Sunday, July 4, 2010

The USA and My Mother

The parallel problems of a woman with Authority issues.

I should probably warn you right of the bat that it is likely I will offend anyone who is very patriotic. That's what I do though, stick my foot in my mouth, and this pair of relationships really DOES have a lot in common, so there you have it.

I'm a bad patriot. And a bad daughter.

You see, I don't like to be told what to do. I sort of live my life more along the lines of the Hippocratic oath than any following of laws, per se. Just because it is the rule, is JUST not good enough. I admit most rules are rules to avoid people getting hurt (those I follow) or to help us coordinate with each other (those are mostly okay), but the 'it's the law' never flew with me.

I am of the belief that world empirical domination of nations have about a century per country to run their course. The Dutch had the 1600s. The British the 1700s. The French the 1800s.... and the USA the 1900s. But you see, in the few decades of 'no longer able to make everybody bend at our feet' ALL these countries have behaved badly for a while. It is currently the US's turn.

This is not to excuse it. Just to point out that I think it is the natural course of events. So there are A LOT OF PEOPLE in the US trying to 'go back' to some (mythical, I might add) good old days, and trying to force other nations to RECOGNIZE our superiority, which frankly, we just don't have anymore.

But a girl isn't supposed to criticize her mother... I promise at the end I will try to make some amends. How's that?

But first I want to go through some of the trouble, where I am concerned...

Disparate Desires
(what she says/what she really means)

My Mother
“I want you to have choices!” (to work or stay home)/but under no circumstances are you to allow your partner those choices—HIS only option should be to work. Choice is for you alone.

“You can't count on somebody else taking care of you—you need skills.”/And nobody should count on YOU either. Only inferior people can't take care of themselves financially.

“You are such a strong, independent woman.”/But I'm too sensitive for that, so don't inflict any of that strength on ME.

(about a woman we know who forgave a cheating husband) “She is so forgiving, amazing really. I don't know if I could have done that.”/because forgiveness is something we TALK about being good, but really that just isn't what we DO. It's all well and good in theory, but it lets people off the hook.

My Country
“Individualism and an entrepreneurial spirit are what made this country great”/but now that we're great already, it is time for everybody to fall into line.

“We are the world's melting pot.”/but the fondue is ready and we've started eating, so don't put anything ELSE in there! Anyone to arrive after world war II really is just unable to contribute, unless of course they are willing to work under the table for less than minimum wage in dangerous conditions—in THAT CASE it's just good for Capitalism.

“We have Separation of Church and State.”/but of course presume everyone is Christian, so it doesn't matter anyway... unless someone tries to do something that some small subset of this group finds offensive! THEN YOUR BUSINESS IS OUR BUSINESS!

Compounded by Daddy Issues

My dad was mostly a great big kid. He was too loud. He drank too much. (funny, some people say those things about me). He was macho, and he was reckless. MOSTLY, because he was also good-natured, he was also just pretty fun, instead of scary. But you know what you DON'T want to do with a macho, reckless guy who drinks too much? Encourage him to play with explosives. The fourth of July, with my macho (need I say Patriotic—that is PART of macho in my world—or maybe the problem REALLY is that I see MACHO as part of Patriotic, and macho is not my favorite feature), reckless, drunk dad and his EXPLOSIVES was the only time he really SCARED ME.

We usually spent the fourth at my grandparents' lake cabin, located on an Indian Reservation in northen Idaho—reservations mean two things among the macho... no TAX on alcohol and cigarettes, and no LIMITS on what is legal for fireworks. This addition of explosives divided family and friends solidly into two camps. The safe, sane (boring) camp, and the reckless, drunken, blowing-shit-up camp. Explosions from one team. Shrieks from the other... usually for an entire three day weekend. And when I was a KID, I loved it.

It is currently however, tied in my mind to 1976—US Bicentennial. The fourth happened six days before my dad died driving drunk—too fast on a gravel road—and somehow the sound track for me of that memory, is the weekend of the fourth of July.

Oh, I'm mostly over it. My husband and some neighbors do a group fireworks thing in our street, and I love sitting out in the front yard—talking to neighbors, catching fireflies, drinking cocktails. I may drink too much, but I am NEVER the one blowing stuff up, and I ALWAYS plea for 'pretty lights' instead of explosions. But the fourth is STILL not my favorite holiday.

Back to being a bad patriot and daughter

I really probably need to work through the same stuff with mom and country I have with my dad... seeing the flaws, but ALSO being willing to see the good. There is good. I just have often resisted seeing it. Maybe that is what I should work on this year...

The US has AMAZING and varied geography, a fabulous collection of cultures, enough resources that a good portion of our population has a ton of opportunity (even if it bothers me that those opportunities are unfairly distributed).

And my MOM, gave me a great foundation—a belief I could do ANYTHING I wanted to do—hard work and determination were the only limiting factors. My confidence, my work ethic, my unwillingness to give up—those are from my mom. Not bad, as legacies go.

I need to work on that acceptance thing... the forgiveness I accuse my mom of not having... few things improve if we wait for everybody else to change first.

and so I don't leave you thinking I have no patriotic spirit, please enjoy the following...
Muppet Independence Day Tribute


February Grace said...

Oh, Hart. (((hugs))) I think your mom and my mom would get along pretty well...

I'll be thinking of you as you remember, and I am so sorry about your dad. Even if it was years ago it can't ever be easy to remember, least of all as the date draws near again.

...on a totally different subject since you ended your post with it (and you know, I am a Muppet after all...) you went with the option that I so debated over- I ended up going with Sam the Eagle's "American Woman" instead which you may also enjoy. You are quite a special American Woman yourself.

have a safe holiday weekend... the fireflies are really pretty this year, aren't they? This was the first night in a very long time I've really been able to see them again.


Boonsong said...

Wow! You publish some great posts, and this is one of them. Thanks for this.

All the best, Boonsong

Cruella Collett said...

I like your comparison there, and I like how you are able (and willing) to see that some of those issues are things you need to work on, and some of them are things you may have to just let go (since you can't change them anyway).

I don't know your mom (even if I must say that I definitely agree that there must be good things about her, since she has such a FABULOUS daughter), so I'm not going to go into that.

The USA, however, I know a little better. I originally typed a REALLY long reply to this post, and then I realized I had pretty much written a post of my own. So I decided to post it on my blog and simply link here.

I hope you’ll have a great celebration with your friends and family. Be careful with those fireworks! *big hugs*

Chary Johnson said...

Hart, sorry about your dad. I remember you saying he passed away but didn't know the specific details of how it occurred. *glomps*

As for mothers, my mom was very opinionated (before the stroke) and often would "tell" me how to live my life rather than make "suggestions." Now, she is mostly supports all that I do since she realizes I'm a 37 year old woman who will do what I want anyway.

As for the US, I'm on the fence about that one. During the 1950's, it was really rough in Brooklyn, NY when they migrated from Puerto Rico. My grandmother tells me some pretty bad stories of how she was treated at her job, in her neighborhood and local stores. However, I must say that my family has come a long way from working in factories. Most of us were provided excellent educations and progressed up the socioeconomic ladder.

The Muppets video clip was hilarious!

Great post.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I can definitely see how this would be a rough day for you, full of reminders that you'd rather not have! It actually looks like you've got a good perspective on these issues, though, like the saying goes: serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Old Kitty said...

And the great thing is that you are able and free to vent your passions here in blogworld! :-)

You are an incredible writer, an independent spirit, an adventurous soul. The world and especially America and your mum are lucky to have you around!

I am very sorry about your dad. What a personality - I'm sorry for your tragedy.

Take care and enjoy your weekend!


Hart Johnson said...

Thank you EVERYONE for the kind words about my dad. It is long enough ago that I can step back, but it really IS strange all the connotations that come forward.

Bru-so many of us with mother issues, eh? LOVED the American Woman clip. I wonder if they have Animal actually singing it--I bet he could nail it!

Boonsong, welcome! I don't know if you've commented before, but I followed you back to your blog and LOVE your tongue in cheek commentary!

Mari-I Will follow you back to the party at your place! (thank you!)

Chary-I love hearing about your family, and love that the immigration decision has been good for all of you--I actually think for families with a good work ethic, about 3 generations DOES work... or did, until we got so stinky over the matter...

Elizabeth-That Serenity Prayer really DOES work if you remember to say it. That wisdom to know the difference piece though--MAN that can be a hard line to identify!

OK-yeah... the over share is sort of part of being naked, I think. I had intentions to keep things like politics and religion closer to the vest, but somehow seem unable to keep my fingers under control. Thank you!

gae polisner said...


Thanks for this post. I love the way writers bravely let one another (and the whole world) in, smart or stupid. ;)

It boggles my mind as a parent to know how much everlasting influence and impact we have on our children. I try to be good (smart, gentle, open-minded) with the power, but the bottom line is it's an almost impossible task... you know the very nature of the relationship is fraught...

at any rate, I read this post voraciously, paying attention, accumulating lots of important feedback to add, and then I got to that guy's "underwear"...

maybe next year.

xoxoxoxo Gae

Cheeseboy said...

Wow - you feel so similar to the way I feel about the country, it was almost like reading my own words, but much more lyrically perfected than I would have done.

I didn't have the same mom or daddy issues you have, but the stuff about the country - I agree with all that stuff.

Hart Johnson said...

Gae-I figure we ALL screw up as parents, but that the TRICK is to transfer to universal acceptance when our kids are adults or they are going to write nasty blogs about us. And do you have issues with patriotic manties? *snort*

Cheeseboy-I think I've read a thing or two from you on politics, so I think I may have known that. I just feel so strongly that we are hypocritical, and that people are clinging to something that never WAS what they think it was.

February Grace said...

Animal does do a kick ass version of Danny Boy with Beaker and the Chef...

Oh yeah. Get your kleenex out for that one.

I'm trying to find something to smile about myself today- though I know the person I'm remembering would want me to so I'm trying.

Still thinking of ya, Hart. I hope you have a peaceful day and make some good memories this weekend if you can.


Jan Morrison said...

Hey lovey! Excellent and brave post. You are clearly a rebel child and that is part of your american side! I wasn't that big on holidays myself growing up. And equally because of the alcohol thing. Both my parents drank. My mom died in 92 and my dad became sober. I am sorry you lost your dad to alcohol. It is a terrible disease. So is jingoism and all solidity of mind. I adore you, wonderful complex person that you are and thank you once again for saying your truth.

Hart Johnson said...

Bru-I found a Bohemian Rhapsody that was DEVINE!

Sorry you also seem to have someone you've lost who is demanding attention today, but it's true... they'd want us to enjoy.

Jan--do you KNOW how fabulous you are? Thank you so much! You have such a wonderful way about you that just always makes me happy!

LTM said...

there is nothing more American or patriotic than thoughtfully exercising your freedom of speech, criticism or self-analysis. The founding fathers would be proud.
And I know I'M always proud to see a hunka hunka burnin patriotic hunkiness... good stuff~

sorry this is a hard time of year for you... :o|

Hart Johnson said...

Leigh *hugs* Thank you! I agree that a little thoughtful dissent had a rightful role, so I'm always glad when my friends agree!

Anonymous said...

While I disagree with some of the contrasting points you offered regarding what the country says versus what it more or less touts I thought I'd respond to one thing in particular: To be patriotic in the US means to question and criticize the government. You seem to have that in spades. ;) To be a not good citizen, in my opinion, is to make way for tyranny by simply following, living and abiding by all the rules set forth with out even a thought.

Sorry to hear about your father, Hart. I hope you had a good holiday.