FROM THE WILDERNESS
My Country Tis of Thee
by James Strauss
We’ve come upon hard times. The perspective of almost every human being at any time through all of the species’ history indicates that this psychological position is the one most commonly held no matter what social or cultural overlay has existed. Human beings have an indefatigable ability to believe that the planet is ending, or life itself in the universe is over. The number of doomsday predictions on the Internet is daunting and overwhelming if you enter some phrase like “Planet X,” or asteroids coming, or “Pole Shift.” Many of these thousands of serious sounding, but almost totally bonkers, speakers on the video presentations have websites and followings. Those followers subscribe and pay to keep the sites going while YouTube continues to support this behavior, as if it has any shred of science or reality to it, which it does not. Right wing Christian media has allied itself with many of these sites and quotations from the bible are frequently used to support this coming ‘end of times.’
It’s all part of social survival. It’s all quite normal for humans to openly or secretly believe that everything is going to be violently over in very short order. For some reason, like the reason survivalists (now called ‘preppers’), come to actually want the apocalyptic end to arrive soon so they can be proven right. People who espouse more than a passing interest in the coming end of everything get some warm satisfaction in thinking that that would be not only okay but preferable to working, playing and getting along through the rest of more intelligent lives.
There are people who don’t agree. In fact, that statement “don’t agree” might best describe this United States of America. It’s a nation of don’t agree, a land of different beliefs and a country where argument reigns over most discussions about taxes, money, economy, war or almost anything else. It is the ability to not agree and stay together that is the signature quality of the United States.
Right some time ago NFL football players and team owners were protesting racial disparity by not honoring the America flag. Were they wrong? To me? Yes. Would I add to negative voices requesting draconian punishments for their protest? No. I am an American. I can take it. I can take ridiculous swimming costumes and ugly head scarfs all day and night long. No problem. One of the former presidents is like a rodeo clown. Not an issue. These things and people have just added to my inventory of humor. Because I’m an American. And because I’ve figured out that the true, and nearly exclusive quality of being American, is to be able to take it and come through with a knowing smile and taking action using only that smile and a bit of ridicule as tools of punishment. America has become known for a good deal of punishment but it’s accomplishments that truly sets it apart. If you want your spacecraft to work, then you might best consider American products. If you want military stuff, well, nobody else comes close. Stuff is made in America for the long haul because the foundations of the culture are long haul. If you want clothing that falls apart then go ahead and wear Asian stuff. Chinese tools are guaranteed for life, but Snap-On and Mastercraft stuff doesn’t need a guarantee because they’ll be around until you expire, or somebody steals them. Nobody will steal your Chinese tools or your Asian clothing.
I went to the Walworth County Fair in Wisconsin a few years ago. They held a bull riding contest, which is about as far from my normal life orientation as flying in a UFO, but the experience renewed my feeling about being a real American. I love my country. I love the people that were around me, even though they were nothing at all like me. The mangers of the show had a young girl sing Amazing Grace while another young woman on a horse rode in front of the grandstand flowing a giant American flag behind her. I’m not an organized religious person but I loved that sentiment. When the national anthem was sung by another gifted young lady everyone stood up. Everyone. We stood silent, listening to the feelings the song creates rather than the words that don’t always make that much sense. As the Star-Spangled Banner was ending, a flock of geese flew low over the open area where the girl with the waving American flag was prancing around in tight circles on her horse. The “V” formation of low flying geese glided over her only about thirty feet in the air from one end of the stadium to the other, as if they’d been hired by the show managers to do their part. They flew in a “V” formation. Did that “V” stand for victory or was that simply an exercise of goose aerodynamic efficiency?
Or was that final goose formation a sign from God? Maybe the show emcee should not have said a prayer to a Christian God and required everyone to be silent and take off their hats. Maybe Amazing Grace was out of place, although there’s no question that the lyrics “a wretch like me,” touched a lot of us in the audience.
Maybe the whole ten-minute introduction to the insane event of regular guys trying to ride two-thousand-pound bulls was as crazy as the event itself. But I didn’t think so then and I don’t think so now. The fair was about bull riding, barrel racing, cotton candy, bratwurst and smoked turkey legs and plenty more. Most of all, I came away with a feeling of love and care for my fellow Americans. That “V” formation said it all to me.
Victory is in the love we feel for one another not the naked fear we let out upon so many occasions.
“My country tis of thee,” not me.