Catching up on old mail here.
Like you, my initial reaction was one of shock and awe. "Why? Why do they hate us so? They must hate us for our freedoms! That's it!" But I quickly came around to Jodie's line of thinking.
We've really reached a nadir of national pride, especially among the left. I can't ever remember a time when it was so hard to say, "I'm proud to be an American."
Someone mentioned elsewhere (in the 'assholes at Burning Man' thread) that we tend to dissociate ourselves, both physically and mentally, from people whose behavior bothers us, when it might be better to try and connect. The last several years, we've seen increasingly incomprehensible and heartbreaking behavior from our country, starting with the twice-over election of an incompetent warmongerer to the White House, and culminating in a brutal and utterly unnecessary occupation of Iraq that has killed hundreds of thousands of their citizens and thousands of our own military men and women, with a thousand shameful steps along the way.
So it's unsurprising that many of us have lost faith, severing (or at least straining) our connection to the vast, sprawling, infinitely intricate idea poorly contained by the words "The United States of America." The actions of the United States in the world and at home seem like the outbursts of a lunatic, not behaviors that we would voluntarily associate ourselves with. So we dissociate ourselves from America, leaving behind the land of televangelists, guns, SUVs, depressing suburbias, preemptive wars, and rapacious, self-entitled consumption. It's not us. That's not what we're about.
So we go do "something else," things that we hope will make the world a better place, something that sets us apart from the nightmare America that shames and haunts us. Whether it's creating art, doing volunteer work, trying to be more environmentally aware, or political activism, we revel in the feeling of being a bit "unpatriotic," as though we're going against what everyone thinks it means to be "American."
I guess that's the magic of America. The concept is huge enough to incorporate this broad current of selflessness and creativity, to let it flow in and draw strength from it. Whether your thing is organic foods, hyperlibertarianism, mass transit, socialist utopianism, gay rights, human rights, animal rights, eco-communities, or just committing yourself to being less of an ass than Bill O'Reilly, your dreams and your longings are as much part of the American Dream as the dreams of any avaracious financier or cookie-cutter suburbanite.
So I like the theme. There is room for great creativity and expression in it. Together we can explore the America that once was (or maybe never was), the America that we fear and love today, and the "city on a hill" that we keep climbing towards, but seem unable to reach. It forces us to take a deep look at ourselves, and to help us understand and accept our connection to this concept of nationality. In doing this, in redefining and reenvisioning what it is to love our country, maybe it will give us the strength and the passion that we'll certainly need to undo the fear and anger that has driven this nation these last several years.
I'm ready to burn Red, White, and Blue. Anyone else?
Friday, September 7, 2007
Have a patriotic Burning Man!
The theme for Burning Man 2008 is American Dream. I wrote this back to the Element11 group. It feels good to just wallow in idealism from time to time.