Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don't You Know Me I'm Your Native Son: "City of New Orleans"

What I think a lot of people don't realize about being American is that part of being American is feeling kind of weird about it.

We have an impulse toward self-doubt and self-critique that is the flip side of also some militant jingoistic patriotism, we're fascinated by royalty because we can't instinctively understand it, and we all have some investment in being number one -- although that does takes different forms.

Although I personally care about a lot of things, I really care about culture. And American culture, which is typified almost entirely by the complete impossibility of typifying it, has produced some of the finest art, literature, music, movies, and so on, that I know.

Even THROUGH being racist and torn apart by racism, sexist and torn apart by sexism, xenophobic and torn apart, homophobic and torn apart, this country and people living in it have somehow managed to produce works of art that are universal. That say something about humanity. That say something about American humanity.

I am proud to be an American because I have to be, because I will never be anything but American, and because literally almost every single person I love in the entire world is also an American -- so we can't be all that bad.


The song: Arlo Guthrie, "City of New Orleans"; 1972

This song, and the line Don't you know me, I'm your native son, are poignant to me because I -- much like, I would suspect, many others -- have often wondered if America knows me, or if I will ever know and understand it.

I don't know.

Happy Election Day.