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Aren't you proud to be an American?

The highlight of my otherwise tedious day was when Judy, a co-worker, told me about her Fourth of July weekend. To be fair, I had asked, but it was just a nicety. The only answer I'd wanted was, "It was fine."

Instead she recited some earnest platitudes about America and patriotism and How Important It Is. "It's more than just flags and firecrackers," she informed me. "It's a day to ponder the real meaning of America."

Wise people say politics and religion shouldn't be discussed at work, but sometimes it's fun to go spelunking through the empty clichés, so I asked, "What's the real meaning of America, Judy?" I had to ask twice and add "seriously" before she answered.

"America is about freedom, democracy, standing up to tyranny." Clichés again, so I asked her to tell me more.

She looked at me like I'm nuts, which I am of course, and she asked, "Aren't you proud to be an American?"

I had to think about that, and she didn't like the silence. She scowled and shook her head and walked away before I'd answered. And I was glad to see her go. Nobody wants a big old hairy argument in the office, so I sat down and got on with my boring work, but Judy's question simmered in my head all day.

Am I proud to be an American?

I'm lucky to be an American, that's for sure. There are many far worse countries, but being an American was an accident of my birth. I can't take pride in a house I don't own and didn't build, especially when the roof leaks and the porch squeaks and the carpet is rotting.

Is America all about freedom, democracy, standing up to tyranny?

I … really don't think so.

If America is about freedom, why are so many Americans locked up for "crimes" that harmed nobody? When cocaine and prostitution and gay marriage and an unlicensed cocker spaniel are all as legal as cherry coke and holding hands, then America will be about freedom.

Maybe America is about democracy, and 49 people being ruled by 51 is indeed an improvement over 51 ruled by 49. That's democracy, and I respect it in principle, but in practice everything seems much more about money than votes. I'm not sure it's worth all the firecrackers.

And if America is about standing up to tyranny, we wouldn't have fought a war to return Kuwait to its rightful tyrant, and we wouldn't be repatriating refugees to certain death in Haiti, and we wouldn't have bombed the hell out of Vietnam and Cambodia, and etc, etc.

And "we" didn't do those gawdawful things — scoundrels in America's White House did, with help from scoundrels in Congress, and all the scoundrels running the military-industrial complex. That isn't "we," when they're doing ghastly, abhorrent things that (hopefully) you and (definitely) I would never do.

So I'm sorry, Judy. I don't give politics and patriotism much thought in my day-to-day life, but when I do, it doesn't make me proud. It usually makes me angry.

From Pathetic Life #2
Tuesday, July 5, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

 

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