one from China in fact, and one from the UAE.

The Chinese gentleman mentioned a couple of other Chinese sayings as we discussed the cultures of our countries.  One of the things that came up in our conversation was that China is a very traditional country, with rules of behavior originating from eons ago.

Thus, there must be something to this Chinese idea of America being both a heaven and hell.  After all, the Chinese have a lot of experience.

From my own limited lifetime of observation, I think this proverb is true.  We have several positives, and also some negatives which make America heavenly, yet at the same time hellish.  


America is a land of freedom.  We are a compassionate people with a unique culture.


The liberties we have in the USA was a hot topic in our conversation yesteray. Both of the young men mentioned as a positive value of our land.  Our freedoms have had a magnificent effect on the world.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

More traditional cultures are set in their ways, while our comparatively new one has had a spirit of innovation and creativity throughout its young history.   Our freedoms have spawned such inventions as the telephone, the automobile, the electric light, and baseball. 


In addition to being a freedom-loving people, Americans are also caring.  What other country makes a practice of rehabilitating the countries we defeat in war, and making every effort to avoid innocent casualties in battle? 

The U.S. is also a pacesetter in giving aid to other nations in other ways. We have sought to defeat AIDs in Africa and build businesses for former prostitutes there.  After Europe was devastated after World War II, America’s Marshall Plan was instrumental in helping that continent recover from the ravages of that conflict.

We have been known to go a long way to save one of our own as well.  When an American is unjustly held overseas. we usually turn heaven and earth to secure their release. 

Americans care for their own.

We even care for animals.  Americans will do everything possible to redirect a lost whale that has wandered into San Francisco Bay, and  are completely outraged at such activities as dogfighting.


I admit to being biased here, as people usually are when it comes to the food and customs of their own lands.  I love American food, sports and entertainment.

When overseas, I crave American hot dogs and french fries. I miss Breyer’s ice cream (especially the Reeses Peanut Butter flavor).  I would die for a jar of crunchy Peter Pan peanut butter.  I just dig our food.

I also miss our TV when I am abroad.  I am a big fan of the medical drama “House”, and could only see the first couple of seasons on video while living in Finland.  The only Super Bowl I saw live was at 3 o’clock in the morning at a sports pub.

The lack of sports created a a big gap in my life when I lived overseas.  I’m sorry, but soccer and hockey just didn’t take the place of the NFL, Major League Baseball, and March Madness. 

I missed American baseball.


Unfortunately, America is also a country plagued by crime.  Americans have an Achilles Heel:money.  We also tend to have a tacky pop culture.


When I lived in Finland, my kids could run around town on buses and bikes without fear.  They didn’t have to worry about being abducted or accosted by an adult. (Bullies were another matter).

Here in America my girls need to be accompanied at night.  You just don’t go into some parts of our big cities. In fact, that is probably the biggest piece of advice I could give a foreigner visiting the USA: stay away from some of these places.

Americans know you just don't go into some areas at night.

Greed and Materialism 

The recent financial troubles have brought this out in the open.  I think we Americans have known that materialism is a problem all along, but like an addict, we haven’t been able to free ourselves from our greed. Now we have to.

In America, the dollar is almighty.

I got a little tired of the superior attitude I got from some people because I had financial problems.  It even became wearisome dealing with my fellow Christians on the subject.  It seemed to me that being a Christian meant you also had to be a rich Republican as well, at least in some minds.

It’s not that I didn’t encounter this attitude overseas. I did.  It’s just that we Americans seem to major in it.


“Wait a minute!”, you say. I thought you said American culture was heavenly.  Well, our culture is something of a two-sided coin.  It also has its evils.

The worst aspect is our pop culture. I weary of the reality TV shows and being famous for being famous.  Who cares about the doings of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian? Apparently a lot of our people do.

In addition, profane lyrics in songs and sexual situations on TV seem to have become the norm now. It was this way before I went overseas, but it has gotten worse.


I’m bullish on America.  Unfortunately, as the Chinese say, we have a little hell in our heaven, though.


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