Because I’m actually patriotic.

Like, in a real way.

Unlike fake “patriots,” I don’t pretend America is perfect and that one should never be allowed to criticize it. I understand that there is a dark side to American history. But I love and appreciate all that is most exciting and creative and dynamic about America–the diversity of cultures and religious traditions and political ideas and cuisines which make their home here. I love jazz and hip-hop and salsa, and how those sounds weave their way in and out of the fabric of the nation. Pizza, burritos, falafels, pierogi–yes, please! I’m a big fan of our new Vice-President, the child of Jamaican and South Asian immigrants–and a big fan of my new Muslim county commissioner, Nafisa Fai, who’s got Somali refugee roots. Pre-pandemic, one of my favorite things in the world was a noisy Portland street full of guitar-playing buskers, anarchist protesters and crazy end-times cult members trying to convert me. America wouldn’t be America without them.

But the people who call themselves “patriots”–people like Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity–truth is, they don’t really like America. Not most of it, anyway. They hate cities. They don’t like immigrants, with a few (white-skinned) exceptions. They disdain large parts of American culture–all the music and movies and TV shows created by those coastal “libtards.” Lately, even sports has been in their crosshairs, seeing as so much of it is played by African-American athletes who will not remain conveniently silent about the racism they experience on a regular basis.

They love America only in the most narrow and most unimaginative way–as defined by one race, one religion, one culture, and controlled by one gender. And this from the people who love to talk about freedom….

The white man who drives a big truck, goes to church and listens to country is part of America, too. But the “patriot” movement wants him to become the definition of America. One shade of color instead of the entire rainbow.

But here is the true punchline of this joke…

The wealthy who lead and inspire this movement don’t even respect this middle American white male they mythologize. As far as they are concerned, he can remain poor, employed for a low wage, unable to obtain health care or a secure retirement. They don’t care if he’s able to keep the heat on when extreme weather comes through. They only care about him as long as he can be manipulated into voting for laws that allow them to retain as much of their wealth as possible.

So are they really patriotic? Do they like their fellow Americans?

I’ve got my doubts. And I will not be joining the Patriot Party anytime soon.

I’m sure I’ve ranted about this already in the past, but it happened again last week.  I think it must’ve been the impeachment hearings.  A Republican dimwit said something like “The American people wanted Donald Trump to be President…the American people don’t want impeachment…”

No, you dolt, not the American people.  It was SOME American people that wanted Trump to be President.  SOME Americans don’t like the idea of impeachment…other Americans are fervently hoping and wishing for it.

To be fair, this happens on the left too.  I will frequently hear optimistic commentary claiming that the American working class supports progressive policies–and I so, so wish that were true.  But many in the working class are against ideas like single payer healthcare and increased taxation on the wealthy, even though this essentially means they’re going against their own interests.  Saying that the American people support Bernie is just as unrealistic as saying that the American people support Trump.

The point is, the phrase “The American people want x” is useless, because there is no such thing as a united American people at the moment.  No matter which side you’re coming from, about half the country will oppose you.  And not just oppose you in a reasonable, thoughtful kind of way–but more like oppose you in a hair-on-fire, I-want-you-to-die kind of way.  Right now, slightly more than half the country hates Trump. (I’m part of that half, and I do think there are good reasons to dislike him.) If a Dem gets elected President (which I really, really hope happens, and have already started working for), slightly less than half the country will be actively rooting against them, and hoping for them to fail.  I don’t know what kind of saint could perform the miracle of making that division go away.  Jesus would get crucified all over again for being a socialist, so it wouldn’t be Him.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand why that phrasing gets used so much.  Politicians want to create the impression that all or the vast majority of Americans support whatever idea they’re trying to promote.  And since when do politicians care if what they’re saying is actually true?  There are also non-politician citizens who badly want to believe that it’s only a small crazy fringe which disagrees with them…after all, their views just make so much sense, right?  But it’s extra disingenuous to be saying this at such an extremely polarized time in our history.

I know it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive to say “Well, about half the people are behind me on this…and large sections of the country don’t like what I’m doing.”  And it could be deadly to one’s political career.  So, we will have to continue to put up with political leaders speaking for “the American people” in their entirety, even though all of us who are in touch with reality know this to be a lie.  We are not one American people, and will not be for a long time.

At least, not until the next time somebody attacks us.  Because nothing binds a people together and puts an end to internal strife like finding a common enemy.  So, on that fine day when we find someone we can hate more than we hate each other, we will be able to once again say “The American people are completely in favor of destroying…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hear a lot about the real America. I’m told it’s a very particular kind of place. It’s the heartland with its God-fearing and armed Christians which is the real America. Not the perverted coasts. Not elitist New York or liberal Hollywood.

Problem is, I love the fake America. I’m an immigrant–I know, we’re not quite as fashionable as we used to be–and I definitely didn’t come here for the real America. If I wanted to be surrounded by farms and church-goers, I could’ve stayed in rural Eastern Europe. Those of us around the world who dream of America dream of a glamorous and exciting place. I dreamed of the land of skyscrapers and city skylines, of jazz and rap. I didn’t think of Americans as people who followed conservative tradition, I thought of them as people who outraged their elders by doing inappropriate dances, and doing them with inappropriate dance partners. My parents imitated Americans with jeans and hippie hair and rock’n’roll. When we lived behind the Iron Curtain and we fantasized about the States, we didn’t fantasize about being a televangelist (except maybe for their wealth).

Our patriotic pundits like to remind us that America is exceptional. I agree that it is. But if it looked like they wish it did, it wouldn’t be exceptional at all. There are already plenty of narrow-minded and theocratic places on this planet–there’s no need for more. There’s not nearly enough of the mixed-up and the crazy and the sinful. Those are the parts of America I love the most. And I hope that God or Goddess will continue to bless them for many years to come.

My Dutch friend is coming to visit and I am so very excited.  We haven’t seen each other in many years–we went to high school together.  I suppose we will now see just how much of an obnoxious American I’ve turned into, in spite of my blog name.  We have had a few long conversations on the phone, and there were some predictable cultural differences which popped up, but also some things which surprised me…

That my friend is a big environmentalist *didn’t* surprise me, as this is pretty standard in Europe.  In fact, her work in Holland is as a sort of environmental/sustainability coach.  When her family and she visit the States, they almost always use Amtrak and they bicycled around New York City.  Have I mentioned that they visit the States a lot?  Yep, the Dutch get a lot more vacation time…grrrr.  My friend has seen a lot more of America than I have.  I have warned her ahead of time that we are living the typical suburban American lifestyle, with a giant carbon footprint.  She confided in me that she secretly loves cars.

Like most Europeans, my friend is weirded out by how many guns there are in this country.  However, we also discussed the other extreme.  Not only is it illegal in Holland to carry a gun or a knife with you for self-defense, there is apparently a law there which makes it illegal to help defend anyone who is being attacked, even if it’s only with your fists.  As a bystander, you are only allowed to call the emergency number–their equivalent of 911–and watch.  Anything beyond that makes you legally responsible for what is considered another assault!  My friend and I agreed that this was ridiculous, and that by the time the police get there, the victim will likely be dead.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear that my friend and her husband sometimes think that the Dutch should be more like Americans.  They like how practical and realistic Americans are, and how hard they work.  So America is still loved and respected by at least some people in the world.  This gave me pause, and reminded me that it’s all too easy to bitch about the place where you live.  Although my friend did mention that as far as income inequity, she wishes things would be “more equal” here.

Well, she arrives tonight, so there is plenty to be done.  I don’t know how much time I will have to blog over the next week–I only have a short week to show off all of the fabulous Portland area to her!  But if there are anymore interesting political and social observations I get out of this culture clash, I will be sure to post them here.