Editor's Note: As the US Presidential Election draws near and the battle between Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump gains more teeth, it might prove instructive to examine the constituency at which the twin campaigns are directed; to understand what America means to its citizens and what these men and women seek from their politicians. To do this Firstpost assembled profiles of a broad section of people, each telling a story that speaks of the (anticipated) state of the union.
In the second part, 24-year-old Amanda Toth talks about America and the generation of convenience. She is originally from New York, but lives in New Orleans. She works with a culinary institute and helps manage a bed and breakfast.
What do you make of America’s past and where do you see it going? Where would you like to see it go?
I see America as a big melting pot. And even in a closer sense, I see that in New Orleans because it’s such a diverse city. So many different people coming from so many different countries, so many different cultures melding together and that’s what my view of America has always been. I’m native to New York, grew up outside New York City. I was used to seeing every religion, every colour, every possible variety of human beings, and that’s what I love about America. I see that as an attribute that we’re not fully taking into account and we’re not providing for and in the future, I would like to see us concentrate more on civil rights. We love to go over to Africa and the Middle East and butt our noses into stuff that it doesn’t belong in and do it under the pretense of civil rights when we can’t even get our civil rights in our own country under control. I would like to see a non-violent revolt of some sorts. I think it’s gotten so extreme that the tension between races in our nation has come to the forefront and now it’s a major political issue as it should be, but it needs to be more than that.
How long have you been in New Orleans and why did you decide to move here?
I’ve been in New Orleans a little over three years. I decided to move here right after college, packed my car up, drove down here and never went back. I’d never been here before but I never really see myself leaving. It’s kind of a perfect fit. I originally moved here because I was working for Habitat for Humanity at the time and I figured, where could I transfer affiliates and be most useful? New Orleans. But I ended up being consumed by the food, the music. I worked at a jazz club, I worked at a culinary institute, I did things that didn’t pertain whatsoever to what I had studied in college. But that’s kind of what this city is about. You get here and everything you’ve learned in the past all kind of goes to s**t and it’s a whole new world. It’s not like any other city in America, or even like any other city in the world that I’ve been to. We have a huge Vietnamese population, we have a huge Honduran population, a huge West African population. The French and the Spanish and the Portuguese and the Germans. I mean, it’s as diverse as New York City, but it’s only 400,000 people, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds.
You come from the north like me. Could you talk a little bit about your perceptions of the south before you moved down here and maybe how they’ve changed or not changed?
So I come from a very liberal little bubble in New York. originally from Mount Vernon and then moved to Mamaroneck and then went to SUNY Albany, a state school in New York. And before moving down here, I really didn’t have any idea what New Orleans was or what to expect, I had never been here before, but I did have a perception of… Once you cross the Mason-Dixon line, there is kind of an inherent sense of racism and a completely different culture that you’ll experience, and that was a stereotype that I’d grown up assuming to be correct and it is in certain situations correct, but is also incorrect in some. New Orleans in particular, I feel like, although is geographically located in the south, is not a southern city in mentality. New Orleans is extremely socially liberal. I never really listened to the other side of the policy issues, the more conservative sides of the issues because they were never at the forefront. I think that people in the south, as much as they tend to be more conservative, they’re also more open to discussing on a person by person basis what your opinion is and why you feel that way. I’ve had many candid discussions down here about political ideology, which way do you lean, why do you feel that way on a particular policy issue, whereas in New York, that is a big no-no. You don’t talk about it. If you can avoid it, you do. And I always assumed that the south would be like a no sex talk or religion or politics place, but in the south and in New Orleans in particular, I think people like to hear what you believe and why you think that way.
Can you think of one quintessentially American object or symbol?
Sad to say, but money. You know, we live to work and work to live and just try and make more money. It’s just a capitalistic place that is getting worse by the hour. We’re losing grasp of human to human connections.
If you’re travelling, what do you miss about home?
Again, a very American thing, but when I was studying abroad, the thing I missed most was convenience. Everything in America is at your fingertips. I mean there are cities that you can have a drone deliver things directly to you, which still blows my mind and I’m not a fan of, but there really is just the ultimate convenience of everything being at your fingertips, it’s so accessible. I guess I miss that, but it’s also something that I could easily do without. It’s nice to be away from constant accessibility and to actually have to spend time doing things.
How would you characterise this generation of Americans?
I don’t know if there’s a particular word to characterise them, but I think it’s significant that this generation has 9/11 in their textbooks, when we’ve lived it. This is the first generation where they don’t remember what it’s like to not have a cell phone and don’t have to use an atlas to look anything up. It’s the generation of convenience. Everything is readily available and I think the lack of effort is really affecting the current generation negatively. Because everything is so accessible, I don’t think everything that they’re accessing is what they need to be accessing.
Is there anything that you would like to say?
In general, I like to believe that our country can bounce back from this election and our terrible candidates. I’m not terribly inclined towards either of them, I think one of them is the lesser of two evils, but I think that our country really needs to remember that we need to rely on local elections. Judicial, school board, memorandums, anything and everything that has to do with local elections and state elections. Even in Louisiana, we have six House members and one Senate member that are up for election in November. The ability to completely wipe out your Congress and start afresh and representative of that population which is ever growing and changing is possible, and I think people need to remember that even if we’re not happy with the presidential candidates, it’s really the local candidates who are going to push forward the initiatives that we care about, not the President. The President doesn’t give a s**t about the individuals. It’s the local and state representatives. So I guess, have faith that it can still pull through and still work out.