There's a song that goes something like: "And I'm proud to be an American..." etcetera etcetera. I hear that song now and, sadly, the only reaction it sets off is a desperate attempt to make the bile that has risen in my throat retreat safely back from whence it came. No easy task, that.
When asked, I no longer tell people that I am an American. Yes, it's true. Once upon a time I was filled with pride about my American citizenship, but now I have been forced to call upon that most treasured of American traditions - creative misdirection - to answer the question in a manner that is technically truthful but won't incite people to stone me in the streets when traveling in a foreign country.
The solution was deceptively simple. I fall back on my ancestry.
Foreign Person Number One: "Are you an American?"
Me: "No no, I'm Finnish. Did you not see my name as a contestant in the annual Wife Carrying Competition? It's going to be an Olympic event now, you know."(1)
Foreign Person Number Two: "Are you an American?"
Me: "Who, me? German all the way. Guten tag, Liebling!"
Foreign Person Number Three: "Why did the chicken cross the road?"
Me: "To show the possum that it CAN be done."
Sometimes I tell people that I am Irish. I'm not, but the red hair conveniently makes that lie plausible. Besides, who knows, maybe I really do have some Irish blood in me. After all, I am the only one in my entire extended family with red hair. People are always asking me, "Where'd you get that red hair?" In general, I respond to this question by laughingly proclaiming, "From the mailman!" (My dad worked for the U.S. Postnasal Service.) Perhaps all this time the joke was really on me.
I once tried to pass myself off as Jamaican. I still don't know what gave that particular fib away. Surely there must be a considerable segment of the Jamaican population with straight red hair and pasty white glow-in-the-dark skin? No? My bad.
Not that my newfound anti-ethnocentrism has anything to do with the fact that the highest ranking office in our country was stolen - err, won rather - by a lying, despotic war criminal who gives tax breaks to that most severely underprivileged class of people known colloquially as "the wealthiest one percent," and who effectively paints even bigger bull's-eyes on the backs of our soldiers by answering threatening Iraqi militants with such brave witticisms as "Bring 'em on." Certainly not. It would be most unpatriotic of me, not to mention shallow, to even suggest such things.
Let's face it, we should all be very grateful for the 2000 election. This was, after all, the election that gave us such colorful expressions as "hanging chads" and "dimpled chads." Such never-before-heard terms would previously have led most of us to think, "Hm, perhaps I ought to see a doctor and have that removed." But now we are educated. The light has dawned. We are smarter now, and never again will a "chad" be just another name for four out of five Ivy League fraternity members.(2)
But I digress.
In my fervent quest for a suitable reason to disavow my Americanism without being branded unpatriotic, I have finally found the answer, and it had been staring me in the face all along.(3)
Yes, that's right. Beautiful in its simplicity, I am basing my entire grass roots campaign of protest on that one little word. I shall stand tall and proudly display my picket sign across this great nation, my sign that reads simply, "Save the Nuclears!"
You may think that I am merely making a mockery of our American President, but I assure you that such is not the case. Besides, when I engage in flagrant mockery-making, I generally prefer to choose a more challenging (as opposed to challenged) target.
No, good people, the nu-cu-ler threat is real!
So deep is my fear that the good folks at Webster's, American Heritage, and Oxford will revise their dictionaries to include "nu-cu-ler" as an accepted pronunciation that I can no longer sit back on my apathetic laurels and allow it to go uncontested.
Americans enjoy a rich cultural heritage of protesting the most ridiculous things imaginable, and doing it with a straight face to boot. While it's true that protesting issues of dire portent to our nation and world could well earn me nothing more than a dead-of-night, bag-over-the-head, chloroform cocktail sans lawyer trip to the Hoosegow of the Unknowns, never to be seen or heard from again, with all traces of my existence handily expunged from the life-breathing entrails of bureaucratic documentary establishment; protesting a simple word could only be received with great enthusiasm and national support.
The whales will be soon forgotten.(4) Nobody will care anymore how many dolphins get snagged up in the tuna nets (funny how the dolphin lovers never seem to give a rat's ass about the poor tuna, but that's a whole 'nother rant). The ozone layer? Piffle. Homelessness? Aw c'mon, those refrigerator boxes don't look THAT uncomfortable. All of these trifling so-called "issues" will pale in the face of the growing threat and, yea, urgent need to Save the Nuclears!
Oh yes, the people will respond. They will come out in droves to join this cause, so horrified will they be that OUR PRESIDENT... that THESE HERE BY GOSH UNITED BY GOLLY STATES OF AMERICA... that our very MOTHERLAND(5) could possibly be responsible for such atrocities committed against the innocent Nuclears, who have done nothing wrong except for spelling their name in a clear, straightforward manner that even third-graders find easy to sound out and correctly pronounce.
I foresee serious and ominous ramifications for our current president, in terms of his 2004 reelection bid. It goes without saying that if Mr. Bush failed to get reelected, it would break the hearts of all of us loyal Americans in pieces, causing us to sob in utter anguish to the point of dehydration, until our voices sounded like Rod Stewart upon first waking.(8)
I would like to take a moment and appeal to those droves directly on a matter of utmost importance. Our organization is still relatively new,(9) and as such, lacks the necessary funding(11) to launch and carry out a movement of this magnitude. Monetary contributions will be keenly appreciated, although we regret to inform you that such contributions are not tax deductible at this time. Perhaps the next round of tax cuts will provide for just such a deduction.(12)(13)
Footnotes to enhance your understanding and make the reading experience more enjoyable:
(1) The competition is an actual even that takes place in Finland each year. However, I have heard nothing to suggest that it might become an Olympic event.
(2) The fifth one is named Ephram. Who would've guessed.
(3) And I'm not talking about that guy who is always lurking around outside my house, pressing his face against my window and looking either determined or psychotic, I haven't figured out which. No, I'm quite sure that guy is a Jehovah's Witness.
(4) Even Rush Limbaugh.
(5) I ask you to please remember that the aforementioned "they," not I, are the ones who will be referring to the U.S. as the motherland. I, of course, know which country is really our motherland(6), but my journalistic integrity(7) necessitates that I keep it real.
(6) Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland until 1966).
(7) Stop laughing! I realize that the words "journalistic" and "integrity" appear in the same sentence - back-to-back even; and, on top of that, are presented as though the two words actually *belong* together. However, that sort of laughter can surely come to no good, whether it be from the hyperventilation, the artery in danger of exploding from internal barometric pressure, or the loss of consciousness resulting from the lack of oxygen that occurs when the thing being done allows for only expulsion rather than intake of air.
(8) If at this time you have suddenly noticed drops of an unrecognizable liquid forming on any part of your computer, do not be alarmed. That is merely sarcasm dripping from the sentence you just read, and can be easily wiped off with any reasonably soft cloth you might have nearby. To answer the question on the minds of many, yes, a pair of cotton underpants will work just fine, but please exercise good judgment when choosing a repository from which to select your pair of official CCU (Computer Cleaning Underpants). HELPFUL HINT: Underwear Drawer good (in most cases), laundry basket bad (in even more cases).
(9) It is so new that the possessive pronominal adjective "our" is being used a bit prematurely. This is because we possess bold optimism and an unshakeable faith in our fellow Citizens of America.(10)
(10) By "Citizens of America" we mean "All People From All Countries, Living Or Dead, Who Are Reading This And Have Disposable Income On Their Hands, And Who Quite Possibly Are Heavily Medicated."
(11) We have enough money in the budget to buy half a pack of cigarettes and a Banquet(a registered trademark of ConAgra Brands, Inc.) Pot Pie, which we will eat so that we can use the aluminum foil dish as an ashtray.
(12) Not bloody likely.
(13) This is the final footnote.
Lisa Stager embraces her patriotism with all the verve and vigor of a worm-riddled dog scooting on its haunches across the carpet. She dreams of the day when the American flag can once again be more than just a drape for the coffins of dead soldiers.
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