I must have been listening to a story on public radio when I began to think about this. I don’t know if it’s worth anything, but munch on this.
We, the citizens of the United States of America, have stolen the idea of defending our country from countries that actually have to defend their countries. I suggest that the rhetoric of “defending” is more appropriately applied to countries’ whose soil has been invaded. In this definition, the American Revolution is the only instance in which America has truly defended herself. Yet, we continue to employ this rhetoric and romanticized notion of defense, this idea that our fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters are bred with a patriotism that would seek to die in defense of all things American.
Is this an example of neo-colonoialism, neo-imperialism? Are we yet again re-appropriating what is not ours to claim as our own? It is rather odd if you consider the idea. We employ the rhetoric of defense which is stolen from countries America has often pressed to use. I think immediately of Vietnam and of Laos, and then of Iraq. In each country, America claimed to be defending democracy, if not the homeland. And in each country, the native constituents were defending their country as well. I suppose I argue that they more deservedly own the rhetoric of defense than America, and that America ought to drop further use of “defending America”.
If this is, in fact, a thievery of such rhetoric, I then ask, “Of what gain or use?” If my arguments and thoughts stand, then it is a very subtle and overlooked vice of American “virtue”. We steal and we don’t even know it. We are blind thieves, stealing as if it were ubiquitous and justified.
In any reality television show there is one individual who is overcoming some type of hardship. I don’t mean to trivialize the realities, but entertainment has desensitized the gravitas of those trials: someone’s parent was just (coincidentally) diagnosed with a terminal cancer, someone’s parent just (coincidentally) passed away, someone just became homeless, someone just (coincidentally) found their long lost sibling or parent. Like I said, I don’t want to trivialize those realities. They happen. They’re real. It’s reality tv. I think I just hate the tv part.
I was watching So You Think You Can Dance one evening, and one of the contestants told his story. He was kicked out of his house at 15 years old, started hustling on the street, and then involved himself in dancing when one of his relatives gave him the chance. His audition was so entertaining. He’s a bboy and was killing the stage with his energy. But, of course, my mind started to wander elsewhere.
We love to hear these rags-to-riches stories, overcoming the hard knock life. The Bible, in some fashion, is a modulation of that schema. It’s a story tucked away in the human archetype. However, I want to question our affinity for those stories. We take an interesting pride in those stories, especially as a nation. America is the land where you can achieve that greatness no matter where you come from. But why do people have to start that way in the first place?
Maybe we don’t celebrate the actual rags-to-riches story as much as we celebrate the character it demonstrates. Maybe we celebrate the demonstration of overcoming adversity. In that case, I am in full concurrence. I admire people that can overcome adversity. I do not admire, however, celebrating that story as something a country will allow you. Overcoming the odds is not something America can do; it is something that individuals do. America is proud that these persons overcame the odds, but I think we should question whether America is placing them in those odds in the first place.