It's very late and I would like to sleep, but my brain won't turn off. Because I was thinking about two things, and at least one will end up in this post. Maybe both of them. That would be ideal.
You know how in high school every kid is known for something that is either positive or negative? And I don't mean positive or negative in the traditional sense of good vs. bad, but rather like positive vs. negative politeness: doing something vs. NOT doing something, HAVING a certain attribute vs. not having a certain attribute. You can be "known" for either one, for being unusual in a positive or negative way (Remember, this is MINUS the judgment call usually inherent in the words "positive" and "negative"). For example, one kid is known for never showering (negative) or never talking (negative) or never wearing jeans (negative), whereas another kid is known for being on the stage crew for all the school plays (positive) or dating someone for a long period of time (positive) or always wearing a cat tail (positive--and there really was a girl at my high school who did that. she was cool).
Are we clear by now on the difference between positive and negative notoriety? I hope so, because I can't think of a clearer way to explain it.
This will likely come as a huge shock to anyone who knows me now, but in high school I was known positively (DON"T FORGET WHAT I WAS JUST SAYING ABOUT THE SPECIFIC MEANING OF POSITIVE IN THE LAST PARAGRAPH) as "the girl who says the Pledge of Allegiance." If you look in my yearbooks, a great number of my entries from other students mention this about me. My children will indefinitely notice it. I do not remember exactly how this whole thing got started, but I will try to provide at least some background.
At my high school, like most American schools, every morning someone came on the intercom during the first period of the day and made some announcements. About sports games, activities, warnings regarding misbehavior, stuff like that. And then all the students stood up and said the Pledge of Allegiance. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to hear that in Seattle, being patriotic wasn't seen as being particularly "cool" (except for that three-month period after September 11th when everybody went a little crazy ... no need to remind anyone of how THAT turned out), but conversely, as in any high school, making a fuss about something or calling attention to oneself by NOT participating in something as minute as the Pledge of Allegiance wasn't acceptable either. Anyone read Avi's piece-of-crap teen novel Nothing But the Truth? Possibly my least favorite book ever. But I digress.
So anyway, every morning in whatever class I was in, when the morning announcements were done everybody in the class would stand up and mumble the Pledge of Allegiance at the exact same volume as everybody else, so nobody's voice would stand out from the crowd's. I have no memory of exactly what was going on in my head the first day I tried my little experiment, but I think it was something really simple like, "I wonder what would happen if one person started saying the Pledge of Allegiance at a greater volume and with greater emotion than everybody else?"
Because I am both prone to voracious curiosity and remain a longtime admirer of gonzo journalists, I decided to try it. One morning, I said the Pledge of Allegiance louder than anybody else in my Honors World History class, and with some variation in my voice rather than the standard monotone.
I suppose, on some level, I do believe that something is only worth doing if done right, and that people shouldn't say or recite things they don't mean, but none of that underlied (underlay?) my motivation to say the Pledge of Allegiance differently that day. Because I was in a class with a lot of my friends, most of them just laughed a little bit and smiled at me. A few of the insecure kids looked at me lightly askance, but I was used to that. So I kept it up. For the rest of my high school career I always said the Pledge of Allegiance with a lot of fervor and at a normal volume, which was still significantly louder than everyone else. It became, to cop an old phrase, my shtick.
This is strange for a number of reasons. One, being known for something inevitably leads to people making a number of assumptions about you. Especially among teenagers. Because I was known as the "Pledge of Allegiance" girl, many people assumed that I really loved America and was unusually patriotic. This is not entirely untrue, but it isn't true in the way people assumed, either.
Two, people also assumed that I had undergone some sort of internal wrestling about whether or not to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I never did. Like I said earlier, my decision to change my voice that day was absolutely spontaneous. I am a very spontaneous person.
Here is what I think about America. I think it is nice. America has lots of space, and some of it is really pretty. Some of it is a barren wasteland, but I also feel that farmland has a certain charm about it, and can still manage to be beautiful in a barren wasteland-y sort of way. I feel strongly that when I grow up I will live either in the city or the country, none of this in-between suburban nonsense.
Laying the physical aside for a moment, I am happy to live somewhere where we have clean water, decent sanitation, food available for purchase, and medical facilities. I have seen places where these are not readily available, and it totally sucks. Even the poorest in America have access to more resources than many in other countries. I wish that EVERY privilege available to Americans was actually within everyone's reach. But that is a complicated question, and going on for too long about it will reveal to the world that I am a Socialist. I was talking to my brother in the car yesterday about Utah, and about how the dividing line between rich and poor is very clear: immigrants and students and young families on one side, retired people and BYU professors and business owners on the other. Ne'er the twain shall meet unless absolutely required (like the DMV). I wish America did not have such negative feelings between classes. I am as guilty of this as anyone, by the way.
I think a lot of the pride and jingoism demonstrated by America is misplaced. I don't believe that capitalism will save any nation, or even that it is doing that great of a job saving our own. I definitely don't believe our vision of rosy-cheeked pilgrims breaking bread with feather-wearing savages is in line with how it actually went down. On the other hand though, I think it's nice that once a year we actually recognize that the Native Americans tried to help their European brothers out when they were struggling. I'm sure we would have forgotten about it otherwise. Kind of how we forgot about the French helping our asses during the Revolutionary War.
I don't think most of the patriotic images we think of when we think of the word "patriotism" have much to do with actual patriotism. On the other hand though, I am not one hundred percent sure what I mean by that.
Also, I think "under God" should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. Mostly because the Cold War was effed. Up.
I'm really not sure why I was losing sleep thinking about this. Maybe just because Thanksgiving is such an American holiday.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the calculations in my title were as follows:
Traditional Thanksgiving Foods (according to TV and my 25 years of life)
2. Mashed potatoes
5. Cranberry sauce
7. Green bean casserole
8. Pumpkin pie
9. Sweet potatoes
10. Red wine
I like 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9. Hate 3 and 10. Generally dislike 6 and 8. And 1 is essentially irrelevant.