Sunday, February 26, 2012

An American tune

America you bitch you nurtured us and then you turned on us. In our naiveté, we took you in at face value, all of your primal beauty, all of your social promise. When you coddled us, you cooed and whispered in our ears that we could be anyone we wanted to be. You told us that every door would open if we pushed hard enough. You heartbreaker. You were just giving us the business. We pushed and pushed. Look where we are.

Stupid kids. We marveled at your topography, your every kind of landscape, your seasons and weather, your mineral wealth and seemingly endless elbow room. We believed the songs we sung about you were true. Even more we marveled at your people, their foundational documents of genius and cogent body of laws, their jazz and their open hands, their optimism and energy and willingness to reform their institutions without violence. We were proud to join them as your citizens. We were proud to be your children.

When we were born the free world loved you. You were helping it rebuild after the world war just like you helped our parents buy their houses. You built schools and highways. You had no problem underwriting the future because the present was yours. You convinced us that communism was evil and doomed but you didn't tell us anything worthwhile about capitalism other than to promise us that it was the best of all possible worlds. You loved us tender but you were really giving us the business.

Luck was blessedness. Wealth was the product of work. Progress was inevitable. And it was all tied up with the perfectibility of the soul. You liar. You knew that the scars of your civil war hadn't healed in a hundred years. You knew that race and religion and ethnic background were going to determine who we would turn out to be. You bitch, pretending to give us all your love equally.

Even so, you were everything to us, but you couldn't leave well enough alone -- you had to go back to war. It wasn't enough to shoot for the moon. You had to incinerate Vietnamese. You enlisted our blood but you never explained why it needed to be shed half a world away. And when we asked you, you turned on us, with your dogs and high-pressure hoses, with your bullets and tear gas. You unpredictable bitch. You tantalized us. You let us play with your toys and pretend to be adults, then when we finally reached adulthood, you gave us more toys and encouraged us to stay children.

And now you expect us to figure out how your wondrous story of tolerance and liberty turned into a turgid theology-soaked soap opera? What the hell were we supposed to glean from those fairytales you told us when you tucked us into our suburban beds? Those fables about the ghost of Paul Revere and Johnny Appleseed. About Paul Bunyan and Honest Abe. About the Alamo and Walden Pond. About whales and riverboats, stallions and cherry trees. You lulled us to sleep. You had us dreaming of Old Faithful, Davy Crockett, Lassie, and Wyatt Earp. You even made Jesus an American despite his Jewish parents and foreign tongue.

Hell, you were our father and our mother. We drank your milk and ate your grain and dreamed of riding your body from sea to sea like Captain America and Billy the Kid. You've got nothing left to give us, have you? You turned on us, then you turned inward. Superstitious, miserly, forgetful. If we didn't love you so much we'd put you to sleep.

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