Trout Fisting In America #19 – The 4th of July

Patriotism is the first refuge of a fascist and all that, but for all the ranting & bile in this weekly column, I need to be clear about something. You don’t write something like Trout Fisting In America because you hate America, and you especially don’t write it because you have the American people. You write it because you love America, and especially the American people, and you want it to live up to its fucking ideals for once in its goddamn existence.

It’s my fault for being born near Boston, Massachusetts a few years before the bicentennial. My parents, at that time still attempting to be good parents, took me to walk the Freedom Trail, to see the Tall Ships. My birthday cake that year was shaped like one of those drums you see in Revolutionary War paintings and decorate red, white, & blue. The night before I started preschool I stayed up reading my US history books because I wanted to be ready for school (for someone who gets called cynical so much, I’ve got an idealistically naive side you wouldn’t believe—I repeated that mistake the summer before I started college by not only reading the copy of Heart of Darkness they sent us to discuss during freshman orientation, but taking detailed notes [I was 26 years old, first person in my family to go to college, and as such actually glad to be there]).

The point being is that I bought into American exceptionalism at an early age. I believed in the myths. Even today I can’t help believing, as Melville wrote, that ‘the Declaration of Independence’ makes a difference, that there’s a power in condemning tyranny & injustice, not only as immoral, but as unamerican. And while there’s a danger in that kind of thinking—the subtle implication that human rights abuses are less offensive when they happen in other countries—it’s the source of my anger, my disappointment, and ultimately it’s the source of my hope. The Declaration of Independence was a radical document in 1776, and it’s still radical today (most of it’s even written in iambic pentameter), to the point where I don’t think Jefferson had any idea how many people would look to it for their liberation. The country was rooted in slavery, and genocide, and misogyny, and the freedoms in the Declaration were assumed to be for white rich landowners, and yet…

And yet it’s the foundation of every subsequent freedom that’s been won by its citizens—from women’s suffrage, to worker’s rights, to civil rights. The intentions of the  Founding Fathers Inc. were rooted in self-interest and greed, but they forgot to close the door behind them.

On this day the 4th of July, a day that happens to be my son’s birthday, I take time to reflect on all the things I love about this country. I reflect on how good it felt to come back here after touring Europe for several weeks. As Chuck Berry sang, anything you want they got it right here in the USA, and Chuck should know. America made him rich & famous, America barred him from restaurants & hotels because he was black, and America sent his ass to jail for, essentially, being a successful black man.

But then there’s a hint of Stockhom Syndrome behind any form of patriotism, a relationship between citizen and country not unlike the relationship between a victim and an abuser. You look at the good qualities and hope for a better future. You believe they can change. You believe you can appeal to their better instincts because they say they want to be better.

It’s important to draw a distinction between the American people and the American government. No matter which party is in power, they like to hide behind ‘America,’ as if criticizing them were the same thing as criticizing the country, or the people who live there. America is not Mitch McConnell or Barack Obama, and it damn sure isn’t the Air Force. America is the people who live there. Those other people are just employees. They flip the script on us so we’ll think they’re in charge when actually they’re just overpaid employees who are robbing us blind. The fact is most Americans overwhelmingly support free universal healthcare, reproductive rights, and non-discriminatory policies. They believe everyone should be paid a living wage and there should be safety nets for the less fortunate. They believe public education should be free and well-funded and that we should only go to war as a last resort.

And they believe Wall Street should be bombed off the face of the fucking earth and every CEO should commit hari-kari.

I don’t have any statistics to back up that last assertion, but I feel I could get elected senator on that platform.

Anyway, I guess I’m saying that you could take 535 average Americans off the street and put them in Congress and they would do a better job than a Harvard-educated elite like Ted Cruz. That is what gives me hope. And on this day at least, even as the republican party is working to deny people their right to vote, and what could be more unamerican than that (unamerican as an idea, not as a historical fact), I recognize that things have the potential to get better. There is power in a union. If people are able to stick together despite the forces seeking to drive us apart, we can create a fairer, more just society for everyone. I’m not sure when, or if, that’s ever going to happen—and most days lately it seems likelier that we will slide even further under the power of authoritarianism; a govt. that doesn’t represent its citizens, and a police-state that obliterates whatever freedoms we are supposed to possess—but the potential is there.

Because a revolution without moments of hope—for a better future, for its own success—is a revolution with a corpse in its mouth. And because the only alternative is giving up.

 

Trout Fisting In America appears here every Tuesday. We’re going to keep going until we reach #50, or until the Trout begs for mercy. Check out previous installments HERE.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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