Friday, June 01, 2007

The Star-Star-Spangled Flag (Francis Scott Key)

Language: Spanish (obviously)

I am not, by nature, a big joiner of things. I've never had any "school spirit," never given a damn about any particular sports team (save for a brief period around kindergarden when I was fond of the Miami Dolphins football team, but that was bleed-over from being interested in dolphins; I never developed any comprehension of football because of it), and as an adult, don't belong to any organizations where the process for membership is any more arduous than donating money (and even then, I'm prone to let the membership lapse). I prefer the Democratic Party, but I don't consider myself a member (any political party I'd consider myself a member of wouldn't piss me off so damn often). I throw away the Baylor Alumni magazines when they arrive, and keep meaning to write and try to get the Alumni Association to stop sending them to me.

I am, consequently, not given to big displays of pride. I like Iowa, and am native to Iowa, but there's something kind of unseemly about being proud of Iowa.1 My ethnic heritage is, for all intents and purposes, meaningless to me, and I am endlessly baffled by the husband's level of identification with the Irish. In fact, as a general rule, I don't understand why anybody takes pride in anything that they themselves didn't have a pretty free hand in creating or shaping. I mean, I get that it's more emotional than rational, that I'm getting nonsensical answers because I'm asking the wrong questions, but still.

I can, however, be very easily embarrassed by groups that I have (even very loose) affiliations with. The most typical occasions for such embarrassment are Baylor University (my almometer2) or the Democratic Party, both of which are doing dumb things all the time, but the shame's not limited to those two by a long shot.

And lately, like for the last ten years3, being an American has been a first-class ticket to Shameville (with a six-hour layover in Disbelief City), though when I look back into the country's history, I'm not convinced that things haven't always been this bad. But even so: more people than just me have noted that we're going through an especially dark time in American history right now. I think I remember something about a record number of people (72%?) in some recent poll saying that the U.S. was "on the wrong track," which could just mean that people think gas prices are too high, or that the Pussycat Dolls are obviously inferior to the Spice Girls4 -- but there's more than that. Or at least I hope people are picking up on more than that.

If this makes me unpatriotic, then so be it, I guess. Though I'm at least not flying the Nazi or Confederate flags (which, let's remember, we've fought Nazis in a war somewhat recently, and they were the bad guys. And the Confederates wanted to rip the country in half. I mean, if you want to talk about lack of patriotism, then let's talk, motherfucker.). I worry about shit like that picture, what it means. Suppose 1993 is as good as the country's going to get, in my lifetime. What then?


1Feeling that it's unseemly to feel proud of Iowa is itself a very Iowan thing, as is feeling a certain smugness when comparative state statistics are released showing Iowa to be superior to some of the more self-aggrandizing states (Texas, I'm looking at you) in some way.

2(a David Foster Wallace coinage, as far as I know)

3(Roughly the beginning of my political awareness; previously I had been congenitally Republican.)

4(true. Destiny's Child also pales in comparison, though in fairness I would probably like DC better had I not been endlessly involuntarily exposed to it when it was popular. The Spice Girls, in turn, are inferior to TLC, Bananarama, En Vogue, Salt-n-Pepa, the Pointer Sisters, the Supremes, Wilson Phillips, and any number of other girl groups. In fact, I think the Spice Girls -only- beat out Destiny's Child and Pussycat Dolls, now that I think about it.)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Can you see, by the early light of dawn or an opinion of yourself,
what we hailed in the last of the twilight, flashing so proudly
that ample rays and shining stars fought with the dangerous?
We watched on embankments, so we flowed gallantly.
And the red fulgor of the rockets, the pumps that exploded in air
gave the night a test: our flag was still there.
are you of the opinion that the star-spangled flag still shakes stars
on the home of the free, brave one and the Earth?

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