I often think that a sign of a good American is a perfectly green lawn.
No, wait, I don’t think that.
Still, it does seem that we, as a country, have a myriad of interesting, little habits that have woven their ways into the fabric of our culture.
I’m not sure how this whole lawn thing started, for example, because it was already well under way by the time that I came around.
And it’s not that lawn grooming bothers me necessarily. I grew up in a house with thick, lush, velvety green carpet outside of our front steps—it’s like a rite of being a kid or something.
Still, as an adult, I’ll be the first to admit that the smell of fertilizer gives me an instant migraine and that I kind of like to see the way that the grass looks when it’s not prematurely cut off. (Those little wispy seed thingies—an official term, mind you.) Call me weird. (You wouldn’t be the first.)
I’m not sure why, but the other day while I was walking around my neighborhood after my run, I almost puked when the stench of said fertilizer hit my nostrils—and it irritated my brain more than it did my body.
Now this is where you would realize that calling me weird had been fitting—when I tell you where my thoughts flew to next: all of a sudden I was back in elementary school watching that Schoolhouse Rock video on the American melting pot (I’m blaming the chemicals).
And that’s another great American myth: the melting pot.
It’s great…in theory, of course…the way that most idealistic notions are.
The biggest problem is that the white meat in the melting pot stew has a pretty overpowering flavor.
Don’t worry, though—I won’t be getting deeply into racism in this article.
For one, because I’m white and probably not the best authority. For another, that’s not this article’s theme. (Still, if you want yet another completely honest reason, it’s because I’ve actually written more than one college paper on this video alone, and am afraid that if I start talking, I won’t shut up. Like how all the people in the pot are the same color of grey.)
So anyways, much like the whole lawn thing, it’s not that I don’t think the melting pot is great, it’s just that I think it hasn’t exactly worked out perfectly for us. I don’t have any original, genius thoughts in this arena, either, but I will offer that I love nearly all ethnic foods and wish that I could speak more fluent Spanish.
Which reminds me of another awesome American fallacy: that we’re a multi-lingual country.
How many of you who are reading this can speak more than one language equally well? (And the comment section is not a fair representation if the thousand of you who can’t speak more than one write nothing but 20 of you who speak a few all chew me out.)
I’ve actually enrolled my daughter in a school that will be offering her Spanish lessons beginning in pre-school, and I think that all of our schools should be this way—but they’re not. Moving on to…
That whole rah-rah sis-boom-bah thing.
You know, the we’re American and we play sports good. (By the way, I’m aware that it should be well. You didn’t read it in my hick accent, the way that I did in my head when I wrote it.)
And we do play sports well!
I love watching football.
Really, I do. I’m not even sure why. It’s actually kind of intellectually stimulating once you’ve figured out at least half of the rules, and it is fun to watch those little g-string things (my husband says they’re called jock straps) peek through the players’ nearly see-through white pants and, obviously, it’s exciting in a cave man sort of way.
(I’m not joking here—I’m quite seriously excited that pre-season football is beginning. Although, part of that is definitely because I like drinking beer—which we kind of pretend is an American thing—cough, cough rice water.)
Regardless, our country is getting enormously more out of shape as each year passes (honestly, no pun intended), and I can’t help wondering when we will stop watching sports and saying things like, “we won!” and start getting off of our duffs to go, ironically, kick a ball around or walk to the mail box (I’m talking to my neighbor because I literally have to drive up the hill to my house going 15 mph in case of a head-on collision while she stops roadside).
Again, moving on.
Well, actually, let’s not move on. Let’s dig into why the heck I decided to write this.
I love being an American; it’s not that I don’t.
I love it so much that I think we should probably wake up and smell the coffee (which is kind of American, in a Seattle-Starbucks type of way, huh?). So, yeah, let’s move on, but to something a little different—to what being an American should and could be.
We do have nice lawns, don’t get me wrong. I mean, not all of us do, but a lot of us. I’m just going to leave this one alone.
However, the melting pot could be real.
We could honor our differences and begin Spanish 101 in kindergarten instead of the seventh grade when most of us only care about how we look to the opposite sex and how much our parents annoy us. (You should probably go ahead and write to your congresspeople now. Tell them I sent you. It won’t mean anything, but it might if tons of people write in that Jennifer White sent me.)
But, seriously, I do love being American.
I love our time-honored traditions of serving the crappiest food possible in all of our nation-wide diners and I’m absolutely into the fact that I can vote and read nearly whatever I want, but I’m not that into baseball, because it’s boring.
So what did you learn from this blog?
Oh, crap, hold on.
Okay, let me cut to the chase: we have a plethora of amazing traditions.
We have worship houses for all of the religions out there, we always come together when something threatens to tear us apart, and the voting/reading thing really is cool.
More than this, though, we’ve supposedly shaped our morality around the concept that we have the power to grow and to change beyond our circumstances.
So while you might not care about fertilizer or grass, you should consider caring that we don’t have to settle for wanting our American melting pot to contain all grey faces who wave American flags and keep their “kiss me, I’m Polish” pins hidden. (You didn’t actually watch the video link, did you?)
Okay, maybe this article was about racism—not entirely, but mostly—and I promise you that it’s my first and my last one and not just because I’m white and opinionated but because my shtick is more helping you out with the getting off your duff part.
I guess I’ll leave you with a quote by someone who is a lot more qualified on this subject than I am—but, first, I’d also like to add on that a little bit of humor and open sharing can go a long way too:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: via @thisisveda on webstagram