It's been a long time since I posted an entry here, which I will largely blame on the fact that I have been doing too much reading and watching too much TV -- and THAT I will largely blame on the fact that, as I occasionally need to do for my own health, I have been endeavoring to turn outward.
The TV show I have been watching is The West Wing, which is the most impressively-written TV show I have ever experienced.
It makes me think a lot about what it means to be an American, because everyone on that show is so unflinchingly patriotic AND educated AND liberal, and that's not something you see a lot of these days.
Being that I am also educated and liberal, and also patriotic, it's therapeutic for me in many ways. Thinking of myself as patriotic feels a little strange, to be honest with you. But the fact of the matter is, I spend so much of my time thinking about the ups and downs of American culture, and you just don't spend that much time thinking about what you don't love.
On my father's side I am extremely American, in the sense that I could join the Daughters of the American Revolution if I really wanted to (I've never understood why I would want to). On my mother's side I am also extremely American, in the sense that her family were immigrants.
But I grew up in Oregon, which is as distant from the East Coast as the East Coast is from Europe, so the particular events and iconography of American-ness slipped my notice a bit.
So the other night when my episode of The West Wing panned out on a shot of the Oval Office, I found myself thinking it was a beautiful place to symbolize the heart of our country -- a place that just looks like a very genteel person's living room. Particularly when compared with the grandness and circumstance of many of Europe's still-existing monarchies (another interest of mine), it's refreshingly direct.
It's all got me thinking about what the essence of American-ness is, and it's (you will be completely unsurprised to learn) been hard to pin down. So I have turned. . .to song.
(Previously: "City of New Orleans" on Election Day)
The song: Kenny Rogers, "The Gambler"; 1978
Find me an American who does not know this song.
"The secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep." For all its camp factor, you could say this song about is about independence of mind and self-determination.
I'll drink to that!