National motto

>> Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Every now and again, the Republicans do something I can get behind. I know, right? Me, so left-wing I can't force myself to register as a Democrat, getting behind the right wing.

But it's easy to forget in these divided times that there are some things which unify us, which transcend ideology and whatnot. (Also, y'know, I'm pragmatic enough that if someone on the right proposes something that is genuinely a good idea, I'd be willing to get behind it even if it tended to go against the grain of my principles: hey, if some kind of laissez-faire approach brings the most good to the most people with little or no harm to anyone, let's go with what works and not worry about how the snnnnnnnauszage gets made, right? But that's really an aside, because that's not what we're talking about here.)

For instance, here's the latest bit of legislative action to catch my eye: House Republicans have passed a resolution to reaffirm the national motto (h/t Alex Pareene at Salon). Now, I know what you may be thinking: with unemployment still high, banks still screwing the same customers who bailed them out, chaos in Europe as Greece is putting the question of whether to save their own hides to a vote (birthplace of democracy, y'all, voting while Athens burns), and so on and so forth, too many crises to even enumerate all of them, why is the Congress wasting time by having a whole debate and vote over a bunch of words? I sympathize with your viewpoint, I really do.

But here's the thing, a motto says what somebody or something stands for, and in this time of uncertainty, maybe it's important that we all agree on that, and maybe that will clarify the direction we ought to take. And let's face it, in spite of the Obama Administration's best efforts to salvage the economy after the Clinton-Bush bubble burst and to remedy our foreign standing since the G.W. Bush Administration pissed away and poisoned the goodwill, sympathy and pity we evoked after the graphic, horrible murders on September 11th, 2001, we need something to pep us up, to help us set aside a certain degree of, well, for want of a better word, shame. (And, to be fair, there are things we have to be ashamed of, such as invading Iraq on stupid pretexts based on a pack of lies, the uptick in anti-immigration sentiment, the abrogation of civil liberties, extraordinary renditions and Guantánamo Bay, etc.)

Generations of Americans have been inspired by a short simple phrase that, I hope, is as true now as when it was first uttered in the obscure mists of our history:


Three simple words, but they convey worlds of meaning, don't they. This is what Neil Armstrong was thinking when he uttered those first words on the Moon: he may have said aloud, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," (accidentally omitting an "a" when he meant to say "a small step for a man") because the radio was on and he wanted to be magnanimous while the whole species was listening in, but you and I know that what he was thinking was, "America, fuck yeah." This is what those guys raising the flags at Iwo Jima were thinking, too. It's what Teddy Roosevelt shouted when he was throttling a bear in his pajamas with his naked hands.1

It may seem like stupid, blind patriotism. You know, I've long agreed with Ambrose Bierce's assessment:

PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.

Indeed. I further agree with Bierce's assessment in the entry previous to the one I just quoted, that a patriot is "The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors," and feeling I'm no dupe and hoping if I'm a tool (hush!) that I'm a tool of whatever karmic good might exist in the universe (not that I believe in the metaphysical; I mean it more metaphorically), well: I wouldn't hesitate to say I'm no patriot and tend to think of the word as being a mite pejorative, to be perfectly honest.

But "America, fuck yeah" is a statement that transcends patriotism. Yes, it can be debased into patriotic jingoism by a demagogue looking to start something, but it can also be a calm assertion of the majestic awe this nation might inspire. We have a beautiful country (at least in the parts we haven't paved over or dumped and buried barrels and barrels of teratogens or obscured with fumes). We have a beautiful people (when they're not hateful to strangers). We have led the world in the sciences and technology (when not inventing crazy new religions or forbidding the teaching of basic science in our public schools). We are a great melting pot of people from the world over (we need them to pick our fruits and vegetables, roof our houses and pave our highways in exchange for less cash than their work is worth, handed to them under the table). Our military might is massive and only used with discretion to spread liberty, hope and democracy (in all fairness, Iraq was exceptional: normally we let the civilian CIA overthrow regimes we don't like and leave the armed forces officially out of the picture). We are the only nation to send human beings to another celestial object (granted it was half a century ago, our space program is now largely moribund, and we rely on Russian-operated Soviet-era spacecraft to support humanity's token foothold in the sky). We are awesome (mostly... a lot... sometimes...). This is what we sum up in the national motto, this is what we feel when we see our flag, when we think of our amber waves of Monsanto-owned grain and our stripmined mountains' majesty and our seas-to-shining-with-oil-seas. America, fuck yeah.

So plaudits to the GOP. No, it isn't a jobs bill. No, it isn't increasing government revenues. No, it isn't expanding rights and liberties for all. But it is a reminder to us of what is important and valuable above all. A reminder of who we are and what we believe in. Join with me: America, fuck yeah.

1Note: this may or may not have actually happened. I haven't been able to find any corroborating evidence or any evidence at all aside from the certainty that if any President ever throttled a bear with his, no pun intended, bare hands, it would have been T.R. and with forty-four people having held the office since 1789, simple probability dictates that at least one President had to strangle a bear sometime. As to what this bear would have been doing wearing Theodore Roosevelt's jammies, I can merely observe that at least we know why T.R.'s actions were more-than-completely justified as he clearly wasn't strangling the bear merely for sport like Andrew Jackson, the President second-most-likely to strangle a bear, would have.


Warner Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 8:00:00 AM EDT  

How did the bear get in Teddy Roosevelt's pajamas?

timb111 Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 11:00:00 AM EDT  

I know you are from the American South where people talk funny and drive pickup trucks with rifles in the rear window. I notice that you use the word "y'all" in the posting and I'm not sure what you mean by "Yeah".

Perhaps it is because I'm a Canadian but I'm a little bit confused about what "America Fuck Yeah" actually means, eh? Does it, as your national and international policies seem to indicate, mean "America, Fuck Ya" (You) and you are (in my opinion) mispronouncing "Yeah". Or is it simply an expression of joy over the fact that there is a country called United Sates of America, "America, Fuck Yah" (Hooray!) (we'll leave aside the point about the USA preempting two entire continents to call itself "America").

Or perhaps the "Yeah" means, as the American Heritage Dictionary suggests, simply "Yes". "America, Fuck Yes", promoting more sex. I can get behind that (now, now, I didn't mean it that way).

Or am I missing the point completely?

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