Where At Least I Can Read Road Signs

Although Dave and I both have our pangs of Eurosickness as we adjust to being back in the States, I can honestly say that the timing of our reunion tour couldn’t be better. Here in the U.S. it’s a presidential election year (maybe you hadn’t heard?), an every-four-year event that even eclipses my excitement over the Olympics. And not only is it an election year, but it is perhaps the most hyped presidential election in my lifetime. There’s an element of media exaggeration, to be sure. There’s the black vs. white angle, the young vs. old angle, the anyone vs. Bush mentality. But it seems to be that many Americans all along the red-blue spectrum have faced facts and can see past the sadly superficial CNN coverage. There is a lot at stake, things aren’t going well. Younger voters are more motivated, women are anxious for change, pacifists and military (wo)men alike are looking for an end to the war.

The Democratic Convention has taken over my television viewing all week, replacing Cold Case Files and all the programming on the SciFi channel. I will expose my bias, as if it’s somehow hidden, and admit that I won’t be as absorbed in the Republican Convention. Sure, I’ll tune in, but mostly as preview for The Daily Show. And although I’m a Political Science degree-holder who loves to listen to the speeches, punch holes in the logic, and scream obscenities at the political commentators, I’m also a weepy suck who gets teary and sentimental and inspired and…proud.

Yes, I said it. I am proud to be an American. Being married to a Canadian and living abroad puts things into a bit of perspective, and you start to learn that words like patriotism and nationalism (seriously, what is with Canadians and their flag!?) have many meanings and nuanced definitions. It’s not better or worse to feel one way or another about your country. But as a person on the more liberal side of the spectrum, you sometimes find difficulty in expressing national pride without annoying hipster disdain. As American living abroad you often find yourself avoid the topic of nationality at all, let alone trying to explain in broken Dutch/German/Vietnamese that you can be proud and patriotic without accepting the actions of all of your countrymen or the positions taken by the executive branch. I have actually fielded questions such as “What you guys thinking electing George Bush…again?” or “Don’t you feel lucky that Dave is Canadian so you always have that to fall back on?” or “I’d lie about being American if I were you.” That last one isn’t even a question, but it felt implied that I should somehow answer! You may think me a coward for nodding and smiling through most of those rude exchanges, but in truth I am just never sure how to properly articulate my love and respect for a country that is struggling with some serious world-wide scrutiny. World-wide scrutiny that I agree with on the whole.

But I’m home now, and I’m in what might be called the Texas of California. The red part of a blue state. It might not be popular to roll around with an Obama bumper sticker (with Michigan plates), but being patriotic is all the rage. So I’m coming out with the masses, following the energy, and daring to be hopeful that in four years we call all hold our heads a little higher when verbally assaulted with America-disparaging remarks in some pub in Belgium. Or on the train in Austria. Or at a vegan potluck in Portland. I’m going to break the mold. You can believe in global warming, want universal healthcare, understand why we actually need taxes, oppose privitization of Social Security and have disdain previously unknown to mankind for Bill O’Reilly and still love your country. Love it enough to get out and vote. Love it enough to get goosebumps from applause for your candidate. Love it enough to wear an Uncle Sam hat on the Fourth of July, and you’re not even American!

Circa 2005. He’s a long-standing patriot.

3 thoughts on “Where At Least I Can Read Road Signs

  1. Exactly Nell! And if memory serves me, we were minding our business trying to find the darkest chocolate possible! Leave us ALONE random Australian and/or English man!

  2. Great post Lane! I agree – you can be unhappy with things about America and acknowledge it is far from perfect, but still be proud & patriotic. I am proud to be from a country where ordinary people do extraordinary things for each other, often for complete strangers.

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