While it is true that I have no qualms about critiquing my government or calling out the flaws in American society, it would be incorrect to assume that I don’t love my country. On the contrary, I am proud to be an American. I’m proud to inherit the United State’s legacy of innovation and progress. I am impressed by this Great Experiment that is the U.S. of A. In fact, I am so American that the freedoms guaranteed to me in the Bill of Rights are right up there with food, water, & shelter as essentials to life, in my opinion. I also believe we should be careful not to forget that dissension and rebellion are central to the American story. As a people, we have never been the type to go down without a fight. The very meaning & importance of the word Independence should not be lost in a sea of flags and nationalistic propaganda this holiday season. We have almost survived the Bush Administration & it’s complete disregard for the American Way, so this Independence Day should be a reaffirmation of what we believe in -our right to be free from the tyranny of government that does not represent the interests of The People. That having been said, it’s time to turn to lighter refection on what America means to me. Here are a few people, places, things, and concepts that I love this nation for (in no particular order):
Mae West: Hollywood’s original Bad Girl and an ardent defender of our right to free speech, Mae West deserves to go down in history as a patriot. She wrote, directed, produced, and starred in a risque Broadway play, titled Sex, & infuriated city officials raided the theatre and arrested her on public obscenity charges. She served eight days in jail, only to tackle the equally taboo topic of homosexuality in her very next play, The Drag. She was all about equality for women, for homosexuals, and for the transgendered way before that kind of thing was publicly acceptable & she regarded talking about (and engaging in) sex as a fundamental human right. Her movie career didn’t begin until she was 38 years old, but she rose quickly as one of the biggest screen stars of her time & eventually became the second highest paid person in the U.S. (next to media mogul William Randolph Hearst). When Hollywood’s Production Codes attempted to “clean up” movies in the early 1930’s, West responded by perfecting the art of the double entendre. Classic examples of West’s G-Rated sexual quips include: “Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”, “When I'm good, I'm very good. When I'm bad, I'm better”, and “Between two evils, I always try the one I haven’t done before”. She remained in show business until the age of 85, never underwent any cosmetic surgeries, and surrounded herself with male hotties of her choosing up until her death in 1980 at the age of 87. A lifetime of art, of speaking her mind, of defying the morality police, of self-obtained financial success, of sex on her terms and unrelenting self esteem that anyone of us could find reason to admire…a truly American way to exist, in my opinion.
Federalism: The United States of America is the oldest surviving federation on Earth. Our individual state governments are protected by the Constitution and are in charge of most of the laws governing our communities. The federal government binds all 50 states and our various territories together, but is only granted very specific powers by the Constitution. The feds are allowed to coin money, declare war, sign treaties, and regulate interstate & international trade. Pretty much everything else is left up to the states (as required by the 10th amendment). The modern federal government uses it’s enormous cash flow to dictate how states handle other aspects of governing, but the states have held on to many of their powers none the less. Federalism allows me to live in a state that constitutionally guarantees my equal rights regardless of my gender, which the federal government has yet to affirm. Federalism allows me to live in a state that constitutionally guarantees my right to privacy and my reproductive freedoms in no uncertain terms (where as the federal Constitution implies these rights but doesn’t explicitly guarantee them). I get to live in the great state of California and those people that want state mandated morality can live in Kentucky or Texas. I shudder to think what it would be like to be subjected to the federal government’s loose interpretation of equality without California’s more stringent protections.
The Best Animation on the Planet: Anime fans might disagree, but I don’t give a shit because I’ve never understood the draw of dubbed action cartoons (get it? draw!). I was brought up on the good cartoons of eras past, baby! Hanna Barbara’s Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, Hong Kong Phooey, Secret Squirrel & Morocco Mole, not to mention the weird commune living of The Smurfs and The Snorks. Warner Brother’s Studios hooked us up with the world of the Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Foghorn Leghorn. And from the animation powerhouse of Walt Disney came Donald & Daisy Duck, Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, the Rescue Rangers Chip n’ Dale, and The Jungle Book’s Baloo. I loved Rocky and Bullwinkle, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Jem and the Holograms, Garfield and Friends, Inspector Gadget. My early teen years were blessed by The Animaniacs, Ren & Stimpy, and Dexter’s Laboratory. As I’ve pretended to grow up I’ve gotten to enjoy MTV’s Aeon Flux and The Maxx, Beavis & Butthead, Daria, Cartoon Network’s The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, South Park, Duckman, Family Guy, The Oblongs… Seriously, if you don’t get the point by now, your not going to.
Nachos: Quite possibly the world’s most perfect food. It is quasi-messy finger food suited to sporting events, carnivals, stoned movie nights, and late-night Taco Bell runs. In it’s most simple incarnation, a bed of tortilla chips is topped with cheese (nacho, cheddar, jack, Velveeta). The original recipe unveiled in 1943 also included jalapeno peppers. Variations on the basic brilliant nacho premise have included salsa, guacamole, sour cream, black olives, ground beef, steak, chicken, onions, tomatoes, and refried beans. Go ahead. Get you some.
American Music: Our country’s musical melting pot took native musical traditions, added those of West African slaves and the English, Irish, French, Spanish, Hawaiian, Italian… yadda yadda yadda… the end result is apparently a gold mine for musical innovation. America gave birth to jazz, the blues, country & western, R&B, funk, salsa, swing, bluegrass, and soul. Rock n’ Roll in it’s best forms is American – folk rock, psychedelic rock, arena rock, Southern rock, Chris Rock, and punk rock! There is New Wave and grunge, riot grrl and hardcore punk, thrash/glam/or heavy metal. As of late we have Emo, Scremo, and Ska. Hip-Hop music comes in multiple shapes, as well. There’s the old-school DJ style, the B Boy style, Gangsta rap from various coasts and regional areas, Dance Club Rap and G-Funk. Musical greats are born a dime a dozen in the states! Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Russell Simmons, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, James Brown, Tupac Shakur, Carole King, Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, George Clinton, Axle Rose, Steve Miller, Ann & Nancy Miller, Jim Morrison, Patti Smith, Kathleen Hanna, Madonna, Prince, MC Lyte, Bradley Nowell, Fiona Apple, and Adam “King Ad-Rock” Horovitz are all kick-ass Countrymen that shaped the American musicscape we enjoy today.