Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day (Observed)

I'm going to work today, although my boyfriend has it off, fitting since he actually fought in a war.

Also fitting, yesterday--on the real Veteran's Day--I spent an hour helping Tut-Tee Claire analyze a song entitled Uncle Sam Goddamn, by Brother Ali, an albino rapper out of Wisconsin. As you might expect from the title, Brother Ali has some big problems with the U.S., and fortunately he has the skill--and the brains--to communicate those ideas effectively and in an interesting way. The song is very long, so I won't reprint it here; mainly, he raps about slavery and its long-lasting effects, the Patriot Act and its effects on Freedom of Speech. He talks about fake press conferences and the U.S. addiction to oil and taxes and capitalism. At no point does he say, "I hate the U.S.", or, "Fuck tha Police", Public Enemy style, although if I had been Chuck D back in the early eighties when a great deal of the NYPD was corrupt, perhaps I would have said that, too.

Analyzing "Uncle Sam Goddamn" gave me a chance to expound--which I love to do--on the government, and to her credit, Claire listened well and nodded at all the right points, Blog bless her. (My tut-tees often get lecturing about a lot more than math, because I have a lot of opinions.) (I won't even make the "bet you're surprised" joke here.) I told Claire who Uncle Sam was, how taxes worked, who the IRS was, the excitement that a tax refund check can provide, the things our taxes go to pay like welfare and government salaries, the differing opinions about why the U.S. is in the Middle East, the differing ways that the curse of slavery has affected this country versus England or Jamaica, and the differing opinions on the importance of the Patriot Act and how safe the Constitution is. Yes, I really did try to present all sides; I always do. It's true that I'm a liberal, probably everyone reading this blog realized that already, but I also grew up conservative and I'm naturally kind of a skeptic and in favor of states' rights--mainly because I believe the behemoth of the American Government as it is now can't be efficient in any way--so I'm liberal on my most optimistic days and pretty torn on my more pessimistic days. But at all times, I'd consider myself a patriot.

She didn't ask about that, of course. So I talked about the mechanics of the government, generally a safe topic. I told her about taxes. I didn't tell Claire, "Brother Ali has a lot to say about the bad parts of the U.S., but his points are valid and at no point does he hate on America, or hate on the American people, so I can listen to him without cringing." I didn't say, "I can't stand people who hate on their own country just because they think it's the cool thing to do." I didn't say, "I think Americans who hate on America do more to trash the dignity and work of all the immigrants dying to get into this country than all those who are against translating public signs into Spanish." I didn't say, "I also seriously dislike people who refuse to translate public signs into Spanish."

I didn't say, "I start to cry every time I hear 'America, the Beautiful'." I didn't say, "On the other hand, I really don't like the song, 'Proud to Be An American', because I think it's cheesy and because I've mainly heard it sung by people who can't even be bothered to vote." I didn't talk about the time I was at a laser conference and the Brigadier General led us all in a rousing chorus of God Bless America, which I thought was great. I didn't say, "I strongly dislike the few connections between church and state we have left in this country and want them to disintegrate yesterday." I didn't say, "On the other hand, most other countries in the world have it much worse."

I didn't say, "All of the other First World countries--and even some Third World countries--have had female heads of State, and we haven't, and I hate the obvious conclusions one can draw about America's opinion of women." I didn't say, "On the other hand, my tut-tee Amanda--even though she says men are better than women--naturally inserts the She pronoun into every genderless story problem and personal narration , whereas I would naturally say 'He', and I think that's too amazing for words." I didn't say, "I hate how our right to abortion is in constant jeopardy", and I also didn't say, "And yet, we still have it, and that is a wonderful thing." I didn't say, "When my tut-tees tell me they're tired of learning about how to put on a condom because they've heard it three times already by the time they reach tenth grade health, I have to smile hugely, because I think that's wonderful." I didn't say, "And yet I understand the parental fear that supports abstinence only education." I didn't talk about how much I hate censorship--especially in the form of banned books or music--but also how I wished racist sites on the internet could be shut down.

And the final thing I didn't say: "American soldiers die so that other Americans have the right to hate on America, and that's really messed up, but I don't know of a better way, yet. Maybe some day we'll find a better way. I hope it's you, Tut-tees, who do so. I hope you find a way to build a country in which there is may be a need for a Veteran's Day, but never a need for a Memorial Day, or maybe even find a way to build a world in which there is no longer a need for a Veteran's Day, although I don't believe that will happen in this universe. Maybe you can make us believe."

Veterans: Thank you.


C said...

Nice post. :)

Aarwenn said...

Thank you, sweetie. It's not as elegant as I hoped for, but it seemed to get across how I felt.