America: What’s Not to Love?

America: What’s Not to Love?

Since the tragic events of 9-11, and the beginning of the war in Iraq, many Americans have been wrestling with what it means to love this country. More recently, controversy surrounding a family friend and former advisor of Illinois Senator Barack Obama has brought the issue into the 2008 Presidential Election. Writer Dennis O’Toole weighs in on the subject of patriotism with these thoughts.

I love the United States of America. With so much freedom, so many opportunities, and so many blessings, it’s the greatest country on earth. Well, I think that most the time.

The rest of the time I hate this place. Seriously, America sucks. I hate taking off my shoes at airports and having my toothpaste confiscated. I hate the death penalty, celebrity gossip magazines like Us Magazine, I hate healthcare system, smooth jazz, most of our foreign policy, Judge Judy, Judge Alito, the lack of serious gun control, and light beer. I hate our addiction to oil, our history of racism, and I easily hate half the pizza places.
My Irish forebears came here in the 19th century in search of a better life, and find it they did. But God, maybe it’s time to move on. I mean, now that Ireland is prosperous, maybe they can handle one more O’Toole. The Irish basically speak English, so the citizenship test can’t be that bad.

Now, start crying “Treason!” Even if you don’t share my reasons, you kinda hate this place too. In fact, you feel that way about every single thing you love. Your boyfriend’s a great, thoughtful guy who picks his nose and is rude to waiters. Your dad would do anything for you and won’t miss an opportunity to ask if you gained weight. You love these men and you can’t stand them. That’s how I feel about America.

American Patriotism is a curious thing. We long ago effaced the distinction between government and country, and now gaudy displays of patriotism saturate the land. We stand hatless, with hands over our hearts, to sing the national anthem at events as silly as Monster Truck Rallies and Kansas City Royals games. We raise absurdly giant flags in inappropriate places, like auto-dealerships and chain restaurants. We made Lee Greenwood popular, despite the fact that the refrain “I’m proud to be an American, where are least I know I’m free” has a misplaced preposition. And now America’s chickens, to borrow a phrase, have come home to roost.

Last week’s a man’s inflammatory and at times loony dissent was presented as threatening, and a huge chunk of America said, “Nah, not really.” What great news! Some of what Reverend Wright said was worth condemning, like the part about the government inventing AIDS to kill black people, but much was worthy of debate and discussion. And thank God we’re having that discussion. Think of what would have happened if the media didn’t endlessly replay those sermons. Then we wouldn’t have had a national, week-long discussion about how a black man could still be that mad at his country.

With such evidence that dissent is not only alive and well, but that the majority of America can endure it without panic, I probably won’t emigrate to the Old Sod. After all, I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I am free to not love it every second of the day.

Music Button: John Williams, “Hymn to New England” from the CD American Journey (Sony records)