The Girl in Black

Se necesita una poca de gracia.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Happy Fireworks!

Had an interesting weekend dragging my two college chums around Orlando. We feasted on sushi (Fuji Sushi is the way to go!) and Mexican food (PR's - you haven't had good Mexican food until you've been to a good hole-in-the-wall restaurant). We made a trek to the Virgin Megastore (they don't got those fancy stores in Savannah). We hung out. I tried to introduce them to my O-Town pals with mixed success (although the 4th of July barbecue seemed to be a rousing success). I made Drew show me his unfinished artwork. Antar sang for us (and very well too!). We played with my cats. Good times. :-)

And I mused about what it meant to me to be American.

I've been trying to write this little essay about it all weekend, but it never seemed to gel. And it's funny, thinking about it while in the midst of revelers lighting off as many pyrotechnics as they can afford (technically legal or no).

How many of us just think about Independence Day as the night we all get to light fireworks?

Now, I've never been one to be terribly patriotic. When my ex was working on the Kerry campaign, I would put on a pretty face and smile. "Go America! I'm a patriotic liberal! It's our country too!" But inside I felt a little hollow. I've been ashamed of my country for quite a long time, and rarely see hope of progress to the idealistic society I was taught about in school.

I never really had much school spirit either.

Why should I pledge my allegiance to an entity merely because that's where I wound up? Certainly I chose my college, and I did ultimately choose my high school. I even believe that on a spiritual level I chose to be born in America. But why cheer on a "team" that I don't feel like I'm a part of? I have never felt like an "American." It was never explained to me why I should pledge my allegiance to the flag. It was never explained to me what it even meant until I was a freshman in high school. And when someone finally prompted me to think about it, I was all at once ashamed that I had never thought about the words I was saying every morning and offended that no one else had ever before explained to me the promise I was making to my country.

I don't like professing blind allegiance unless it is a conscious decision on my part. (Yes, I get lazy, so I'll sometimes make the choice to go along with someone else's thinking. But I fully accept it as my choice.) So I stopped.

Thinking about it now, however, I realize that there are two faces to this country. There's the pretty, idealistic face we try to put on for everyone (including ourselves), the face of makeup, concealing creme, mascara, lipstick. A lot of us wear this face of national identity religiously. We cannot be seen without it. We try to make it our identity. We forget who we really are underneath.

And then there's the other face. The one that the rest of us wear. The one we're all born with. The one that doesn't need makeup.

This is my American face. My American identity. No matter how much I look to other cultures and countries for something to relate to, for some other part of my identity, I was born American. I grew up American. I didn't buy into the capitalist bullshit. I never went out for the cheerleading squad. But I was involved in the theater. I learned the history, good and bad. My American heritage is that of Hunter S. Thompson, the Hippy movement, the Feminist movement, the Beat Generation, the Lost Generation, Mark Twain, the conductors of the Underground Railroad. The people who knew the pretty face, but also saw what was behind it, and ultimately choose their own direction, for the good of all or not.

I am uniquely American in my outlook, only my uniqueness comes from the other side of that pretty face. And no matter where I go, this will always be a part of me.

Happy Independence Day (belated).


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