My husband, being the cynical Brit that he is, wonders about the American patriotic arrogance. He wonders why there is an American flag outside every home and building. What is our deal with the flag? I didn’t know we were arrogant (and I bet a lot of us don’t notice) because I’ve never lived anywhere else in the world, but he tells me that other countries don’t act like we do. In fact, other countries hate us for the way we are. Or at the very least, have no respect for us.
Oprah did a show last week (and again, you know I’ll believe anything Oprah tells me) about the lives of 30 year-old women around the world. All my life I’ve been told that America is the best place to live in the whole world. That is what they teach us in school, that we’re smarter and richer and better off than any other people. Of course because of this, I’m always a little surprised to find out that women in other parts of the world really don’t have it that bad. People in Kuwait get a free college education through their Bachelors degree, and couples get a wedding gift of $12,000 from the government. People in France have an enforced 35-hour work week and five weeks of mandatory paid vacation. They take two-hour lunch breaks and naps in the afternoon. Can you imagine forcing some American caffeinated corporate drone to stop for five seconds and breathe?
There are trade-offs, I’m sure. Every country has its good and its bad. And there are some awful places to live, I’m sure. But in other countries, great countries, the people don’t have their flags on their cars and homes, or write songs about how they’re proud to be Canadian or Australian or French or whatever. They just don’t, and they all think it’s weird that we do. The rest of the world thinks that Americans are self-centered, arrogant, fat, lazy, and we work too much. They are not envious of us – not at all.
So let’s entertain the idea that maybe America isn’t the best of all places in the world to live. “I’m proud to be an American ’cause at least I know I’m free…” A lot of places in the world are free. Really, they are. And their governments give them free health care, paid vacations, and a college education too. What if America isn’t the very best place in the world to live? Is it a sin, a crime to even consider that? Sure, America is a fine place to live, but why can’t we admit that there are other nice places too?
So Jim asked me this morning what was our deal with the American flag? I didn’t know. I thought about it, and it took me a long while to even realize, to remember, that I learned the Pledge of Allegiance when I was five. We had an American flag in every single classroom and we all stood around it every morning to recite the pledge.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Tell me, what does that mean to a five year-old? When I was five, nine, twelve, I didn’t pledge my allegiance to anything except Barbie dolls, riding my bike, swimming in my pool, and cute boys. And now that I’m twenty-four, and I know and understand that pledge, I don’t say it anymore. Not out of spite or anything – I just don’t say it. It’s not a concern to me. Think about when the last time you said the pledge was?
People are offended that their children have to say “Under God” in school – well, I’m offended that children have to say any of it at all. I don’t want my five year-old being forced to pledge his allegiance to anything.
So if the rest of the world wants to know why Americans are so flag-obsessed, so arrogant – it is because we have been brainwashed to be so. Am I proud to be an American? I don’t know recently. I am growing more and more shameful to be an American the older I get, the longer we have Bush in office.
I am, however, proud to be me. And I would be the same me regardless of which country I was born in.