I was working the other day, driving, and a military jet flew overhead.
Not unusual; there are a couple of military bases in the area. What was unusual was my reaction.
For the first time in my life, there was no joy or awe or pride. For the first time in my life, my emotional reaction was wariness; my subconscious interpreted the jet as a potential threat. The first thought that sprang to mind was wondering about the pilot: Was it one of the military's diversity hires up there?
Something similar happened on July 4th this year. This year, Independence Day felt farcical, felt mocking, in a way it never has before. I felt no fellowship with the people who were celebrating with heartfelt, genuine patriotism; I looked around and saw nothing of which I could be proud. I looked around and saw Southerners flying the Federal flag, I heard them playing hackneyed songs from hypocritical singers who sold out long ago to moneyed interests who subvert any authenticity in the art, and I realized that there is nothing in this hollowed out corpse of a once- great nation to justify pride except history out of living memory; the legacy our rulers are so eager (and desperate) to denigrate, that they want to stamp out entirely - and us with it.
It felt so strange. I would love to be proud of my state and my nation... but I cannot, because there is nothing except dead history of which I can be proud. My state and my nation have done nothing in my lifetime, my parents' lifetime, and arguably my grandparents' lifetime, worthy of pride. They have only ceded ground to enemies and allowed themselves to be denigrated and used.
I suppose this sense of alienation is the price of truth.
And perhaps this is a Southern rite of passage. My parents were subjected in their own day to sneers and jeers about Southerners being losers, and the Confederate flag a symbol of disgrace that those who fly it and take pride in it are too stupid to recognize as such.
As though these same people don't honor the American Indian or actual Indians or the Zulu or any other number of peoples on the losing side of a conflict for their valor in the struggle.
No, it's their forced countrymen that they take such mean-spirited entertainment in denigrating.
This has never hurt my feelings; I have no respect someone for their mocking or ill opinion to hurt, and I do not and never have particularly respected insects. No, instead such mockery only underscores how right my ancestors were.
Are these really my countrymen, these people who wish me ill? These people who mock my honored dead, who sneer at my heritage, who laugh at my accent, who expect me to kneel before them and lick boot? I'm expected to feel some sort of kinship with them, kinship under the Federal flag that my ancestors died fighting? (Or rather, my ancestors' fathers and brothers- few enough of ours made it home that I'm not sure I even have any Confederate veterans in my immediate ancestry.)
No. No, I do not feel any particular kinship with the Yankee and his nasal accent, the Midwesterner and his odd gelatinous food, much less the West Coast hippie. The South is my home, Southerners my people, and I don't much care for anything or anyone else.
When the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 made the news as I was eating my breakfast, my reaction was a calm, "Who cares, it's just a bunch of Yankees?" It horrified my mother, but this is how humanity is wired. Attempting to care about the entire world will drive you mad. We are made to care about our own- expand that circle out too far, and you will exhaust yourself. Compassion fatigue is not limited to first responders.
We were never meant to care about the great mass of humanity, and convincing people that they were is one of the greatest disservices, one of the greatest "crimes against humanity," that has ever been perpetuated.
Yankees are not my people. Midwesterners are not my people. West Coasters are not my people. The Federal flag is not my flag. I may adopt those immigrants who themselves adopt the South, love her, and assimilate into my circle; I may choose to call worthy Yankees or Midwesterners my brothers; but at the end of the day the South is my home, and Southerners my people. Names on tombstones in the local graveyards mean more to me now than the creatures dwelling in DC or rioting in Portland or [finally formally and openly] usurping the First Amendment in Maine.
The older I get the more things I realize my grandparents were right about. And so the Federal government can go hang. I will honor my ancestors by living well, and doing my best to prove worthy of the name and heritage to which I was born.
No matter where I live, I will have a garden (no matter how small or ragged), as my parents and grandparents and great grandparents did. I will cook real food, as my mother and grandmother and great grandmothers did. I will strive to be thrifty, as they were; now that I have finally found my style, I will dress as well as my grandmothers did; I will keep a robust sense of humor like my great grandfather, and I will be as bullheaded and irascible as any of them when I see fit, and without their alcoholism to grease those gears.
I'm done calling myself an American. I'm a Southerner, and dammit, I'm gonna live like one.