Oh Say, I Could See

Starla Jackson

Starla Jackson

Starla studies chemicals.

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I remember hearing that love is the choice you make when you really feel like hate.

    Like a family member who is being cruel or a friend who is thoughtless. Choosing to look past the pain and find what is good and noble in them even if you need to squint.

    Right now, when we are running concentration camps of women and children run by guards who smirk at their pain, I have to remind myself that those guards might be the face of America, but the people who protest and work for justice are also America.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      We have to run the “concentration camps” because America is so great, so unbelievably great, that foreigners will cross piranha infested rivers, walk the length of Mexico, give their life’s savings to unscrupulous human traffickers, swim across the Rio Grande (sometimes losing family members in the process), trek through the Arizona desert, flag down a border agent, and sit in an overcrowded detention facility, all just to be in America temporarily. And they do it by the millions.

      The other day there was a warning that 35,000 Africans, from countries like Angola and Congo, have crossed the Atlantic and are trying to move through Central America so they can get into Mexico and then cross the open US southern border, having heard from a previous band of African migrants who had succeeded at it. That’s dedication. Tens of millions more might try it. And I can’t blame them. If I was sitting in a village that looked like a Sally Struthers UNICEF set, and then saw how LeBron James or P Diddy were getting along in America, I’d try to cross the Atlantic on an inflatable swim toy.

      And it’s not just poor people from third world countries, either. Canadians like Jim Carrey, Wayne Gretsky, and Samantha Bee did it. Australians like Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Brits like Emily Blunt, Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, and even Austrians like Arnold Schwarzenegger have done the same. British actresses would meet Harvey Weinstein, after hours, in his hotel room, just for a chance to make it to America.

      Many other countries value themselves so cheaply that they’ll just let anyone in, knowing that maybe three people, probably suffering from dementia, would want to immigrate to their patch of dirt. Does Sudan or Mongolia even have immigration agencies or citizenship application forms? Why would they? Who the heck would want to live there?

      Is America the greatest country on Earth? Unquestionably, because even the people who seem to hate it the most, denouncing it at the top of their lungs, won’t leave, even though their job and apartment could be given up to an Iraqi interpreter who is far more appreciative.

      They reflexively blame America when a father and daughter from El Salvador die trying to get here, whereas <a href= the President of El Salvador said “We can blame any other country but what about our blame? What country did they flee? Did they flee the United States? They fled El Salvador, they fled our country. It is our fault.”

      The dream of becoming an American, a desire that burns brightly among Central Americans, Africans, Middle Easterners, British, Canadians, Australians, Russians, Koreans, Chinese, and everyone else on the planet, is definitely America’s fault. Yes, Trump is making the problem worse, but only because he’s making America even more overwhelmingly awesome.

      When you’re running a country that’s the equivalent of the hottest, trendiest dance club in Hollywood, one where everybody wants in just so they can see and be seen, you’re going to need some serious bouncers at the door to turn people away. It’s not a flaw, it’s a measure of success.

      Some might call this view “uber nationalism” or “narcissism”, or call it something far worse. I would say no, they’re thinking of America’s World Cup women’s soccer team, who unapologetically rub our greatness in everyone’s faces while refusing to stand for the national anthem or meet with Trump.

      Yet this shows the world that even our political rejects are so much better than they are that the only way their precious daughters will produce anything more than national embarrassment is to get them to America, where we not only have a seemingly infinite amount of goals, but still manage to celebrate every goal as precious.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        Auditioning for Sarah Sanders’ old job, I see.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal says:

        It’s to bad those people who came for the wealth of the nation will have to pack up and leave a broke nation within 30 years.

        I guess we will see who was here because it was trendy and who was here for reals.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          I can imagine it now.

          “California went broke, so I guess we finally have to leave West Virginia.”

          Adam Smith studied what Britain was doing differently to get rich, since historically no country had ever gotten wealthy and stayed that way. One of the keys was that as Britain’s economy grew, it’s population didn’t grow to match. Per capita incomes normally never went up over the long haul because if a country’s wealth doubled, it’s population soon doubled, so everyone just stayed poor.

          Often it’s been even worse, where a population exploded without any increase in GNP. This happened to Saudi Arabia, where the relatively fixed income was comfortable enough for every citizen to have a whole lot of children, all of whom have to share that relatively fixed national income, so their per capita income plummeted.

          Sometimes bright shining cities on a hill only stayed bright and shining because other factors kept their population in check. Venice, for example, though extremely wealthy back in the Renaissance, was a very hard place to build or expand, so it didn’t get overrun with masses of people flocking in from the countryside. The same is somewhat true of San Francisco.

          One a smaller scale, this is part of why we have neighborhood associations and zoning laws. Without them, the best places to live often fill to overflowing, such as the many colleges that are surrounded by campus “slums”.

          Australia is a wonderful place that everyone would like to move to. It’s nominal per capita income is $59,600 per person. Yet it also maintains very strict immigration and asylum policies because it’s a country of 25.4 million, yet right next door to Indonesia, which has 261 million people with a nominal per capita income of $4,120.

          With open borders, they would form a pair with 286 million people and a per capita income of $9,000, which is less than the per capita income of Equatorial Guinea, and 91% of the population would be Indonesian. Basically, Australia wouldn’t exist anymore except as a poor continent that used to be a wealthy part of the British Empire.

          Many countries in the Caribbean are keenly aware of limiting any influx of outsiders. Many don’t let American’s work there because if they did, American retirees would take everyone’s jobs just to keep from getting bored. Without any actions to stop it, pretty much every nice tourist place in the region would be owned, run, and almost entirely populated by Americans. The locals would be priced out of the real estate market.

          Would it be ethical for us to finish wiping out their local cultures, making it as if they had never existed as a people except in some tourist brochures? If people are free just to move wherever they want, and no one is freer to move than wealthy Americans, that can happen too.

          If unchecked, we might one day ask whether any Caribbean island ever had an identity that was in any way distinguishable from Palm Beach or Tampa, or we might wonder whether Florida was ever in any way distinguishable from Haiti.

          Homogenization in the name of diversity is an odd goal to pursue, as is insisting on a melting pot that isn’t allowed to actually assimilate anyone because assimilation is somehow considered racist.Report

  2. Avatar Pinky says:

    Really nice piece. I was struck by this: “Loving my mother doesn’t have implications for ideology, not the way loving my country does”. For most countries, and for many in the US, loving one’s country is as natural as loving one’s mother. We’re unusual in that we were founded on an ideology, rather than an ethnicity or geography. That’s one reason that Americans get heated when arguing about our history. We’re discussing when America has lived up to its principles. When a Frenchman calls someone else un-French (or whatever their word is, if they even have one), it’s probably a reference to his ancestry. A French leader can’t be un-French the way an American leader can be un-American.Report

  3. Avatar JoeSal says:

    “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

    There is a reason this country is very hostile right now.

    Excellent work.Report

  4. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    So one day in Navy boot the Company Commander (drill Sergeant equivalent) had us all line up at attention to listen to Lee Greenwood’s Proud to be an American song. A pretty obvious attempt to instill a kind of romantic patriotism I believe. Does that really work? If it hadn’t been somewhat dangerous to do so, it would have elicited an eyeroll in me, but that’s just me I suppose.

    I would distinguish between the kind of misty-eyed, quasi-romantic, patriotism that you see on display this week, comparable to the heady feelings of falling in love, versus a more mature, clear-eyed, appreciation for the principles our country is founded on and a feeling that that is worth defending. But maybe that’s just me.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    A lovely essay.

    One of my patriotic meditations is Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.

    There were several takes on this song when I was growing up… the “is it patriotic” vs. “is it deliberately not patriotic” question was one of the big ones.

    It’s a criticism. Criticism of war, criticism of patriotism… but now that we have cultural context of “Jimi Hendrix playing the National Anthem at Woodstock”, it’s also patriotic as hell.

    Truffaut famously said (or famously has it attributed to him that he said) “There’s no such thing as an anti-war film.”

    There’s probably no such thing as an unpatriotic playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

    Even so, criticism is possible… but the fact that criticism is possible is patriotic too.Report

    • Starla Jackson Starla Jackson says:

      To me, born long after, Hendrix and Woodstock and anti-Vietnam activism seem… extremely American. In a way it’s hard to dissent from America-ism–your dissent will end up wrapped up in America-ism itself. Perhaps its the same way for other forms of nationalism–criticism becomes part of the story of the nation–but as you point out part of the American patriotic story is specifically “America tolerates criticism.”Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      Criticism can be compatible with patriotism, just like sticking a knife into someone can be compatible with medical treatment. Sometimes it’s surgery, other times it’s attempted murder. Context hints (but only hints) at intent.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        This guy here? He’s talking about the government using chemtrails to make people infertile.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        True, and it always looks different in hindsight.

        I am old enough to remember the “criticism” of the Vietnam war and it was pretty ugly in just about every aspect.

        The things we assume are obvious and self evident today, (e.g. that Vietnam was a travesty, that WWII was an honorable cause)- weren’t obvious and self evident at the time.

        Which is why some of the gauzy sepia toned histories distort more than illuminate. They make painful decisions look easy and comfortable in retrospect, especially when historians write history as a narrative with a coherent storyline or arc.Report

        • Avatar Pinky says:

          We disagree about Vietnam.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          I finished high school and was on into college while Vietnam was still going on. Nixon cancelled the draft just before I was going to have to decide whether to move to Canada or get married on paper or enlist in the Air Force (who would have demanded three years of my life, but kept me stateside programming computers) — I damned well wasn’t going to go to Vietnam and kill people that were no conceivable threat to me and mine.

          I was a “We can be better. We don’t have to keep killing people to no end” guy in staunch “My country right or wrong” territory. It was ugly.Report

          • Avatar CJColucci says:

            Did you get a lottery number? If so, what was it? No one I know can’t remember his.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              25. That put me in the first group called. I went through pre-induction physical and testing in January, and had about three weeks to make my decision when Nixon made it moot.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Mom tells me that Dad got his letter about a week before Nixon pulled out. He never showed up for his physical and never heard about it ever again.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                I was trying to juggle things. Among them, I had an academic scholarship that said “Four years, tuition and fees” but it was for a specific four years and had a “good behavior” clause. If I skipped out on any of the draft steps before I could actually get out of serving, the scholarship probably disappeared. Most of the other choices would have cost me the scholarship, but I didn’t want to throw it away until the very last minute.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                No one fought harder to end the draft even sooner than Senator Mike Gravel, who is running for President.

                Do him a solid. Vote Gravel!Report

              • Avatar CJColucci says:

                You really dodged a bullet, so to speak. Mine was 101.Report

              • Avatar Road Scholar says:

                You guys are making me happy today. I turned 59 last week and was feeling old but I was still too young for the draft.Report

              • I think you’re like me: too young for the draft, too old for draft registration.Report

  6. I love this! Beautiful work!

    For a variety of reasons I was very removed from my feelings during my youth and I am still to this day often surprised by feeling things, like you’re saying. That really resonated with me.Report