Just posted a link to Jackson Browne’s “I Am a Patriot” to Facebook after reading from my friend Marian that she didn’t want patriotism co-oped or owned totally by the right. I agree. As JB says “I am a patriot, and I love my country”. And it’s not just “because my country is all I know.”
There’s so much that is still right about America. And so much we have to be proud of in our past. I am the daughter of one of those brave men who liberated Europe from Hitler – you can bet the world looked kindly on Americans in 1944.
I think of the Founding Fathers who, despite human flaws (like all of us), were remarkable – visionaries, brave and radical.
I feel as though a lot got lost between 1968 and 2008 – like, perhaps America’s soul. It would be easy to blame Washington, and especially, if you sit on my side of the aisle, to blame the Republicans from Nixon on. They (all the politicians) were certainly egregious and some were outright criminals. We – and the world – lost so much when America got lost.
But, just as with my realization that, convenient though it would be to blame BP for the oil-soaked pelicans, burning turtles and families whose lives have been turned upside down – I really have no one to blame in the end but Diane Scholten and my overuse of oil, plastic and energy. Obviously, it was a lot of us – not JUST me, but still and all…
So too with my tsk-tsk about “how did America get so lost?”. In this regard I feel a bit less personally culpable in that I’m an active citizen (vote in all elections, have worked on electoral campaigns, regularly write my congresspeople). But I think the system is broken and I don’t think it’s a party issue.
Jackson Browne has a great song that I happened to hear on my shuffling iPod last night – “Lives in the Balance”. The whole song sums up a lot of what I feel America has become (not in a good way), but this verse says a lot of what I’m thinking about today:
“They sell us the President the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they`re never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire.”
It’s all of a piece: our oil addiction; the greed-money addiction of the plutocrats who run this country; our complicitness in it all. Give us our oil and our shopping and some bullshit that sounds vaguely reasonable so we can vote for you and feel patriotic and like we’re pro America. Why aren’t we asking WHY? Why aren’t we saying NO?
I thought the perfect summation of this total insanity and inanity was George Bush telling people to ‘go shopping’ after 9/11. It was SO blatant and yet people just nodded and shopped. Good grief! has it really come to that?
“I want to know who the men in the shadows are” – I think Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 showed us some of them.
I’m hopeful that the Gulf oil spill is the Phan Thị Kim Phúc photograph of our era. You probably don’t know her name (I had to do a Google search) but she’s the young girl in the 1972 picture: a young girl, naked, runs screaming having been napalmed by US forces. That picture and the pictures of our dead young men night after night after night on the evening news were a HUGE part of what stopped that insane war. Because people couldn’t “la la la la la” anymore – we had to wake up when Phan Thi Kim Phuc was in our face.
So maybe the Gulf will lead us to true (not faux) environmentalism/sustainability which could lead to moving away from oil which would mean we wouldn’t have to invade countries to steal their oil and trade our (and mostly their) blood for their oil. We wouldn’t have to prop up dictators of shady regimes – the men in the shadows there.
I don’t know what we do about the plutocrats and greed – but I’m thinking back to a slogan from the Vietnam era: “What if they gave a war and no one came?”
“What if they dangled materialism in front of us and we yawned and when back to living REAL lives?”
And what would that look like for you – the post-oil-addicted, post-materialism-addicted culture?