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