of Voices

July 6, 2012

So, When I was seventeen, I joined the Army. While basic training wasn’t especially difficult, it was extremely tedious. It was routine and regiment, day in and day out. So you can imagine how excited my Platoon was when our drill instructor told us we’d be having a guest speaker after chow. A respite from the grind of evenings preparing for the next days grind. When we filed into our old wood barracks that evening, we entered haltingly as we tried to understand the what we were looking at. In the middle, between our racks, on the highly polished floor sat a lone school house record player. Our guest speaker.

Not disappointed in the least, it afforded us the same break, as had it been an actual person. It might have been a parrot, for all we cared, but it was no parrot. It was John Wayne.

Directed to sit on the floor, as close as possible, we settled into an hour or so of ease. I recall thinking, as did most the platoon, that we were in for some entertainment, a ruse or joke of some kind. It was neither. It was an hour of eerie, slack jawed silence as we listened to the rich, languid voice of John Wayne tell us about America.

You see, I’m not cool. I know this, because hearing John Wayne talk about America today, has the same effect it had on me then. It swells my heart with pride for having the great fortune of living in and being a service to, such a great Nation. I’m not cool, because I don’t think that America, it’s history and it’s ideals, are funny. I don’t laugh at the notion that we were once singular and exeptional. Nor am I amused as I wonder at our having overcome such adversity and improbability, to become a destination so envied by the rest of the World, as to invoke a certain ire amongst them.

My evident lameness is even more apparent as I refuse to apologise for Her. For our having brought drive and industry, technology and ingenuity to the rest of the World. For having fed whole nations and helping teach them to do for themselves. For Her many misteps that have taught us to be as diverse and varied, committed to learning from those very mistakes, as any other, anywhere.

I’m no more a patriot than you, to the contrary. It is the very notion of protest and unrest, of us, at our liberty to right a wrong or find a balance, that remains the core of who we are and how we got here. Only, I’m not not sorry for it.

John Wayne may be out of favour. He may seem campy or rehearsed but I wonder, were you to take him for a spin, if you would feel that same little lump in your throat, as I did so many years ago, and still do.

Happy Birthday America.

E pluribus unum.

John Wayne-People. The audio

One Response to “of Voices”

  1. Alice said

    Very prettily writ. And, I relate a lot to this, to swallowing hard upon contemplating America. Thank you for sharing.

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