I had a post all ready for today, but a slight incident on Monday morning prompted a little rant, which follows. Apologies in advance, if necessary. But as I have nothing wrong (or wrongheaded) to say, that expression of mild regret shouldnʼt be necessary. On my part.
(…Just Specify Which Continent)
A former student, currently in Mexico, recently noted on Facebook that s/he would be “back in America” soon.
Having frequently been perturbed by “real Americans” wanting to “take America back” (from whom, I wonder — the Unreal Americans? The French? The Zombies of Doom? Fox News, false and biased? Oh, oops, the last two seem to be repeats), this innocent remark from abroad drew my attention. And rather than quickly and simply post a reply to the aforementioned FB status, I naturally decided to make a big, huge honking deal out of it and create a new post for today.
So what am I reacting to? Hereʼs what I did not post as a reply to the status-in-question: “Oh, no, sorry. You are in America, North America, just not currently in the United States.”
When I was little, we lived in Texas, Colorado and (although I donʼt recall my birth state) California, among other places out west. While residing in El Paso, border town that it is (and which begins my early coherent memories, including the Christmas recorded in a memorable photograph of Paul and me in play cars we received for the holiday), I learned from somewhere/someone (possibly my older sister Margaret) that when returning to the U.S. and being asked your citizenship, the proper answer was not “American” because, after all, everyone living in the western hemisphere/New World is an American, North or South, so you arenʼt really distinguishing United States citizens from Mexicans. Besides it seemed rudely proprietorial to stake a claim to two continents with your citizenship-identity. I clearly remembered the lesson, and I still answer “U.S.” at border crossings and customs checks.
Lest the Tighty Righties in their jingoistic fevers quibble, I found the same notion repeated in Donald Hamiltonʼs certainly not unpatriotic (in fact, classically gung-ho anticommunist) spy series about Matt Helm from the Sixties (hmmm, maybe I should reread some of those again for old timesʼ sake; I recall clearly one about an RV trip across Canada for espionage purposes; and those godawful Dean Martin movies did the character and series no justice, although we hope Mr. Hamilton got lots of bucks for selling the books to the movie producers). Once again the polite (and correct) principle arose in connection with not ruffling foreign feathers at Mexican border crossings.
As with genuine flag respect and etiquette, evidently those honorable days are over. Beck and Hannity and OʼReilly may yearn with inaccurate (even false and deceptive) nostalgia for the unreality of what they have invented was the U.S. in their youths (or as they insist on saying, “America” in those good old days when “things” were “better,” which they certainly werenʼt), but nowadays those whack jobs have decided to either ignore the rest of the hemisphere or sneakily stake an imperialistic claim to the two continents. In the realm of the hyper-”patriots” (laughably so-called) itʼs become a political sin to refer to the United States. To be politically correct on the Rightist Right (and boy, you had better step right in line or you are suddenly labeled and ostracized, a Righty reject), it must be, incorrectly as always, only “America.” (And of course, everyone must contort the flag into disrespectful jewelry that any Right-thinking/appealing candidate/politician invariably wears prominently. Because they are after all “conservatives” who wildly reject all the actual national honor and flag eitiquette that has been enshrined in our heritage — rather like rewriting the Pledge of Allegiance in the Fifties to make it Righty “right” religionwise, in unnatural direct contradiction of the First Amendment, as I guess real “patriots” get to cherrypick which parts of the Constitution to respect — certainly not that troublesome first clause of the Second Amendment). And all these years I had thought “conservative” meant “one who conserves,” one who holds onto the past in preference to radical and unfounded change like throwing out the established “American” flag etiquette. Now the word must simply mean “selfish wholehearted change-monkey,” much as those same revisionists have redefined Nazi to mean Lefty, in contradiction of history and their own racist Right skinhead fringe believers.
Oh well. I ask too much for those radically subversive voices to make sense. Nowadays weʼre just Americans (generally mispronounced unnaturally as something like “Amurrikins”) turning our broad backs on the rest of the world. The young person whose status prompted my twinge of thought is certainly not to blame, as one simply adopts the discourse in which one grows up. Pity that confabulation apparently is so devoid of sense. On the other (possibly the Right) hand, maybe these newfangled Unconservatives have resurrected a preferably dismissed and dead shibboleth out of our dark past, wishing to make us all into The Ugly American once again.
And since another Rightist twitch has annoyed me lately, the use of Latin merely to sound profound (appearances before reality, always), evidently without being intellectual (as thatʼs a “sin” of the Left in their Tight view) —
Ave et vale, unum et omnes!
And I didnʼt have to look any of that up.