When I was growing up, the idea... the mythology... was that we were Americans, so we were the good guys. We were brave. We were resolute. We were noble, and self sacrificing, and tough as nails. (We were also humble and self effacing.) We were not effete, prancing nancy-people like those stuck up toffs in fucking Europe. We were down and dirty. We were practical. We weren't afraid to tackle the tough jobs.
We were Americans. We got shit done.
But intertwined in all of this, a core part of it, the vital conceptual foundation of it all, was that we were the Good Guys, and right behind that, the sourcepoint of all the rest, was, We Were Brave.
Free and Brave. America. Land and Home of. It's right there in the song, dudes.
The older I get, the more I realize what a crock of shit this all is, and never more so than now, as at the age of 55, I look back on a gigantic shitpile of dead people and maimed people and raped people and crippled people and bullied, degraded, humiliated, deprived people, the vast majority of whom have certain things in common:
(a) they never did a single goddam thing to any of us, not one single goddam thing, besides exist
(b) they are non-American, or non-Caucasian, or non-heterosexual, or non-Christian, or non-penisized.
For the past 17 years I've been told "Well, 9/11 scared the shit out of us", by people who would shake their heads and go tut tut, but it's not true. I mean, 9/11 did scare the shit out of us, but the idea behind all that chin stroking was, 9/11 was some kind of seminal occurrence, that it changed the American character is some significant, unheard of way -- that prior ot 9/11, well, we'd been brave. Brave as fuck. Just so incredibly goddam brave. Christ, we were brave. Oh, what 9/11 did to us. Oh, oh, oh.
It's horseshit. All my life, America has been scared shitless. All throughour history, we've been a nation of the scared shitless. Vietnam scared the shit out of us. Pearl Harbor scared the shit out of us. Dirty hairy hippies running screaming from tear gas and bullets somehow scared the shit out of us. Black people scare the shit out of us. Queers scare the shit out of us.
EVERYTHING scares the shit out of us. Street gangs. Drug addicts. Secret government time travel conspiracies. The CIA. Mexicans. Obama's black helicopters coming for our guns. Guys with beards. Commies. As William Goldman would put it (dryly, with just a touch of contempt) "meanies".
And if something scares an American, what does he or she do?
Fucking kills it. THAT'S what we do. With Tomahawk missiles, fired from a thousand miles away, by a guy with a phone on the other side of the planet.
Which is so utterly typical, so utterly ESSENTIALLY American a way to murder our fellow human beings. Long distance is not the next best thing to being there. Long distance is the American way to do murder. Even if, sometimes, long distance is defined in a single digit measurement of feet or yards, when a well spoken, obviously law abiding black man advises a white police officer that he is carrying a gun that he has a license for, and then doesn't reach for it.
Americans are not the Good Guys. We are not brave. We are cowards, and like most cowards, we are at our most viciously tribal when we are terrified.
We are Americans. If you scare us -- and pretty much everything scares us -- we will kill you.
Somebody write some music for that lyric.