You probably think that this is going to be another "this political split annoys me" post.
You're probably right.
Oh but this is a day that I'm supposed to be proud. Proud to be an American...or so the song goes, right? Hmmm. I think I may be operating from a different definition of pride than the rest of the nation. I take pride in my own accomplishments, my own achievements however few they may be in number. But how exactly did I "earn" the title of "American?"
I never served. I have never had anything to with this nation's achievements...or failures. My American-ness is an accident of birth. I could just as easily have been born in Ireland, Italy, Haiti, or Nigeria. Saying, "I'm proud to be an American" is to me like saying "I'm proud to be 5'11" if I may borrow from George Carlin. Taking pride in that feels like siphoning self-esteem from someone else's accomplishments.
This is not to say that I am not grateful to be an American. I really won the lottery on that one. All of my life I have had indoor plumbing. I have never been in poverty. I have never had to worry that what I say here or anywhere else is going to get me imprisoned or killed by secret police.
In a way, however, that latter point might be fading. Of course you won't face the sort of dreadful fates that citizens of other countries do for speaking your mind, but you may however face a social or political "death." You might be...*gasp!*...unpatriotic! Can you think of a single political leader who doesn't say "the U.S. is #1!" ? Even if the facts no longer bear that out?
That, if you'll pardon the political pun, is the elephant in the room. As I have harped about ad nauseam, the polarization of politics in a America has blocked people from thinking practically. Instead of openly discussing and confronting a problem or a deficiency, it's an embracing of party lines and often a response of "No! America is just fine, you commie" or "America! Love it or leave it!" On that latter phrase, I find it odd that it most often seems to come from Republicans but they themselves will not take their own advice as they carp, moan, and complain about Obama.
When I was younger, I can remember people complaining with accompanying eye-rolls of "oh those Democrats" or "oh those Republicans." The discourse has mutated so far beyond that in the past 12 years that I actually yearn for those days again. For in that time there was at least a modicum of respect. That quality now appears to be all but absent. One need only look at the epithets traded in the past week or so over the healthcare ruling. You don't even need to do that, actually. Go to almost any news story on Yahoo, scroll down to the comments, and someone is inevitably making a political statement on a story that is about as apolitical as you can get. I once read a news story about a supernova spotted at the edge of our galaxy. One commentator said "Let's send Obama there."
Yep. Respect is right out the window. You're a Republican? Then you're a gun-toting, Bible-thumping, ignorant redneck. You don't deserve my respect. You're a Democrat? Then you're an academic, socialist, Mulsim who is trying to communize or Nazi-ize my great nation. You don't deserve my respect. You vote for a third party? Then you're just plain weird and you don't get my respect, either. I'd like to blame Karl Rove for kicking all of this off, but then I'd just be feeding the problem.
All in all, you could do worse than America. With a little touch up here and there and a bit of new paint, it might not be that bad of a place to live.
My e-novella Hound of Winter is now available from Smashwords.
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