20 June, 2006

The America List Business

So I missed out on the big controversy surrounding Aunt B.'s list of American stuff. It seemed to be the wierdest controversy I've ever seen. Because isn't the whole point of the American experiment that it will differ for every individual? Isn't the whole point of our more perfect union the realisation that this place exists for the freedom of Mankind? As Tom Paine once wrote:
Alas! we have been long led away by ancient prejudices and made large sacrifices to superstition.

And that's it for me being pretentious by quoting Common Sense. In this post. I retain all rights to further pretension at a later date. But what Paine says there still makes sense. We've all got these prejudices and superstitions creating false parameters to hem in our experience and misjudge others'. Can you be an American without knowing Hank Williams or Shay's Rebellion? Sure. You'll be a different kind of American from others--and one I wouldn't want to talk to at a party--but I'd bet your America includes stuff I wouldn't have thought about. Things like scrapple and spicy mustard on pretzels at a baseball stadium, or a church revival meeting under a canvas tent. Can you be an American without knowing about flannelgraph? Without having gone to Disney World? Without eating corn on the cob picked out of granddad's truck patch and boiled instantly? Without reading Peanuts comic books from the bookmobile while eating Pixie Sticks and laying on a picnic table in the backyard?

Okay, that last one was wierd. But I swear I did it. Lots. And that's my Americanness.

When I was in Jr. High I found Simon and Garfunkel. I used to pretend that the "Kathy" who kept popping up in their songs was me. It made sense when I was fourteen, but part of it still makes sense now, in a meta-way:

"Kathy, I'm lost" I said
tho I knew she was sleeping.
Michigan seems like a dream to me now.
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
And I've come to look for America.

We're all from somewhere, and we all want to know what America is. And the fact that we get to ask is the most American thing of all.


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