First in a series of brief rampages about our American identity:
In an effort to fill huge gaps in my (public school) education, I try to steadily self-educate in American History, without regard for chronology.
For example, I am currently winding up Katharine Graham's amazing biography, "A Personal History" which gives a chilling play-by-play to the Watergate scandal that brought down Nixon in the 1970s.
At the time, of course, no one knew the depth of what was happening and what effects it would have on us as a nation. The break-in scandal, and the resulting cover-up, essentially kicked off an unprecedented public distruct of our government that persists to this day; I believe we can trace the roots of today's apathy back to this specific era.
Reading the auto-biography of my favorite president, Teddy Roosevelt, helped me understand our strange belief that America is the world's policeman. Oh, how it hurt to realize it but Teddy was the guy who created and pushed this idea through. That's just 100 years ago, people. Still, Teddy was the last President who actually had led an army into battle on horseback and kicked major ass. For this, TR has my undying love. (This and his high regard for North Dakota.)
Nevertheless, I thought about civilizations past and how they saw themselves in the same universal role and what a sobering morning they all had. Spain used to rule the world, fer chrissakes. Greece too. Meanwhile, Arabs invented arithmetic. Where were we?
We are teenagers and Spring Break is almost over. We all get our time at the podium before we can no longer hold up the pose. As India and China spend more and more time at the gym pumping iron, we think about ordering another pizza. Sooner or later, they are going to kick our fat, lazy ass and the fault of our downfall will belong to no one but us. As we fall behind in education, health, manufacturing and resources, we whine about traffic, fret over tile patterns for the new kitchen and wonder why our children are getting adult onset diabetes at the ages of nine.
It reminds me of a scene in "The Sorpranos" when Tony and his thugs try to intimidate an Hasidic Jew who exhibits no fear at all. They need his fear to get valuable information and therefore, can't kill him. They grow impatient. The Jew begins lecturing them on the perils of obtaining power through fear. Tony can't stand it anymore and just begins beating the shit out of him. Finally, in between slugs, the Jew says, "Look at the Romans, they used to have it all. Where are the Romans now?"
Being Tony, he responds, "You're fucking looking at 'em" and slugs the guy into unconsciousness.
I think that pretty much says it all.