Raised on promises


Americans may have no identity, but they do have wonderful teeth.
Jean Baudrillard

I am an American girl. I am not insulted by this.

I am thinking the past couple-few days on what it means to be an American. See, I submitted a link of what I thought was an awesome group of girls who do synchronized jump rope called the Kings Firecrackers to a site. Some jackwad person felt the need to register just to post that while anyone had the right to like whatever they liked, he just couldn’t see the value in the clip. He (I’m using the male pronoun, but I have no idea of the gender, forgive me) said it was “too American” for his tastes, and that he couldn’t understand why people assign value to meaningless nonsense. If you want to read what I wrote back, you can. I so wanted him to engage more! But he didn’t. And know that I’m a very good girl there, because I’m a moderator. I’m on my best behavior, which is why I didn’t mock him for being so much cooler than me for not liking the shit. I’m sure he’s the coolest guy in his school. Which says a lot about my thirty-three year old ass, wanting to give him the smack down over the World Wide Wow.

Oh, and parenthetically: when someone says they “wish people had some perspective,” invariably they mean they wish people had the same perspective they have. This doesn’t change if you’re dealing with atheists, Evangelicals, Democrats, Earth Firsters–all haters are the same that way, so myopic (not that all of these people are haters). Everybody fucking has perspective. Except babies. And people with one eye. And cyclops babies.

I was watching another clip, this one with Dick Cavett and Orson Welles. Cavett asks Welles if he thinks there’s something violent in the American character. Welles responds with something to the effect that you can’t say any generalizations about America that are wrong. It’s a big place with a lot of people. Everything about us is true. I think you could almost say that about New York City.

I don’t think I’m embodied in an awesome synchronized squad of rope skippers, but I will say that they’re American. I don’t think American football represents me, but it’s American. American Idol? I’ve never watched an episode. I don’t have strong political beliefs–I never have. (Too cynical.) I’m not from the Heartland. I’m not from a small town. I don’t listen to a lot of Bruce Springsteen or other classic rock’n’roll. I’m not working class. I’m not fat anymore, though I’ve been fat. I don’t eat a lot of fast food. I wasn’t a cheerleader. I don’t think I am easily defined by any American myths or clich├ęs.

I don’t describe myself as proud to be an American. I’m very grateful to be an American, fah cheesy. I have a lot of opportunities that are afforded to me by being born here, but I didn’t have a lot to do with it. For me to be proud of it, I feel like I would have to have taken some actions that show my stake in the matter. I didn’t emigrate here. I haven’t served my country in the military. (My father’s a veteran, but being related to someone who serves and serving isn’t the same thing. That’s belittling to people’s service. Action isn’t contagious.) I haven’t done Teach for America. I haven’t served in the Peace Corps. I’m like most Americans in my lack of service (I worked out the numbers, and I figure it’s about 281,103,550 Americans who are in the same boat as me. I show my work here). I’m not proud or ashamed of it. It’s the way it is.

Do I believe in the American dream? Do I believe that I can make it? That I can do better than my parents did? I don’t know. I have pipe dreams. I want them badly, but I don’t know if they will come true. I think about them a lot, but they’re very tarnished and worn thin now. See, I always thought, Someday I’ll be older, and things will be better, but it doesn’t seem to be happening that way. I’m older, and things are harder. This is true for most of my friends, so I’m not alone. Small comfort. I mean that honestly, it is a comfort. But it’s small. They seem as distant as ever, and I’m more and more afraid that I’ll die with them unfulfilled and untried.

Do I believe in American values? Is that what would make me invested in this thing? I believe in freedom of speech and whatnot. The older I get, the more I think that people can say whatever they want, but they should really ask themselves if they have a good reason for saying it. Most of the time we’d be better served by people shutting up. The prophet George Michael teaches us the trouble caused by negligent murmurs.

I believe in freedom of religion, I just want to be kept out of people’s religious lives as much as I want to be kept out of their sexual lives. It’s fine if people want to do that, there’s nothing wrong with it, just please, do that in designated areas where others don’t have to participate unless they want to. It makes us uncomfortable when you masturbate or preach on the subway, and we want no part of that. That’s why there are churches and steam rooms.

I believe in the right to bear arms. You go, Angela Davis. Do you need an AK-47? That says to me you should be ashamed of your marksmanship and your tiny penis. I would think you would never trumpet those two things. Baffles me.

I believe we shouldn’t have soldiers in our homes. Fucking soldiers. Always wanting to be quartered for free. No dice in my house! I only have the sofabed! And groceries, so expensive! Right? Right! Stay on the base and play volleyball with Iceman and Goose!

I believe we should be able to meet en masse. How else would the steam room get the party going? Or tent revivals (ugh)?

I should not have to testify against myself. I’m no stoolie!

If you’re the bastard that’s saying I’m a big ol’ bitch in court, stand up and say it to my fucking face, you coward.

Colored people should not be kept as property. (We’ll see how this goes over when the Kanamits come. I think they’ll change the property amendments greatly for all colors of people.)

Colored people should be able to vote. I am glad of this, or else I couldn’t.

Women should be able to vote, too, despite how irrational we are because of our plumbing.

We should be able to get all liquored up so we can all be as irrational as women and as violent as men.

I’m okay with income taxes in principle, but they make me very sad.

If you’re born here, sure, you can be part of the American club. I don’t even care. Whatever. No skin off my ass.

These are the bill of rights and the amendments that I can remember, as I remember them, which is probably very, very wrong indeed. I’m not very good on my civics, which probably makes me an American! I do endorse them, as if anyone gives two shits what I think.

Is it platitudes we believe in? Freedom, honesty, charity? I don’t think so. People might say they do, especially when they parrot their celebrity politicians, but if you pin them down, I think they’d be hard pressed to find those things in their lives. I give those things up to be a part of society. Ted Kaczynski’s land is for sale, and I’m sure out in Montana I could have a lot more of those things, living as a hermit. A lot less love and friendship, though. I make choices, but I submit. I give up my will for the will of the whole. Decisions are made for me.

I think, though, that this is America, too. Ennui. Disaffection. Confusion. Fear. Distress. Illness. Cynicism. And, as Mr. Baudrillard notes, orthodontia. Cut with humor. It’s really hard to take us seriously sometimes. Especially with the headgear.


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