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Sunday, September 21, 2008

USofA: Love it?



I've now been an expat a couple years shy of a decade. The decade will come. I don't doubt that. The other day my "love of country" was called into question. Which country? is a question that comes to mind. Do I still love the US? Can I be considered in any way patriotic being that I've got no real intention or inclination to go back to the country itself (sure I miss people and places inside the US border, but I've never had a sense that I miss 'merika ).

After some soul searching that may have included watching an episode of Entertainment Tonight, it struck me that I still love America like I still love Mickey Rourke. Yes, the Mickey Rourke who now looks like an eastern-European leader suffering a facial skin condition as the side-effect of a failed KGB poisoning plot. But come on, 9.5 weeks, Rumble Fish, Angel Heart, and Barfly ?! Sure he slumped into a delusional sub-career of pugalism. Sure he looks like James Dean's reanimated corpse . But there's always a chance of a comeback, Sin City anyone? And that's kind of where I'm at with America. I like the history, the present is a skeavy mess, but there's hope for the future.

Now how do I love Australia? How could any American love Australia but like they love Paul Hogan? And if that answer has the appropriate effect, the Americans reading will say: Paul who? and the Australians will cringe and exhale loudly through their teeth. But what better foil to Rourke could there be? Hogan has the trusted smile of a used car salesman, the sun weathered skin that reads like a topo map of Ngaanyatjarraku Shire, and the lingering smell of a certain alleged cheeky bit of tax evasion. He's the perfect mix of the charismatic, the corrupt and the larrikin. That's the Australia I've come to know and love. And I love it as it is, right now, full stop.

Now, I'm not running for President. If I were, that answer probably wouldn't be quite good enough. And I'm not some left coaster self-hating American. I've been to petrol stations in 49 of the 50 states. I know the country. I've shopped it, camped it, watched it, burned it, built it, farmed it, slacked, packed and Big Mac'ed it. It's where I came up, learned to walk, talk, throw and owe. That's a bag I can't drop.

In Australia it's a funny long red-white-and-blue limb that hangs out of my mouth and unintentionally touches people inappropriately in their subconscious. In America it's a flagpole that lies in flaccid torpor amongst the turgid landscape of be-flagged patriots. It's not an absence of love so much as of lustful lip-biting patriotism.

Mistrust me, my loyalty, my commitment, my investment, but know that although I don't live in it, I am of it. I watched Sid and Marty Krofft's Bigfoot and the Boy. I've been to Detroit and back (a gratuitous South Park reference intended to prove I'm still "with it" ). And all that stuff put together is worth exactly one vote, which is worth exactly as much as all the breathless naked country lovin' the best American can muster.

Getting my absentee ballot in the mail last week gave me goose bumps. And reading the candidate names this year brought full red blooded American tears to my eyes. And maybe that's the best and only serious answer I'm able to give to the question.

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