MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April 26-27, 2014: How Would a Patriot Act?: You

[To follow up Monday’s Patriot’s Day post, I stole a phrase from Glenn Greenwald’s great book and briefly highlighted five genuinely and impressively patriotic past Americans, one per post-contact century. This post adds you to the mix—so add your nominees in comments, please!]
This weekend’s genuinely patriotic American is you.
The problem with what I called (in Monday’s post) the “easy” version of American patriotism, the version that asks us to pledge allegiance, stand for the anthem, say “God Bless America” at the drop of a hat, and so on, is not that everybody can do it. The problem, as I see it, is that everybody can do it without much effort at all (other than the rote performance of those kinds of rituals), and certainly without thinking or critical engagement with complex questions and narratives, with defining debates over our ideals and our realities. The problem, in short, is that it’s easy—and, to quote from one of my favorite moments in American literature (a line from the culminating section of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony [1977]), “The only thing is: it has never been easy.”
So this is where you come in—you American Studiers, whoever and wherever you are. If I could highlight one ongoing goal for my work on this site, I’d say the same thing that I’d say for my published writing and works in progress, for my year of book talks, for my work with students, for my work in the Adult Learning classes I’ve had the chance to teach, for everything I do these days as a professional and public scholar: to help people engage more fully, with more complexity, with our American histories and stories, our national identity and community. While of course I have my own ideas and arguments about those topics, at the end of the day I promise that I’m not trying to get everybody to buy into them—I can’t imagine a better America, in fact, than one in which we can all debate these questions, from positions of knowledge and engagement, of passion and empathy, of civic responsibility and personal stakes.
My guess, without knowing many of you personally yet (and again—introduce yourselves, please!), is that we’re all on the same page here. So the next step is to extend these efforts, to share these goals and ideals with more and more of our fellow Americans (and American Studiers everywhere). Am I asking you to send your friends and loved ones to this blog?? Maybe a bit. But mostly I’m just asking you to have these conversations, to do this work, in your ways and communities with your own voice, that is and will continue to be so crucial to our American future. I know it won’t be easy—it never has been—but I can’t imagine anything more important, nor more patriotic.
Next series starts Monday,
Ben
PS. Any thoughts? Any other patriotic Americans you’d nominate?

3 comments:

  1. Dear Ben and fellow Bloggers,

    "While of course I have my own ideas and arguments about those topics, at the end of the day I promise that I’m not trying to get everybody to buy into them—I can’t imagine a better America, in fact, than one in which we can all debate these questions, from positions of knowledge and engagement, of passion and empathy, of civic responsibility and personal stakes."

    Wow! This is great stuff! I've been waiting to share a perspective of mine on America that at first I was afraid that people would accuse me of being Un-grateful, Un-American - or maybe even Counter-American; which is totally inaccurate and not my intent, at all.

    Consider, if you will: Ben, as you know music and songwriting is a hobby of mine, and I think we've talked before about music as a vehicle for communication and for 'pulling people together'; in harmony, so to speak.

    What would you say if I told you I have decided to share a new original composition of mine entitled:

    "America The UGLY?" (and not America the Beautiful)

    Would you be surprised? Shocked? Angered, insulted or even offended?

    My point here is simple, at least I think it is: I have not in fact written such a composition, and I never would - in light of all the benefits afforded me in this truly great country of ours. America is not perfect, but I really do love our country and feel lucky to be here.

    Never-the-less - as alien or as uncomfortable as it might feel to think about and talk about openly -

    America the Ugly is just as big a sweeping over-generalization as America the Beautiful.

    Eventually, we mature Americans have to face the facts that there are some pretty UGLY things going on in this country which is home to all of us - stuff that has been going on for years... and mindlessly singing happy, complimentary, patriotic songs to each other over and over again is not going to address these problems and magically solve any of them.

    Why can't every country be a little beautiful in some ways - and a little ugly, perhaps - in others?

    Something to think about.

    (Thanks for listening...I feel better now)

    Roland A. Gibson, Jr.
    FSU IDIS Major

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Roland! Really good and thought-provoking stuff.

    I'd say that Macklemore has written a song that semi-qualifies, his satirical "American":

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_TnqM63fCQ

    Thanks again,
    Ben

    ReplyDelete
  3. "PS. Any thoughts? Any other patriotic Americans you’d nominate?"

    Dear Ben and fellow Bloggers,
    Actually, yes I do have another patriotic American to nominate, now.

    I know I've mentioned this book of mine before: The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century by Peter Drier. What I don't think I mentioned before is that I finished reading about all 100 of these great Americans, and only one - her name is Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) - was so influential as a writer and social activist (in her time) that they offered to make her a saint... and she turned it down.
    Over 30 different institutions wanted to give her an honorary degree, and she turned them down, too. Peter Drier writes (p.287): "She [Jacobs] always gave credit to the ordinary people on the front lines of the battle over the future of their neighborhoods and cities."
    It's so easy and so common to draw attention to one's self and one's struggles, one's accomplishments, etc. "There is no I in TEAM", that's what I think when I think of Jane Jacobs. Maybe she wouldn't nominate herself... so, I'll do it for her.

    Sincerely,
    Roland A. Gibson, Jr.
    FSU IDIS Major

    ReplyDelete