There Are No Americans

Milldale, Connecticut. I spent the night at a truck-stop here. Played a little World of Warcraft last night. My weekend is shot. What’s the hurry? I’m about to leave, though.
I just got gently dressed down by an African immigrant. He was looking for napkins and couldn’t find any, so I found some for him. We were talking about how the truck-stop must be short-handed for the customers to have to stock things. He was having a difficult time understanding me.
So I smiled and said “You must be having trouble with my accent” (which most people for whom English is a second language do).
He said “What are your origins?”
Assuming he just had an interesting way of phrasing things, I replied. “North Carolina.”
He said “No, where does your family, your history, come from?”
I told him we were mutts. England. Scotland. Germany. I have no one country I can claim, really.
He said “We are all immigrants. There are no true Americans.”
And he walked off, seeming a bit ruffled. I thought “damn, I hit a nerve or something.” Then it occurred to me that he must not have understood that I was talking about my accent, not his. I think his grasp of English is imperfect, at the stage where he largely responds to keywords; like “accent.”
Well, I regret the misunderstanding. He’ll spend the rest of his day thinking about the redneck asshole in the truck-stop. It’s a shame that his experiences in America thus far have left him defensive in such a way. I wish there was some way I could explain to him that this encounter was not at all what he thought it was. I also have to wonder if he, hearing my Southern accent, made some assumptions about he thought I was trying to say.

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