God and Country

It occurred to me, as I was slo-mo flouncing around this hotel room getting set up to write, being as quiet as possible because sleeping bugaboos and knocked-out Nick, that it would be pretty funny if I happened to start a blog at what happened to be the end of America and I happened not to ever really comment on it because I was scared to sound too dramatic, or speculate too pessimistically.  I mean, probably this is just a phase, right…?  We’ve never torn down all our statues before, but we can bounce back from that, yeah?

The thing I’m seeing is that it’s all a slippery slope, though.  My parents warned me about this as a matter of course, growing up.  It’s not whether any given thing is justified in the moment; it’s that, once you’ve accepted the necessity of a thing at any time, you may as well get ready to have it rammed down your throat all the time.  I don’t know why my parents were so smart.  I feel like I’m appreciating them more and more every day. 

Anyway, so COVID and the resulting lockdown (or do I have that backwards? lmao) was nothing if not a big fat slippery slope.  We start with an apparently transmissible virus and proceed to my boyfriend nearly getting a fine and misdemeanor for surfing, all by his fucking self, out in the ocean.  In fact the misdemeanor charge itself is surfing through America as the hot new punishment-for-no-crime reality we’re all becoming accustomed to — now entire areas are mask-mandatory, except for black people in Oregon, enforceable through misdemeanor charge, despite actual COVID deaths in those areas flatlining (no pun intended) or decreasing, which you’d never know from news headlines, AND the increasingly obvious fact that the data has been manipulated from the start to seem worse than it is.  So the mask is getting us accustomed to separation and control, and the misdemeanors are getting us accustomed to our new chronic police state, which will probably slippery slope its way right into public executions or some shit.  I’m kind of channeling the pessimism of my parents right now; I really hope I don’t actually believe this. 

And the thing with the statues — the jury’s been mostly out for me, on this one, with the exception of a headline about a potential Mothman statue being put in place of the other one, in like West Virginia, was it?  I got pretty excited.  I’d love a nation full of just weird as fuck statuary homages to my favorite sci fi books, shows, and movies.  I mean, if this could all just swing really hard in a nerd direction, that would be great.  Nerds have always been the most inclusive, excluded, surprise!-we’re-cool-now group.  And sci fi universe characters and figures represent histories as battle scarred as our own, but like on a galactic level — we could tear down statues of slavers and abolitionists alike and put up some kind of statue representing centuries of laser warfare in space, pew pew!

So yeah, other than the prospective Mothman statue, the slippery slope got going here, again.  It started with statues that totally made sense and then just went from there.  I was reading someone’s blog defending the destruction of the Ulysses S. Grant statue, and it said “you can’t expect every activist, in the heat of the moment, to know every detail about history —”  I was peeing in the Walmart stall when I read this on my phone and scurried back out to where Nick was standing with our cart, post haste, to read it out loud to him, because it was so funny.  Nick quipped, “Or any detail about history.”

We demobed off our most recent fire and it was pretty busy, getting ourselves outta there, over here, doing a barbell workout in the parking lot at 10pm because Nick can’t miss leg day, and so I’m a little behind on my news right now but I think we’ve moved on to tearing down stuff specifically dedicated to the emancipation of slaves in the US.  I did see a funny headline — Nancy Pelosi pontificated about the ideological filth these statues represent, and then Mark Levin was like, “why weren’t you offended by them for the last 30 years, then?”  Last I heard, the CHAZ/CHOP was getting dismantled, but not before they’d segregated off a black section, ransacked the mayor’s house, their up-to-then ally, and killed a couple of their own folks.  And of course there’s the brand controversy that started with Land O Lakes butter, earlier this spring, and now bloomed into scrutiny of Aunt Jemima on boxes of pancake mix, and Uncle Ben on boxes of rice.  Then, typical of the mandatory slippery slope, it ended up, last I heard, with a monkey in a ball cap on a cereal box being changed?  I saw a picture of it and it was, like, very clearly a cartoon monkey in a ball cap.  I thought: holy shit, if you see this picture and think of a black person, you’re most definitely the problem.  

Anyway, that’s what I mean about the slippery slope — it starts somewhere kinda sorta reasonable and then, by the time it’s blown past all intelligibility, it has the speed and power of a freight train going downhill — like, we’re not even interested in stopping it.  Mandatory masks in Oregon except for black people.  I spent enough time in academia and I have enough friends that can do these kinds of psychological acrobatics that, when I read these articles, I can actually feel the space of that thought process.  It’s not, like, totally foreign to me.

My natural attitudes and reactions to all this stuff keep reinforcing a place on the political spectrum that, honest to god, I’m not even trying to occupy — it’s just happening.  

Anyway, I didn’t wake up early with a sore, aching body from long long days and parking lot barbell workouts to talk about all that, or not much anyway.  I am going to write instead, but with the above as context, about that most boring, dumb, un-cool, and eye rolling subject: patriotism.  Yep, it’s come to this.

Patriotism, by Hannah Pralle:

Okay, if there’s one dumb thing I’ve always known was dumb, it’s people rooting for one sports team to win, and another sports team to lose, based on where they themselves live, and that alone.  Like: whatever combination of events and circumstances put me on the map right here, this is my team, and they are always good, and I always want them to win, and I will experience actual fluctuations of emotion based on their advancement or defeat.  

This is a head scratcher for me, and I always excuse myself by saying I was born without the requisite sports chromosome.  But on the other hand, why not.  We get invested in all kinds of other stuff due to sheer physical/geographical proximity.  I mean, we carry on lifelong friendships, even marry people, just because circumstances put us together often enough for long enough when we’re young enough.  

So I guess I can acknowledge that physical proximity is a driver for many things, but as a kid who moved around a lot, from house to house and school to school, I’m more likely to disinvest in my immediate surroundings as a default.

I was in a school play valorizing Kit Carson, as a second grader in Oklahoma, and I still remember the dumb little song we sang: “Kit Carson, your name rings strong and true — Kit Carson, we’ll always remember you.”  Then, in sixth grade we moved to Canyon de Chelly, on the Navajo reservation, and at some point I made the connection that this is where all that Kit Carson shit went down.  He murdered men, women, and children, burned orchards, and salted wells.  The people who were left really needed those wells.  It was an early, but powerful, lesson in perspective, and what it means for history to be written by and for the winners.    

Of course, I was already vegetarian, had been since about first grade or so, and the oblique racism of the reservation was actually a relief in this regard.  In Oklahoma, I had been treated as if I was spitting in the face of Jesus Christ himself, just by asking for double green beans and no meatloaf, at school lunch.  On the Rez, if I asked for no meat on my Navajo taco, the big ole Navajo lunch ladies just shrugged, like — whatever.  She’s white, what can you expect.

I think my early vegetarianism helped me to disinvest in my immediate surroundings and the beliefs common to those communities I found myself within, because I was an alien, everywhere, and not even trying to “fit in” in that regard.  As I got older, into my teens, I was like “get a load of these white people,” right alongside my Navajo peers, because they’d blow into the Thriftway and the visitor’s center where I held my first job like wide-eyed tumbleweeds, looking for evidence of native magic.  White people had loud body language, zero situational awareness, and they made, and also needed, everything so painfully overt and obvious.  They had no chill, they had no circumspection.  White people were like neon signs, compared to what I was used to.  

Racism, if I observed it, was more complex than that.  Like one time, me and a bunch of my friends piled into the 1979 Ford F-150 I’d bought with my summer earnings as a seasonal park ranger — the only job I could get on the Rez, because of Navajo hiring preference — and drove to Gallup, 100 miles away.  They refused to serve us at a restaurant because we were (mostly) native, and the hantavirus outbreak had recently occurred.  The hantavirus would actually fill your lungs with water and kill you, so on one level I was like “okay that’s warranted” and on the other level I was like, if we weren’t (mostly) native — like if I’d come in here myself — you would have never known to discriminate against me because of an association with the hantavirus.

To the extent my Navajo friends did experience racism, off-Rez, they weren’t too concerned by it because their physical and cultural reality was fully fleshed out for them, and whoever didn’t want to get with the program was just another crazy bilagaana.  I cringed on behalf of my Navajo friends, at times, relative to the wide-eyed tumbleweed white people looking for native magic, but I also cringed on behalf of the white servers and cashiers, etc, around my native friends sometimes, because we would be so — unconsciously? — rude.  I shifted gears pretty easily, from Rez me to white me — you know, just saying basic shit like please and thank you and how are you, stuff like that, to regular white people, but returning to the rezzier way of doing things comfortably too.  Less small talk, more staring off in the distance and inserting really oblique jokes here and there, with a minimum of body language.  

I didn’t really think about all this, it was just natural.  I was aware, by this time, that legitimate atrocities had occurred, to natives, at the hands of white folks, but no one held this against me personally, and Navajos are nothing if not present-minded.  I felt really offended at all the white people coming to the Rez and saying things like, “There’s nothing out here!”  I was like, what do you mean?  Everything’s out here.  Looking at the same painted desert horizons, I saw what I was used to, and had no understanding of what they were used to.  Maybe it was just because we were young, but my differences — as a white kid, as a vegetarian, as a reader of books when hardly anyone around me read — were totally okay, either intelligible to any given person or not, and it was just my job to read the context of where I was and fit in, if I wanted to be able to hang.  

I really didn’t like gender stuff on the Rez, which I didn’t even have a conceptual vocabulary for, yet. It’s a matriarchal lineage, so I found boys and men to be more passive than I’d prefer — like, if I don’t get up the gumption to ask someone to prom, it’s just not going to happen because why would it — and then my early instincts towards femininity fell flat, there, where you’re not supposed to sexualize yourself, as a woman. If white America represents this race to self-sexualize, for women, and the Rez represents this place where any moves in that direction are obliquely, but quite clearly, socially sanctioned, then I felt a little stuck. I wasn’t Navajo so it wasn’t clear how much of the rationale for any of it would apply to me over time (ie, what do I get out of this? — I’m not gonna be standing up at the chapter house delivering my long-winded opinion on something in twenty years, buttressed by the community’s knowledge of my utter lack of self-sexualization since time immemorial).

You might ask, why would a young woman want to sexualize herself anyway, especially if she has the good luck to grow up in a community where that’s not even an advantage?  Well, I don’t know — I’ve been exploring this question for a long time.  I think we’ve constructed this unfortunate either/or culture for women, where you either get to be sexual/ized, or you get to be [everything else], but not both.  I’ve never been interested in disowning one thing for the other.  And just to be clear, I’m talking about stuff as simple as wearing pretty dresses and nice heels — yep, that’s controversial on the Rez.  

Okay, that was a little off-topic, but getting back on track: I got a little older, joined the military, and realized that the military is a club wielded by the powerful.  It has an internal moral compass, relative to its own members — the military was one of the first entities to really handle its own issues with sexual harassment, for instance, unlike corporations who just buried it for decades longer — but no outward-facing moral compass per se.  The military is not a democracy, it’s just the armed arm of democracy, to the extent you believe that to be our system of governance.  

The term “democracy” has always been hazy and abstract for me, because this is not my area of thinking expertise.  I mean, I’d assume it would translate to a one-to-one vote system, but we have the electoral college, and then every four years we have this presidential election dumpster fire, and I’m not even sure we need a president, and I’ve never lived in any other system than this one, so I’m just — not a great person to comment.  Anyway, to whatever extent this is a democracy, the military isn’t — that’s the takeaway.  

So I kind of got a sense of how strategic it can be, in the Armed Forces, to specifically *not* think too clearly about what the mission is and why.  I mean, you’re there, faced with it, and the entire hierarchy exists to keep your weapons pointed in a unified direction.  You’re getting something out of it — namely, a fucking job, with a paycheck, and that’s no small thing.  We haven’t drafted since Vietnam — what a horror; I used to have nightmares about my brother getting drafted, until we were both too old thank god — but like my dad’s always said, we don’t need a draft; we have an economic draft.  The poor kids enlist, the rich kids go to West Point, and the really rich kids don’t have to fuck with that, period.  

So it was kind of a sad, but coming-of-age moment, to realize that all these military guys like Kit Carson we venerated in elementary school, spit at the memory of, on the Rez, and have nationally dropped like an ideological hot potato, for the most part, were pretty much just like the rest of us — poor sons-a-bitches (as my dad would say, lol) who saddled up as hired guns and just tried to squint real hard at the ugliness of it all.  

Back to the military, boot camp specifically, that’s the first time I was ever around black people.  I was 21 and still reconciling my whiteness with my Rez roots, mostly operating on the famous Navajo dead-pan, learned early, and which benefitted me immensely in a military environment.  The black girls in my platoon, and with whom I shared a barracks, were — well, if white girls in college and boot camp seemed like neon signs, to me, black girls seemed like a whole parade going by, with drums and trumpets.  I just couldn’t imagine throwing my energy around that way; they were always ‘on’, on some level I didn’t even know people could be ‘on’, and they were on in every direction.  I was like “oooh, don’t do that!  We’ll all get in trouble!”  Like barely-controllable bottle rockets or something.  

Conversely, all our drill sergeants were forces of nature, obviously, but our two black female drills were like absolutely controlled, focused hurricanes.  They were so strong, so beautiful, so heartless, so fair, and so terrifying — Sgt. Williams, this one drill, with her robot-perfect hair and her immaculate uniform, just herded us with all the ease of a sheep dog with sheep, and any deviation or infraction would provoke the type of treble-squeal from her — not in a weak female way, but in a guitar amplifier overloading kind of way, Hendrix style, that on this primordial level made everyone get extra focused on the ground six feet in front of them, and extra focused on having every limb, every finger, right where it’s supposed to be.  It seemed to me like black girls in boot camp needed extra tall guard rails, and black drills, in boot camp, lived and breathed to be those guardrails, above and beyond any bullshit anyone might think to offer.  Shutting the fuck up and doing whatever I was supposed to be doing was absolutely the order of the day, for me.  

We didn’t have any natives in my cycle, incidentally, although lots of Navajos pursue military service and are commended by it, in their communities.  We did have an Asian gal, who was just as all-American as could be, and she and I became good friends — we had compatible levels of on-ness, let’s say — but probably the gals I got along with most easily were the Hispanic/central-American indigenous types.  They seemed most like Navajos to me, in terms of easy, unspoken intelligibility.  The white girls were a mixed bag, from pathetic to totally solid.  I had to do extra fireguard shifts with one of my favorite pragmatic white girls, several nights in a row, thanks to one of our most problematic, wan, white girls, who tried to kill herself by drinking a bunch of CLP (clean, lubricate, protect fluid for our M-16’s), imagining herself to be some kind of camo-clad Ophelia I can only imagine.  She had to sleep under constant supervision in this big stupid bed we had to move downstairs, outside the drill’s overnight quarters, ostensibly so she wouldn’t try to kill herself again but practically so that she’d know we were all suffering with even less sleep than usual thanks to her being a weak link.  I mean, who goes to boot camp to commit suicide?  Do that shit on your own time.

Anyway, the military was a bigger “melting pot” than any I’d experienced thus far, and my Guard unit was a great way to rub elbows with all kinds of people, of all races, ages, and backgrounds, for the next six years.  When I was 22, I got my CDL and went over-the-road trucking.  That was very male-dominated and more “redneck”, at that time, than it is now — trucking has become a great way for immigrant men, specifically, to get a leg up in the US and more power to them.  I helped my Libyan friend get his CDL, years later, and he’s managed to fund his entire family’s wellbeing, back in Tripoli, on his earnings since day one.  

I’d never actually seen anyone wear a hat with a Confederate flag.  I remember getting cornered by some old guy, while I was perched on my engine block and washing my windshield at a Waffle House parking lot in Georgia, warning me about “these niggers” around here.  I was beyond shocked — I had no idea anyone used that word, let alone conversationally, and of course had had perfectly benign engagements with drivers and dock workers of all colors, by now.  I felt trapped, for a while, up on my engine block while he pontificated, and then eventually I just hopped down, forcing him from where he’d been leaning against my quarter panel, and went around front to shut my hood.  He was still on about something, and I wasn’t trying to be rude but I just kind of saddled up and said, “Okay man, I gotta go.”  I’ll thump my tires at the next rest stop, I thought, grabbing gears all the way out.  

I picked up carpet in Georgia quite a bit, for that job, and became a little more accustomed to these bizarre, easy-going, conversational bigots, but I also loved the treatment I received as a woman in the South.  I’m from the Southwest, from a matrilineal pocket of not-the-US, really, and so I’d never been called “ma’am” or had doors held open for me or hats doffed or deferential gestures at all, and I was like: wow, you racists really know how to treat a woman!  Lol.  

Anyway, I got out and experienced my world, my country, as much as I was able, coming from the socioeconomic class I did, and of course never stopped reading books.  All sci-fi, mind you — I’ll take Mothman any day over some dumb ass murder mystery.

I did six years in the Army Guard and another almost-six in the Air Guard.  I say “almost” because one day I just left and never came back, because it was stupid.  They trained me for two years in a medical skill, dissolved that medical specialty at the reservist level as soon as I graduated, forced me to do piss tests for two more years instead, stopped paying my hotel room even though I had to travel out of town for drill, and I just generally fell through the cracks.  One day I went out to nap in my car, having nothing better to do, and I decided to drive to Starbucks.  I didn’t even have a supervisor, or an actual chain of command really.  I was in total limbo, trained for a non-existent job.  I drove towards Starbucks but then saw the interstate on ramp, and thought, hey — I’ll just take that.  And then I drove all the way back home.  And then I just never went back.  I emailed my commander to that effect, they demoted me twice and then honorably discharged me.  

These are my credentials to speak out about patriotism lmaooooo.  

Just to be clear, I was reasonably badass in my Army enlistment — the one where I actually had a job and a chain of command? — I always had good PT scores, took on additional duties, traveled and competed a bunch with the marksmanship team, was active on the Color Guard detail where you do this and that with the flag at military funerals, competed in the Bataan Memorial Death March five years in a row, and was extra great at my motor-T job because I’d given myself the challenge and opportunity of driving commercially, coast to coast.  So, I was great.  The Air Guard enlistment, not so much.  Fuck those people, they were a mess.  They deserved my AWOL, frankly.  Oh, and they enlisted me with the promise of student loan repayment, and then recanted.  I couldn’t care less about that second enlistment, which is what I told my commander in that email.  

So then, and overlappingly, academia.  Let’s talk about intersectionality, for a second.  That’s where you kind of look at let’s say women’s experience relative to literature, or art, or whatever, and then say, well it’s extra rich to look at women of color, specifically, or trans women of color, or whatever intersection.  There are practically speaking unlimited intersections we can look at, all of them interesting.  I found the obscured vegetarianism of otherwise famous people, throughout history, quite compelling.  Since we don’t really have a “capture” for that basket of thoughts, it’s been mostly discarded.  Even biographies of some of history’s biggest names have failed to mention their strong vegetarian convictions, because that fell on deaf ears then and it still falls on deaf ears, now.  If I’d stayed in academia, I would have loved to focus on that, bringing it more to the front.  But I didn’t — I went back to being a truck driving mercenary focused on the intersection of freedom and income.  

Anyway, intersectionality is fascinating, there’s nothing wrong with looking at it, and it’s a natural reversal of the “assimilation” mindset that pervaded American sensibilities for so long.  Like creation and evolution, I don’t personally understand why the two would need to be at odds in the first place.  Like me on the Rez: of course my experience was unique, as a white female vegetarian.  That’s interesting, and made me who I am today, and no one can deny its validity.  And of course assimilation was relevant — what am I gonna do, go there and demand a reboot of my second grade school play about Kit Carson?  Fuck no.  I’m gonna go there and get teased for wearing the fringed moccasins my mom bought me in Taos, on the drive out, and realize that “assimilating” myself into dominant native culture is something you do moment by moment, decision by decision.  

Assimilation can be really ugly.  The generation before mine, on the Rez, was comprised of people forced to leave home for distant boarding schools were kids were punished quite severely for speaking their own language.  This has resulted in a sad state of affairs where grandchildren cannot communicate with their own grandparents because the generation in between, the parents, had their connection with bilingualism broken, forcibly.  

I’ve got to come to some kind of a point, here, because it’s a blog, not a treatise.  Okay, so patriotism: here are my thoughts.  I retain as much skepticism (or I think I do?) of any given nation, just because I happen to live here, as I would be of any given sports team, just because my town flies those colors.  I mean, what a roll of the dice, to be born here — it’s just random.  

I’ve been banging around in the world as much as I’ve been able, functioning around many “intersecting” demographics from a young age, and I haven’t found much to be up in arms about, long term.  I’m recently informed that this is due to my white frailty, so of course how could I know otherwise — I’m skeptical of race-based dismissal generally, but on the other hand I’ve met some really oblivious white people, crashing around in the world like they own it and like it’s everyone else’s onus to render the self intelligible to them, so I can’t say I don’t get it.

I don’t see how we can get square with anything without talking about it, and race is a thing we need to get square with.  We’re here, on survival island, so what else are we gonna do.  Just like in the macrocosm of my relationship — shit’s been fucked up and we had to talk about it, but there was a point where talking about it didn’t advance the ball any more.  We had to either be in, or be out, and being in meant letting go of the old stuff and allowing new subjects to be what we increasingly talk about.  Obviously I get that the point of the national dialogue we’re having right now is that bunch of people aren’t in, didn’t want to be in, don’t want to be in, and we’re asking ourselves what that means.  

What it means is that patriotism is, actually, the question — is it worth it?  For me — and I can’t believe I’m having to say this, as a person with a high degree of irreverence for all flavors of Kool Aid — it is worth it.  It’s worth it to say: there’s a lot of good here to salvage, amidst all the barbarism.  There’s an idea here worth perpetuating, and certainly fine-tuning.  We’re so collectively mad at the people who advanced this idea of America, since they were so enmeshed with other, lesser, outdated ideas at the same time.  But I think of ideas sort of like corporations — individuals within them live and die and embarrass themselves or distinguish themselves, but no individual is “bad” enough to take down a really good idea.  They can take themselves and those around them down, but still make a meaningful contribution to this idea.  Just like the idea of mercy towards animals — many, many rich people, poor people, famous people, obscure people, no-name people like me, have made our little contribution to the beautiful idea of mercy towards animals.  Just because there’s no frame, yet, for that particular cross stitch, doesn’t mean it’s not worth stitching away at.  

Meat eaters are always like “Hitler was a vegetarian, you know.”  I haven’t even bothered to Google this, because I don’t care — if Hitler was a vegetarian, then good for him.  I think we all know that animals are the best people on the planet, although perhaps no one but him has taken that as some kind of invitation for ethnic cleansing, for fuck’s sake, if that’s even true.  I mean, if anyone could take down a good idea with their bad practices, it would be Hitler, right?  But it’s still worth soldiering on for.

I think the CHAZ is/was a perfect example of how easy it seems, to dispense with the problematic momentum of a society, with the assumption it can be handily improved upon, but then — pikachu face — fail to improve on it.  On a personal level, no one’s been quicker to rage-quit things, people, jobs, than me, assuming I can recreate something better.  Age and wisdom has taught me to take a good hard look at the baby I’m considering throwing out with the bathwater.  The things that are wrong didn’t get that way overnight, and they’re not going to reverse overnight either.  The inertia is depressing, but it’s just like the inertia of being overweight — there are no quick fixes.  If it’s quick, it ain’t good, because what’s at issue is not a physical state of being, it’s an entire way of existing in reality and making decisions from moment to moment.  

I’m a staunch advocate of taking regular inventory of beliefs.  Just because they’re there doesn’t mean they’re worth keeping.  Prune out the limiting ones, nurture the ones that enhance wellbeing.  Financial scarcity is a limiting belief I’ve been pruning back — that reflex, to look at someone with financial abundance and to interpret it as a detriment to my own abundance.  That one’s deep.  

American patriotism is a belief I’m personally moving to the “save” pile.  I’m not dogmatic about it.  It’s not that I don’t see the other side.  It’s not that I can’t imagine a different choice.  I just think it’s more helpful to keep.  

I lived with a bunch of lesbians in college, in a house we called “the maxi pad”, where even lesbians who didn’t live would accordingly congregate, and hanging out with all those lesbians was one of the funnest times of my life.  I really learned to take all this femininity stuff with a grain of salt, while at the same time appreciating that I really do have a natural feminine bent, and that that’s just okay.  The lesbians wanted to borrow my National Guard BDU’s (my camo uniforms) for Halloween, one year, and go out to the bars, and do something inappropriate with an American flag — I forget what it was, like rip it up and wear it like a bra or something, I forget.  I was like: no.  

I don’t get all teary eyed for veterans, even though I technically am one — as the armed arm of our ostensible democracy, with its economic draft and its global power grabs and its occasionally inspiring, often ugly interface with people in other parts of the world, veterans are just a cog in the wheel of a thing we like to hold up, like Kit Carson, or look down on, like bad cops.  The best thing I can say about the military is that it’s comprised of some real git ‘er done folks, of all ages, races, and backgrounds, and I really loved coming together with them when I had the opportunity to do so.  They’re a real patchwork quilt, and no more or less diverse or problematic than the project of our mixed-race nation.  I’ve met some pretty kickass lesbians in the Armed Forces, matter of fact — one of them a full bird Colonel who was a chaplain.  That’s like, alpha lesbian right there.  Anyway, the lesbians didn’t mean any harm; they were all tough as nails trail-crew type gals, and I respected them immensely.  I just didn’t want them to use and abuse my BDU’s, let alone an American flag.  There’s some stuff you just don’t mess with — not because it’s sacred in itself, but because to the extent we honor that, we honor ourselves.  

Older nations than us have had their rise and fall, and maybe we will too, and maybe some day I’ll experience something that makes me say: naw.  Burn it down.  But that day is not today, and as random as patriotism is — sometimes we fall in love and marry people, only because they sat at the desk next to ours.  We have the power to make this a love story yet.                                               

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