|Thursday, July 4, 2002
22:46 - Just a few thoughts
This seems as good a time as any to quote some lines from Preacher:
I like this country, Jesse. I like baseball and whiskey and Mom's apple pie-- not my mom's apple pie, but you know what I mean-- and the Stars and Stripes, and John Wayne, and fireworks on the Fourth of July.
And I like the myth of the place. The myth of America: that simple, honest men, born of her great plains and woods and skies have made a nation of her, and will prove worthy of her when the time is right.
Under harsh light it is false. But a good myth to live up to, all the same.
These words, penned by English writer Garth Ennis-- who had been raised on Westerns starring John Wayne and Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood-- and spoken through the character of Gunther Hahn, a German expatriate who had once murdered civilians as part of a Nazi police battalion, but had come to live in Texas in the hope that he would be given a second chance by the country whose ideals really spoke to him-- are worth reviewing in these times. America isn't perfect; hell, it's far from it. We are, after all, a nation consisting of humans. But the mistakes we make are the mistakes anyone makes. There are evil people in every country, but this is one place where that kind of evil has never taken root to a degree where it pervades the lives of people who choose to live apart from it. We believe in small and simple things: individual choice, most notably. The choice to live however we choose, as long as it doesn't adversely affect the people around us. We believe in having fun, making money, and enjoying the fruits of our honest labors free of guilt, and we believe very strongly in giving a hand-up to anybody who thinks the same way we do. We know we're right, after all, and while we're not going to go out of our way to convince others of it, we'll give endlessly to those who are willing to make the same sacrifices we've made in pursuit of the same goals.
We're not perfect, and indeed there are a lot of things wrong with this country. So we feel pangs of guilt for crowing about our country's success and happiness and ideals. We're also hardly what anybody can call "embattled"-- after all, we've only really suffered the one major attack, and it was the better part of a year ago already; and even at that, it was perpetrated by a bunch of rag-tag schemers who got lucky, not by some omnipotent Matrix who can rain death on us at will. We have neither sympathy nor adoration flowing our way from the rest of the world, and so we tend to feel as though we don't have the right to feel proud of our country. Certainly we look at countries like, say, Germany-- where flying the flag is thought of as something only Nazis would do-- and our guilt forces us to think that we'd better follow suit. We take a lot of heat for acting "too American" and for exporting our culture to where it's not welcome.
But today-- bullshit, I say. We've seen the future; really, we saw it over 200 years ago, and today the vision is pretty much the same. We know we're right. We know we have the moral high ground.
Because deeds trump words-- and while some nations have to tell everybody of how moral and Chosen and righteous they are, and why they're the rightful inheritors of the stewardship of the planet... well, we're the ones who don't have to tell everybody that. We can show it. One has only to look.
And you know-- we're not so bad, really. Especially compared to the alternative.
In 1776, the vision was about baseball and whiskey and Mom's apple pie-- well, the conteporary equivalents, anyway. And today, what do we dream about? The same things, more or less. The concepts are the same. And over 200 years of chasing those concepts have made them into more than goals and dreams: they're our way of life. They're what we have as well as what we want. And that, friends, is called success.
It's all the proof Hahn needed; and it's more than enough for me to spend at least this one evening-- having just come down from the top of the hill after watching all of Silicon Valley ablaze with fireworks for over an hour, the sound of rolling thunder across the valley a sound of reassurance and celebration rather than of fear, and listening to Hindu and Sikh and Mexican and Vietnamese and Muslim and Thai families all up and down my neighborhood setting off illegal firecrackers that at this very moment are continuing to boom and crackle outside my window-- sitting back and enjoying it for its own sake. It's all the proof I need, too.
The nations that hate us do so because of jealousy. And that's nothing for us to be ashamed of. We are under no obligation to meet them halfway or come down to their level. They want to be jealous, that's their problem. But we don't need to lose a wink of sleep over it; it's their choice. We're forging ahead. If they don't want to come along, then they can get out of the way.
I need not elucidate what happens if they don't.
But those who do, if they're willing to see it as such, will have done the right thing. In every sense of the term.