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Freedom's Light Burning Warm

I've had Neil Diamond's America playing in my head since last night. I believe they may have played part of the tune on the Simpons last night (a pretty unfunny episode that had the potential to be hilarious), but I know it was playing in my dream. It was a standard dream on my part. Plenty of allegory, plenty of subtext, lots of surrealism. As always we were fighting a war, or being bombed - it's hard to tell the difference in these dreams anymore. There were scattered parts of houses, trees and bodies laying about and I tripped over a dead dog as I ran. I held a newspaper over my head (the New York Times) to shelter myself from the exploding sky, which lit up with a combination of fireworks and just plain fire. As I tripped over this dead dog (which looked more like a stuffed Clifford than a real dog, even though I knew in the dream the dog was very real), the Neil Diamond song played on loudspeakers, the same verse over and over: Everywhere around the world/They're coming to America/Every time that flag's unfurled/They're coming to America, repeat the last line about ten times before going back to the infinite loop. I hugged the dead dog and cried a gallon of tears into its matted fur, begging it to wake up. I looked into its huge, dead eyes, opened wide, each one about as wide as a manhole and I saw the fireworks and explosions reflected in the eyes. I pulled down the lids and kissed each one softly as the eyes closed. The song kept playing. I climbed on the dead dog's back, laid my head down and slept inside my dream. So I dreamed about war and part of the dream was about the Olympic flag-waving flap and this isn't suprising considering it was what was on my mind when I fell asleep. And while my dreams are never easy to analyze, I'm going to go out on a limb here and analyze what that dog represented. Pride, of course. The dog is pride. Oversized to some, dead to others, reflecting the glory of America while at the same time reflecting the war. I still cling to this pride. In fact, I cling harder each time someone begs me to let go. I do not participate in the self-loathing of America that is so fashionable these days. I can't. See, I used to be a self-loather. I used to be one of those people who wouldn't hang a flag outside their house. I freely admit to this - and still keep markers of this attitude in my blog archives - because I like to mark my steps from here to there. I woke up. It took just one day, a couple of off-the-path planes and about 3,000 deaths to wake up that pride that had been dormant since grade school, back when American pride was a subject as basic as math and reading. I assumed the pride I was feeling was just a result of the desperate, passionate grief I was experiencing. I had a need to be with others who felt that grief and it just so happened that all those fellow grievers were waving flags and blessing America. I reluctantly began (so to speak) waving my flag as well. And it felt good. I renewed my relationship with America. I remembered all the wonderful things about her. It was easy for me; I was never in as deep as some of the self-loathers I knew. I always respected my freedoms, I always pointed out to people that we do live in the greatest country on earth despite all our protests about it. What probably made the break from them so easy is that they mistrusted me when I spoke like that, as if I were some narc infiltrating their secret loathers club. Honestly, I was embarrassed to be the only one on the block without a flag, the only one who wouldn't sing the National Anthem at a ball game. It seemed absurd in many ways, yet I was trying my hardest to keep in step with the my fellow loathers and any slip off the edge of anti-Americanism would get me a tongue lashing from one person or another. So I reintroduced myself to America. It felt right. It felt good. There was one night in particular that brought me around full circle (I wish I had it in my archives, but I don't and archive.org never seems work properly) but it had to with candles and singing and a community sense of pride so strong that I finally broke down and cried me a river. And it was that night that my leftist friends were gathering in some protest about Bush, saying we should give the Muslims the benefit of the doubt because, surely, Bush was at fault for 9/11. He did it. He planned it. And from there it was the whole root cause thing. There would be people standing on milk crates, screaming into megaphones, shouting out "Why do the hate us?" It made me sick and that night marked the beginning of the end of my relationship with the self loathers. I met America again. I met my freedoms and my rights (which were not being taken away as some would have me believe). I remembered all that is good about this place, the deep yet soothing voice of Mrs. Reese, my third grade teacher, booming in my head, renewing that pride that sometimes only an innocent eight year old can feel. Sometimes an adult can feel it, too. I didn't want to be with the loathers anymore. They were only adding to my feelings of trauma and despair. They were taking an ugly, brutal event and making it even uglier. They were painting black over black over black, the layers of hatred and bile so thick that you didn't even know what was underneath anymore. The message on the wall appeared some time after 9/11: Hate at all costs. They were the only words peeking out of the black, the only thing they had left to offer. I wanted to love. I wanted to feel pride. I wanted to make good on the threats to avenge the 3,000 deaths. I wanted to kick some ass, take some names and hug a whole lot of people. For this I was shunned by the loathers. I should be thankful for that, I suppose. They kind of kicked me out of their club and I ended up here, proud of my country, proud of our soldiers and proud to be an American. Sure, there are people within those groups - Americans, soldiers, pick any other defined group - that will momentarily shake my pride. But I know that these people are abberations. I know that's not what the core of America is about. Republican or Democrat, east or west, north or south, most people do feel pride in this country. It's not strictly a conservative thing. It's not even a pro-war thing. You can be against all kinds of things but still have pride in your country. It takes a special kind of self-loather to hate this place so much that they would embrace the lies and propaganda of those who want us dead rather than embrace the words of the people who are protecting their freedom. I keep thinking of Jim Craig, wrapped in the American flag after the U.S. hockey team beat Russia. I think of what Americans felt that day, the amazing surge of pride that came through and I don't remember anyone making fun of that pride or belittling it. Then came 9/11 and we again wrapped ourselves in flags and suddenly we were jingoistic. And now they don't want our athletes to wave the US flag during the Olympics. What happened to pride? Or are there more people proud of their loathing and hatred than there are who are proud of our freedoms? Are there more people willing to pick and choose the goats of the country than people who will point out the heroes? Or are the loathers just louder? I weep for this country. I don't recognize it anymore. I want to be the third grader holding her hand over her heart and saying the pledge with fierce pride. I want it to be 1980 and I'm standing in my living room bursting with pride as I watch the hockey team. I want it to even be 1991*, the beginning of the Gulf War I, when ever single tree in this neighborhood was adorned with a giant yellow ribbon. I love my country. I love America. That's really all I had to say.
[may be edited for clarity later, as this was a rush job] *edited from previous typo that read 1994

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Comments

Whoa!

Michele,
What a beautiful expression of your love for this country. You made me cry.

Not to be a pill, but I think the beginning of Gulf War I was a lot earlier than 1994. Maybe early 1991?

Anyway, sad and sitrring post. The loathers are just louder. It is hard to believe that, some days. But other days, I drive around here on the liberal east coast, and see American flags waving from houses, cars, highway overpasses.

For all the international crap the U.S. has taken, it has also won. We entered the 21st century as the world's only superpower, and did so not as a malignant force but with prosperity and freedom. We've gotten out of the habit of bragging, even those of us who feel very proud, because we've gotten used to being on top. But, that doesn't mean the pride isn't there for a hell of a lot of people.

The screeching naysayers are just people who have always been negative, and now think that they finally have an audience. Fortunately, they convince nobody but themselves.

As for The Simpsons, however...well, that decline makes me cry. My local Fox station showed, earlier yesterday evening, the two-part "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" series. It was well-written, tight, funny, clever, and entirely apolitical. Even the jabs at the obviously capatalist Mr. Burns didn't strike me as any sort of line in the sand. It was all just witty and smart. But now, the Simpsons writers can't get past their own frothing at the mouth to even approach funny.

Now that song is stuck in my head... and the only thing that would be able to push it out is "I'm Proud to be an American"... and I don't know which is worse...

They comin to America
(today!)

It's worth remembering that the media makes the loathers appear much more prevalent than they really are - yes, even in "blue state" America. I think there's a very large pro-victory majority that isn't paying all that close attention at the moment, but they will. I'm hoping a big electoral defeat is in the making, and that it'll provide the shock treatment to jar some of the loathers out of their delusions.

As for the Simpsons, wow, WTF happened with that episode? And it wasn't a case of me thinking it was unfunny because it was "political" in a way I disagree with, or that the writers were too caught up in ideology. It was actually kinda-sorta evenhanded, like the show usually is, but just plain not funny. Worst episode since that one where Bart wins some contest, and they go to the state capital, and Bart and Lisa wind up lost in the vast forest that's somehow within a short walk of the Capitol building and get chased by bears or something (I think I've blissfully forgotten a lot of the details, but man, that one sucked.)

I thought Marge's meta-comment "Why did they mix real ones in with the joke ones?" was the funniest line of the episode, and a good commentary on why the episode itself was so sucky. Weird in a lot of ways, like Lisa's recital of the 1st Amendment supposedly being so damning, but hearing the actual words, you think, "OK, so we're seeing a sort of exaggerated depiction of societal peer pressure to 'act patriotic' - and this involves Congress making laws restricting freedom of speech and the press how, exactly?" Even by the exaggerated reality of the show, it doesn't make sense. And it was hard to figure out the points they were trying to make.

The self-loathers don't realize they've answered their own question.

The other side's been listening to their self-hate.

But they never seem to leave, if it's so terrible here.

Michele, I must say, I've never had as interesting or vivid dreams as you. I will say one thing about being a cold, hard-hearted reptilian pubbie, I do sleep better. And I'm happier. Even w/what's coming down the pike, I'm happier. Maybe I'm OD'ing now to protect myself, I don't know. But if I didn't care one way about certain muslims before, they're now taking up too much of my time now thinking about what I'd like to do to some of them.

Misha recently linked to a liberal who doesn't like W, but will vote for him. He's also very upset that his party left him. I think he was on a conservative site wanting to discuss the issues and he seems like a very thoughtful person. It's very hard, he's also mourning.

But enjoy your home. That and your family is your bright spot, also your killer knowledged of music.

David C.:

You're right about the total disconnect and head scratching in last night's Simpsons. You also have a point re: Marge's meta-comment. However, I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty damn sick of the only funny thing on the Simpsons being jabs at how little sense the episodes make, or how long the show has been in production.

I still think it is, of course, one of the best things ever put on TV. But the people involved in it are obviously tired - tired of the characters, tired of the plotlines (or lack thereof), tired of trying to be funny. Which is fine; I'd be tired, too. But the thing to do, that considered, is just end it already.

Apart from the 1991/1994 misdating, I wouldn't have you change a thing Michele....That was an amazing post.

There was one line from that episode:

Skinner: And as a veteran of America's only losing war -

Homer: - to date!

That was the "Oh, fuck you, Hollywood" moment for me.

This episode was the most ugly, ham-handed one since the "Lisa Goes Vegetarian" mess.

Michele, thanks for sharing this. This is beautiful.

I wish we could go back to 1991. I wish we could change the way we fought that war, how it ended. I'm still going back there in my mind every day. I go back there at night, in my dreams.

Thank you for sharing your dreams. Hold on to them. They are what America is built on.

Michele, we share something in common other than our names; I too am proud to be an American! This is one of the more beautiful and moving blog pieces I have read to date.

I know where you're coming from, Michele. I sometimes feel like the Indian in those old anti-litter commercials. I'm looking out at this great country and the beauty of all we've accomplished... only to find those that instead choose to trash it. Brings a tear to my eye, for sure.

And yet, I only have to hang around some military guys for the weekend, or talk to my nephew about the Boy Scouts, or even just read a few blogs... to know that there is a large group (I'd say a majority) that truly does have pride in this country. And they come from all walks of life, all backgrounds.

I think in some ways, it's a case of quiet resolve. Those americans that hate America have been screeching for so long, It seems pointless to argue with them. I remain positive, however, that it is just a case of them being louder- it's all they've got.

As for the Simpsons... They've Jumped the Shark, crashed in the water, and are going down for the third time...

I do too.

Another great one.

And I don't think I'll be in the minority if I nominate this as another post for the 'Best of ASV' category either. ;-)

I count myself lucky and PROUD to be an American. Too few people that are born and raised here appreciate just how unique in all of history this wonderful country is. Come to think of it, almost all of the people I know who were proud enough of being an American to say it loud and clear (prior to 9/11, at least) were naturalized citizens - often from places that are prime examples of what many of the 'loathers' claim that America is becoming.

I guess sometimes you just don't appreciate how special something is - unless you have to earn it.