Chuck Norris in Iceland: How National Geographic unveiled American treasures

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Kids make you most proud when they do things that adult experience dictates are productive, and memorable exchanges destined to build positive intellect. For instance, no parent wants to hear that their child got drunk and ground the night away pointlessly with some member of the opposite sex at a night club. Not only is the behavior useless and primal, anyone can do it—so there’s nothing unique about the act. For every baby born is the hope from a parent that the little life will grow up and do something significant—that is unless the parents are the typical lottery ticket, chain-smoking trailer trash types who only go to the mail box hoping for the next welfare check—for which children mean additional benefits from the government. Everyone else in the world hopes their children will do something good with life and not waste the opportunity to pave their own path through the roads less traveled and do something special with the gift of life they were given.

My kids often give me much to feel good about. More than other parents even, I expect my children to be unique and to make the most out of every day. And within the restrictions of reality, they do. 20150911_165833My oldest daughter and her husband just returned from Iceland over this past weekend which was an unusual trip for a couple of twenty-somethings that illustrated a number of interesting parallels worthy of note. When I discuss how the destruction of American culture by the progressive intelligentsia class is intentional, it is one thing to say it, it’s quite another to have proof to compare to. It should also be noted that some people who know me best know that I have a soft spot for people who are foreign, and I am rather hard on people in America who grew up taking for granted the wonders of capitalism. I once got into a pretty significant fight with an old friend of mine when I told him he had a “Hamilton attitude” which was reflective of a type of blue-collar mentality that evolved in my hometown as I was growing up that I personally find reprehensible. Even thirty years ago when I said the term, I saw where it was taking our culture and I didn’t like it. 20150910_062853A “Hamilton attitude” reflected the limited global perspective of the typical Fisher Body worker, or Armco employee from Middletown. It was a glass half empty reference as opposed to my perpetually glass half full outlook. I see people with a “Hamilton attitude” as destroying our nation. And I didn’t limit the designation to just friends and associates but family members as well. Those people are on a slow decline toward a place our society can never recover where sex, drugs, alcohol, lottery tickets and bad living destroy families, political structure, and economic growth. However, most foreigners who come from someplace else in the world who believe in the type of the American dream shown in motion pictures remind me of what we all used to be like. Most foreigners remind me of the type of people my grand parents were, hard-working people who believed strongly in family, personal intelligence, and responsibility. So my personal record is that I’m very hard on people whom I designate have a “Hamilton attitude” and very accommodating of people who come from other cultures to pursue the American dream in the traditional way.

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Listening to my kids tell the story of their trip after their plane finally landed back to our hometown of Hamilton, Ohio after two weeks of back country struggles, high winds, glaciers, lava fields, freezing oceans and serious car problems I heard my kids tell a story that America could learn a lot from. I’m sure my daughter will go into more detail about the specifics, but for my purpose I’ll stick with the philosophical aspect that should be considered a warning shot for American culture. Iceland would be nothing if not for the American military base that was established there in Reykjavik. England built another airfield and from there Iceland assimilated with the rest of the world as a mixed culture of those two countries. 20150909_104453The people of Iceland have evolved into the type of people who are often found within the United States in rural areas—determined, responsible, kind, and with an emphasis on tradition. They are not like the typical New Yorker—progressive, confused, and scribbles of human flesh dancing into an eventual fire for which they will eventually be incinerated.   Iceland and its people are examples of the type of society you get when you get government out of people’s lives and let them live relatively freely. My son-in-law who is from Canterbury, England about an hour west of London enjoys aspects of European sentiment and ritual, while my daughter is all about the wild west of capitalism. As they told their story it was clear that Iceland had evolved into a nice mixture of the two without all the progressive nonsense.

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But why Iceland? Well, my daughter is a professional photographer who does quite well for herself with commercial jobs around Cincinnati. She travels quite a lot throughout the year photographing for money, but that doesn’t quite do it for her. As a baby she was practically raised by National Geographic magazines. I used to actually read them to her before she knew anything about how to read a word; she’d look at all the pictures with me. When she went to bed, her mother and I used to watch the Discovery Channel religiously—back when they had an emphasis on science. And as one of the first big trips she remembered, I took her to the National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C. to essentially show her the gates of Heaven where some of the greatest photographs on planet earth have been taken for that publishing empire. She strives to take National Geographic style photographs, so Iceland was the best opportunity to do such a thing—which was the purpose of their visit.

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But my son-in-law being from Europe, who traveled a lot over the last decade, and watched the gradual decline of the American TSA system knows better, and he didn’t want my daughter—his wife—accosted in the embarrassing fashion that they suffered through once while returning from London via Raleigh North Carolina. The TSA agents were aggressive and ridiculous leaving him to proclaim never again. The next time they left the country, they decided to avoid the American TSA all together. They drove up to Toronto, Canada and flew out of there for nearly a half priced ticket. There the security was much better, and professionally accommodating. To make a long story short, it is more reminiscent of how America used to be during the 50s and 60s—professional, eager to serve, and bright-eyed—not half dead like some gage-ringed malcontent at JFK in New York.

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My kids drove 8 hours out of their way to avoid the American TSA agents and to save half the money on an oversea flight, which was more than worth it. The gas to get there was about a $100 which was about the tax on an American ticket on an airline to a foreign destination.   No wonder foreign markets are expanding so rapidly. American airlines within the states are choking on regulation and union regulations have driven up ticket prices treacherously. So people like my kids vote with their feet—and they saved a lot of money and had a much better experience.

Landing in Iceland, it was one lonely security member who stamped their passport. No physical accosting, no harassment, just a hello, and a stamp. They drove around the island for the next two weeks photographing shots that belonged in National Geographic, which was of course the point. 20150914_200523

They camped in caves, in the tent bought from the Cabela’s in West Chester on opening day, and bounced around from one rustic village to another eating food mostly grown on the island because there just wasn’t enough population on Iceland to attract many American corporations.

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So everything is pretty much homegrown and authentic regionally. Iceland is about the size of the state of Ohio. But the population is only about 329,000 whereas Ohio has over 11 million people. So my kids traveled for vast spans of terrain without seeing many people, and the villages they did stay in were like little Wild West towns with populations of only a 100 people or so.

That’s why the end of their trip after two weeks of trail food, soup, water and freezing winds brought them to a little oasis that I have long talked about, the influence of America throughout the world and the hope that it has brought people. 20150917_183312 (1)They ate what they think is one of the best hamburgers they’ve ever had at the Chuck Norris Grill in Reykjavik on Laugarvegur. Obviously the owners of the restaurant are fans of Walker, Texas Ranger but it was one of those little treasures that speak for itself. 20150917_191100 (1)
Out of all the global influences in the world open to Iceland’s economy, the Chuck Norris Grill is a thriving hot spot highly sought after by weary travelers who just want a hamburger and a cup full of fries. A timeless American tough guy has substantial appeal throughout the world, still, and there is a serious lesson to be learned from that. It surely wasn’t lost to my kids. 20150917_191741 (1)They understood it and immediately sent me pictures. After all the brilliant scenes they had witnessed, that little western style hamburger place had put a nice exclamation point on the essence of their trip. Iceland had become more American than most of America. They are what we used to be, tough, kind, enterprising, intelligent, and creatively ambitious.

My kids landed in Toronto then drove back down to Cincinnati staying on the north side of Lake Erie the whole way until Detroit. The security on the way back was professional. 20150917_190622 (1)Not lax, but certainly not intrusive. There was a sense of quality in Toronto that impressed my children. And when they hit the American border, it was by car. So it was just reasonable questions and the stamp of their passports. Not the kind of thing that would let terrorists in, but not the harassment that weary travelers should have to endure when all they want to do is get back to their home and lay down in their bed after a hard trip. Within a few hours they were back home and at our house for a long needed get together. It was one of my grandchildren’s birthdays. My wife and I had been out all day buying her a new car, which was an interesting and positive experience that I’ll write about in another article. To celebrate all these fine events I picked up about a hundred dollars worth of Chick-fil-A food and we had a nice little party—looked at pictures, and compared stories.

Our evening and the time we spent together was the opposite of that “Hamilton attitude” that I have said so much about over the years. Even though we still live in Hamilton, and I was born there, I am not happy to surrender what I remember best about it to this new age behavior of negativity that often comes from people who smoke way too many cigarettes and have an idea that a good time centers around a cheap 12 pack of beer from a gas station. It’s about hope, determination, and all the things that Chuck Norris represents to American culture. And behind all that is a love of family and the bonds of a life well lived together. The way it used to be, and should always yearn to continue. Other places in the world understand it, but America has clearly forgotten.

Rich Hoffman


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