Monday, July 4, 2011

Pie and Pride

I have a complicated relationship with the 4th of July.  Growing up, we not only celebrated the 4th, we even celebrated Flag Day.  So I've definitely been down in the past with the red-white-blue partying.  But...these days I feel ambivalent.  Mostly, my ambivalence stems from my feelings over the whole concept of taking pride in something -- namely something I have no part in.  It's the same thing that contributes to my ambivalence about sports teams.  Why should I -- someone who didn't have to do anything in order to be considered an American -- be proud to be an American?  I'm an American citizen because I was born here.  I didn't make that choice.  I didn't do anything to become a citizen -- I didn't have to pass a test, didn't have to get good grades in history class, don't have to say the pledge of allegiance if I don't want to (and, being drawn to Quaker sensibilities, I don't).  I have done zero to be proud of if we're talking about pride in a sense of I-did-something-to-merit-this-feeling.  There's nothing that's been done of my part to merit that feeling of pride.  That's not to say having pride in stuff isn't fun -- having pride in a sports team is fun sometimes (hey, I'm in Richmond, we're still all nuts over the Rams basketball team and we love our Flying Squirrels).  Having pride in America is fun (blowing stuff up is fun).  But I really do have to question this blind adherence to feelings of nation-wide pride when really...I doubt I'm in the minority when I say I've done nothing to be proud of, as far as gaining my citizenship or being a citizen is concerned.  I vote.  I read the news, I stay abreast of politics, I like to be active in my community...but those things didn't make me an American.  I'm an American through no choice of my own.  So I feel it's a little unfair of me to puff myself with pride over something like my place of birth.

Not being proud to be an American has nothing to do with politics.  For me, it's really a matter of semantics, and a refusal to puff myself up over stuff I have no control over.  When I learn the cello, I'll be proud.  When I finish grad school, I'll be proud.

I realize the idea of pride has a wide range of uses.  You can be proud of someone for doing something, there can be a feeling of national pride at the Olympics which is sort of different (and I also don't really get -- I get that the athletes are ambassadors of sorts for our country, etc...but still, I don't get all YEAH USA, I'M AMERICAN GO ME GO US! when someone else wins something after years of hard work that they personally put in...)...

I'm rambling.

I think the thing is, I realize a lot of people sacrifice for this country.  I'm not trying to diminish that.  If anything, perhaps the idea of pride should be more focused on those individuals (keep in mind I'm not pro-war, but I try to maintain respect for people even when I disagree with their chosen line of work, etc.) and less on the people who don't really do anything, you know?  People who actually take and pass a test to be citizens?  Those people should be proud.  I hear that's not an easy test.  The Oklahoma Council of Public Affair, a conservative public policy research organization commissioned a study aimed at determining the level of basic civics knowledge of Oklahoma High School students. To their dismay the study revealed that only 23% of students knew that our first President was George Washington and only 2.8% of the students scored well enough on the test to be eligible for US citizenship. [Source]  Of course, maybe the test isn't all that bad, and high school students are just generally not-that-smart.  Or generally not-that-motivated-to-care.  Etc. etc. etc.

So, it's the 4th of July.  I'm not really feeling the whole pride thing.  But I did bake a nectarine* pie while listening to All Things Considered, WHILE covered in calamine lotion (thanks, hidden poison-something-not-ivy from the front yard weeding...), so I guess summer is here.

Calamine legs

*I mean, if it were apple, that'd be a little too stereotypical-Proud-American-Pie, right?

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