Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Proud to be an American again”¦for a while

As a country, we can’t figure out what to think of ourselves. In our eyes, we’re either the best thing that’s ever happened to the world, or we’re a “sick fucking country,” as the movie Three Kings put it. When we think about the United States of America, it’s either this shining beacon of hope, freedom and liberty, or it’s the country that stole virtually all of its land from Native Americans, enslaved millions upon millions of Africans, turned a blind eye to the Holocaust and today self-righteously polices the world.

This divide is certainly physical, in one sense at least. It seems cliché to say this, but some people in America see this country less accurately than others: people, for instance, who are too blinded by dogmatic and hateful ideologies to assess themselves truthfully. At any given time, these people will tell you about all the great things president Bush is doing with our country, while others, taking a somewhat less “optimistic” stance, will tell you all about Guantanamo bay, the lies on which our war in Iraq was based, etc.

But this divide between our glassy-eyed, optimistic self-assessments and our dark brooding ones is more often a function of time. As a country, we look at ourselves both with Nixon’s pessimism and Kennedy’s optimism. We ride the highs and we dig the lows as the times and the presidents change, but it seems difficult for us to strike a balance between the two.

Why is this? Why can we just not seem to combine the good with the bad to produce an accurate, sober conception of this place called America?
Unsurprisingly, this has occurred to me just as a new and notoriously optimistic president has taken office. Obama’s election and inauguration has (especially at Whitman) radically transformed our self-image. On election night, I heard one too many people say, “I’m proud to be an American again.”

In just a few months, a country obsessed with self-criticism has become a country obsessed with the audacity of hope.

But last month, Seattle newspaper The Stranger printed an article called “Your 15 Minutes Are Up,” which listed predictions of “the people, institutions and ideas” they believe won’t make it through 2009. Second on the list: Obamamania.

“Aw, you’re a lefty who LOVES Barack Obama,” the article reads. “He’s your savior, you’re a cliché, and that doesn’t bother you a bit.”

The Stranger’s impulse to hold back a little, to not fall head-over-heels for Obama and optimism, is, I think, a prudent one. With Bush gone, it seems like everyone’s coming out as closet America-fans. We get a better president and all of the sudden we’re proud to be Americans again?

The difference between these two important men is great, and it should spark a huge ideological shift in America, but it should not change how a country perceives itself this much. Our president can change in a day, but our country and its shady history can’t.

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    Melissa NavarroFeb 6, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Very well-put, Connor. I’m glad I get to still read your pieces while I’m gone.
    Setting aside that silly controversy over Michelle Obama’s sudden pride to be an American last year, I really feel offended to see such overwhelming “pride” coming from the very people who hated this country (no, not just the former president). I hate to pull out the “Oh, I’m a second generation fill-in-the-blank” card but if some folks could seriously see what kinds of injustices occur in third world countries, they wouldn’t be as disgusted with America. If this country sucked so much, tell me why so many people are risking their lives to immigrate here. Because my parents sure as hell didn’t know then and don’t know now.
    The awful pieces of this nation’s past with haunt and stain its history forever. But give me one nation in the world that’s gotten it right. You’re putting human beings in charge of other human beings so unless you want robots running the place (please, GOD, no), imperfection will prevail. Guess what, America… Obama is one of those imperfect people. Don’t believe me? He admitted it the other day with regards to Anderson Cooper regarding Daschle. It was refreshing to hear a president say that, so some excitement and pride is warranted.
    This Obamania love affair is starting to wrap up the honeymoon phase a lot faster than most expected, as the Senate shows hesitation with the Stimulus Bill, questions have come about regarding some appointed picks, etc. But that’s part of the game. So are some Americans going to revert back to their original and uncalled for distaste for the country? Watch and wait. Until then, I’m proud and will always be proud to be an American.

    ugh. Sorry to drone. For some reason I get more opinionated when I’m bored.