Sunday, March 15, 2009


My Korean friend Jinny asked, "Are you proud to be an American?" She; Alex; Alex's brother, Christian, who was visiting from China, on a visa run; and I were in a Czech-style beer hall.1 I wonder whether I thought the question strange. Other Americans have asked me the same question many times. Alex and Christian both said that they were proud to be Americans but that they weren't always proud of the things we do.2 I did that turning of my hand that's supposed to mean "kind of," but that's not what I really meant.

What I wanted to say was "I don't know what that question means." I've done no work to become an American other than be born, and let's face it: my mom was the one doing all the work there (thus the passive construction be born). I'm not going to go into all that rhetoric about the people who fought so that I could be an American, maybe because I doubt whether any of them had me in mind. Let's not kid ourselves about motivations. Well, but motivation goes right along with the shouted creed of life, liberty, etc.

"Are you proud to be an American?" There are borders that tell us where we are. Shall I be proud to live inside a set? I will say that I am happy to live in America, happy like I'm happy to live in this apartment in Seoul. Sometimes I think about walking around Normal, Illinois, and how easy it was to, for example, order food. But life is habitual, and you can get used to so much.

The question means nothing to me.

No, that's inaccurate. It should mean nothing. The question becomes another anymore: "Do you like America," with the implication "because if you don't, you can get the fuck on out of it, you anti-American asshole." What a privilege to dislike your country. The question has become so many others, of course, as questions do. I'll leave it up to you to figure out which question you mean when you ask that question.3

* "I don't know," by which I mean— Well, if you're reading this footnote to the title before the main text (if there is a main text, no?), you'll just have to read on, by which I mean you'll have to read the above. Or is it the below, since we're talking about what's to come—that is, not spatially (why not [is this environment not a space]?) but structurally (doesn't structure imply space)? Is this all too much for a footnote? And if you're reading this footnote after the so-called main text, I'm curious as to why you've done so. The asterisk is/was clearly some sort of set of directions. "Set"?

1 Or so it claimed to be (well, it didn't claim to be anything, unless you count decoration as a kind of claim, which, well, maybe it is, now that I think about it). Admittedly, I've never been to a genuine Czech-style beer hall, if such a thing exists and if we can use the word genuine without giggling to ourselves. Who's this "we"?

2 See the last sentence in the footnote immediately above this one.

3 I know it's currently hip to hate America. It shouldn't be, but it shouldn't be hip to be an asshole either, and look at how many assholes there are who are loved. Bukowski comes to mind. What a fucker. I'm glad he's dead and not writing poems anymore. Anyway, I know, or think I know, that were my military-minded uncle Tim (yes, the other Tim Lantz) to read this post, he would say it's all a bunch of intellectualism, as though the word should be referred to as the I-word. Well, look at all these footnotes.