Anyone who says they're 'always proud of America' is a liar or a fool. But today, I am terribly proud.
I supported Chris Dodd first. I figured that America might support a smart old white man over a stupid one. When he bowed out, I picked Hillary, because I thought America might be ready, finally, to support a woman for president. But her campaign sickened me. It's kitchen-sink insult and innuendo approach, its faux outrage, and its utter hypocrisy over issues like Michigan and Florida compelled me to switch to Obama.
I wasn't too enthusiastic, though. I felt he didn't have enough experience, but most of all, I felt he was unelectable. Oh god, another year when I'm gonna vote for a loser. Then my son gave me Dreams from my Father. I read it, and a fervor arose in me, slowly but surely. Here was an intelligent, humane, lovely man. And more importantly to me, here was a man who'd lived in the third world! This was the crux! This man, if elected, would be the first American president who had that perspective. He could help the American Empire die gracefully, learn to give up hegemeny, and to 'share and play well with others'. And I was more excited that he was 'multicultural' than 'black', because he so perfectly embodied the American ideal (never really achieved) of the 'melting pot' - he was all of us! But he still wasn't electable.
And so, I gave money, and prayed, and obsessed, and listend to all the lies, vitriol and boogie-man fear-mongering on the right.
Then I heard Michelle's ill-advised comment about 'finally being proud of my country', and cringed at the right-wing backlash. But I understood. I am a white, middle-aged American male, but I understood. To not understand is to have lived with your eyes willfully shut.
I have been proud of my country at times. I was (am) proud of the men and women who fought against the fascists in Spain. I was (am) proud of the fact that America has had so many great scientists, authors, artists, inventors, actors, choreographers and other creative souls. The fierce spirit of American independence has wrought that, has given us the highest per-capita ratio of Nobel Prize winners (and the dark inverse - of serial killers as well).
But I understood he being ashamed of this country. Unlike Cindy McCain, Sean Hannity etc. I was (am) deeply ashamed that thousands of Americans flocked to picnics, with their children, to watch lynchings. I was (am) ashamed that black men and women and their supporters, were met with dogs, fire hoses, truncheons and spittle as they strove for civil rights in apartheid America. I was (am) even more ashamed that some were murdered, merely for their ideas. I was (am) ashamed that American's gave smallpox-infected blankets to the native Americans to sicken them, that my own ancestor, Willian Claiborne, held the first American patent for (I kid you not) a 'native restraint device'). I was (am) ashamed that the School for the Americas taught Latin-Amrican military and paramilitary death squads how to torture, how to apply battery terminals to testicles, how to break men by forcing them to watch their wives and daughters raped.
And even now, I am ashamed of the kind of campaign McCain is running, of the media's slothful laziness, of the implacable racism of some Americans. I am ashamed of the idiots who keep stealing my Obama lawn signs. These 'patriots' who don't understand democracy, or free speech, or even property rights, and who believe in their heart of hearts that the ends always justify the means. They are dangerous. They are foolish. They are the brutish, incurious, anti-intellectual, 'my country right or wrong', 'don't confuse me with the truth' side of America - and don't kid yourself, I've seen them on the Left as well as the Right. The Right may have a surfeit of thugs, but by no means a monopoly.
But I am so, so, so proud of my country today, for proving me so wrong, for wrenching my middle-aged cynicism right out of my body, for showing that (to coin a phrase) 'Yes We CAN!' elect a multi-racial president. Yes We CAN take a step back from the policies of endless military agression, economic bullying, environmental terrorism, jingoistic saber-rattling and ever-greedy transfer of wealth from the people who built this country to those who preside over its economic and social dissolution.
YES, WE CAN! I was wrong, thank God! My country is bigger than I thought, better than I thought, a little bit saner than I thought. This is a karmic crossroads for America, where she either 'jumps the shark' by reflexively following the same fallow road of other dying empires, a road filled with misery and destruction, or she turns to another road, where she takes her place as a member of the world community, and abdicates her current reign as dying slavemaster.
God Bless you, America. You have made me so proud, and surprised the hell out of me too!