I love the First Amendment. I love freedom of speech, assembly, religion. I love the fact that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster could petition the Kansas board of education and request that their alternative theory of intelligent design, that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster, also be taught in Kansas schools, and that they got a respectful hearing.
I love our heroes of the past. Like Abby Hoffman, Frank Zappa, Lenny Bruce, Hunter S. Thompson. Michael Stipe and the B-52s and the music of Athens, Georgia and Seattle, and LA and Provo.
I love Richard Pryor, and Chris Rock and George Carlin, and the words you can’t say on TV. I love a country that could produce the Smothers Brothers and Lucille Ball and Stephen Colbert.
I love the fact that a hippie named Leon Varjian ran for mayor of Bloomington Indiana when I has in high school, and almost won. I love the guy in my old ward who ran for President every four years, on the platform that we need to get the CIA to tell us the truth about the space aliens. I love the fact that he would almost certainly be a better President than Sarah Palin. I love, though, that she’s a serious and viable candidate. Also that Newt Gingrich can suggest that we colonize the moon and everyone in the media wondered stuff like ‘which demographic is he trying to appeal to’ instead of ‘is he kidding?’
I love Harvey Milk. I love Mo Udall. I love Bobby Kennedy. I love a country that can produce a Martin Luther King. I love every single word Taylor Branch wrote about him, and Malcolm X, and the entire amazing movement.
I love Rachel Maddow. I love Jon Stewart. I love Glen Beck, with his chalkboard and all those tears, and the idea that someone so clearly off his meds can be taken seriously as a political commentator.
I love the fact that a fast food restaurant chain can pile fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, gravy, and cheese in a bowl, and call it a meal. I love the fact that in Provo, a restaurant called Fuddruckers thrived for awhile because they made a damn fine hamburger. I love a country where fine dining means Appleby’s, or Macaroni Grill.
I love the fact that our founding document says our purpose is to pursue happiness. I love that we built a country on that premise, the rights of people to have fun. Building hot rods, or fly fishing, or eating hot dogs competitively, or wine snobbery, or avant-garde art. Pursue happiness.
I love the fact that we named two continents after a small-town pimp and conman named Amerigo Vespucci, because he wasn’t a half-bad navigator, and a really good self-promoter. I love that we also call our continent “Columbia” after a religious fanatic who was also a fabulously talented sailor.
The Flag’s a piece of cloth. The Pledge’s thinly disguised propaganda. The Anthem’s a war song, from a battle that didn’t matter, in a war we lost, on which we were anyway fighting on the wrong side. America is Woody Guthrie singing ‘this land is your land, this land is my land.’ America is Sinatra singing New York New York, or Jay-Z singing New York State of Mind, or Lynyrd Skynyrd singing Sweet Home Alabama, even though they were wrong, and Neil Young was right, about Alabama. America is Aimee Mann singing Wise Up. It’s Gangsta’s Paradise. It’s Andy Kaufman, and REM’s song about Andy Kaufman, and Jim Carrey’s movie about Andy Kaufman.
I love the fact that John Lennon moved here and became a football fan. I love that Mario Andretti moved here and won the Indy 500. I love a country where an Austrian body-builder can move here and become a movie star and governor of California and married to a Kennedy. I love the fact that my father, a Norwegian sheet metal worker, could become an opera star and locally famous singer of our National Anthem (though I’m not wild about that song.)
I love the San Francisco Giants, a baseball team built on wonderful pitchers, each with his own wildly idiosyncratic facial hair, except for their best pitcher, who has wildly idiosyncratic hair on his head. I also love that, in the midst of appalling racism, the same town in the south could produce Henry Aaron and Willie McCovey. Above all, I love Willie Mays and Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonds and The Kung-Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval.
I love Scorcese movies and Quentin Tarantino movies and the vulgar poetry of David Mamet. I love Wes Anderson, and Paul Thomas Anderson, love Magnolia and There Will Be Blood and Fantastic Mr. Fox. I love the Coen Brothers and the Wachowski brothers even though one of them’s not a brother anymore and the Duplass brothers, and the fact that they’re going to make ten great movies over the next twenty years, with budgets and stars and Hollywood marketing, and their best movie will still be The Puffy Chair.
I love our cross dressers and our weightlifters and high school football coaches and kids who sing on cruise ships. I love the fact that in New York City there’s a little shop that only sells tee shirts with the F word on them. I love the fact that someone decided to put a Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City Utah, and someone else decided to build a little town, Branson Missouri, entirely on variety shows. I love our nuts and our weirdos and eccentrics.
I love America.