Sunday, May 30, 2010

the u.s.a as a warrior culture

it's odd, cause we don't think of ourselves that way, yet the metaphor and fact of fighting dominate our history. every boy has to survive it on the playground.

for example, in the first grade a gang of kids used to chase me home from school every evening. i remember leaping over a fence and hiding under a crab-apple tree. finally, my mother arranged a match with the head of the gang. we fought to a standstill on the front lawn of the parsonage. (as a preacher's son, i was fair game.) the bullying stopped.

alas, for awhile i became the rough player. once wrestling with my fourth grade best friend during lunch hour, i broke his arm. his parents never let me play with him again. for awhile bigger than the other students, i held sway. then before class in the seventh grade the class bully smacked me around in the hallway. for some reason, i couldn't fight back and hid in the library (the story of my life).

as i've mentioned, after the amercan war of independence, forty percent of the colonials moved to canada, leaving the land to the rabble-rousers. and in our beginning is our end. we in the u.s. have averaged a war at least every fourteen years, now in the midst of the longest war ever in afghanistan (we learned nothing from the russians).

if you think i'm wrong, list the conflicts and do the math. after the british we fought the indians (named for the land columbus never reached). ultimately, we claimed victory. however, we absorbed much of their spirit. when the psychologist c.g. jung came to this country for the first time, he exclaimed, 'i didn't realized the europeans had intermarried so much with the natives.' a colleague told him they hadn't. 'but,' he said, 'most people have indian profiles.' once in a museum i saw a photo of a california maidu woman who looked exactly like my mother. and i've been told more then once i look like the warrior on our nickel. (a college student told me the other day i looked like andy warhol. i suppose it's the same thing.)

from the ground up, birth on, we're in competition with each other. our business language that of battle. on a ship in the british columbia inland passage, i heard a canadian tell an american couple, 'you will gamble everything. we're not like that.' ah, back to the original birth of the nation. and our education constant judgement and ranking. who else invented the spelling bee?

this doesn't dismiss teamwork. bootcamp is all about learning to die for your comrades. the playwright arthur miller wrote, 'americans want a president who will kill for them.' obama's credit rating jumped when he sent thirty thousand more troops to afganistan, adopting it as his war. (one, i maintain, we can't win. but that's not the point.) and we're a country nutty for sports and video games, all training for the ultimate battle. the last president sucked the whole populace in with his rhetoric of armaggedon.

yes, winning isn't just fun, it's everything.

see the blue room's latest show, a good example of this mentality given the comic treatment: