We take a lot for granted; battles that were waged and won before our time... those who lost their life fighting for our freedoms... more progressed technology and the things that make our life easier... to name a few. Growing up, I was one of those who didn't think too much about things that were outside of my immediate bubble. I wasn't involved in politics until I was in my mid-thirties and I didn't really pay much attention to things going on in the world. While I'm not proud of my ignorance and blind eye, I can honestly say I was more happy then than I am worrying about so much. Looking at the world through adult glasses yields a pretty dismal view, for the most part.
I got involved in politics in the Gore/Bush election, and we all know how that turned out. My immediate thought was to move to another country... and Canada was looking pretty good (eh!). The puppet movie 'Team America' pretty much sums up the feeling of the country at the time... "fuck yea... we're Americans... we're the best". It became pointedly clear to me that the rest of the world didn't share our self-love when I was in Paris and received a rather 'cold' reception when I didn't speak much French. Over time, I became more and more embarrassed by the air of superiority that came over the country... and while 9/11 should have humbled us, it propelled us even more skyward in our 'America-conquers-all-gimme-gimme-you-don't-speak-English-WTF?' mentality. Yes, the world hates us, that was clear.
My Dad never asked for much for himself. He got up for 45 years and went to his job on the railroad out in the cold, doing back-breaking work because it was his job to provide for his family, period. He didn't graduate high school, never went to college and still did well for himself. That was, of course, in a time where if you worked hard, you could get ahead. I never went to college... I worked twice as hard as my peers to accomplish all that I had and did well for myself. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to be rich... it's all I dreamed about as a kid. Even my matchbox cars were all Rolls Royces and Lincolns, but I knew even as a kid that I had some hard work to do, starting out with my paper route around 14 yrs old... and the two jobs that I worked while still graduating high school with honors... and putting in long hours to get ahead. At some point, I gave up that 'dream' of being rich, and I've never been more happier in my life then the day my life went in a different direction from accounting and management to massage therapy... and then to landscaping. I scaled back my life and kept my debts to a minimum, not really needing more than I already had. Turns out my American dream was to be happy... not to be rich... just like my Dad's and the members of his family that came to this country before him who started out with nothing.
With the election, I've been floundering on the different messages hoping, like everyone in the country, that someone would come up with some answers and I could feel good about being a Democrat again. Watching the Republican convention a few weeks back, I found myself at unrest with the constant speaking about the 'haves, and the soon-to-be-haves'...in a society where winning the lottery or a reality show or sport or music contract (straight off the heels of our mothers telling us that we are so special, that anything's possible) is much more plausible than getting anywhere through hard work. Lost in their message was any talk about just being happy with who you are or what you have and missing was any connection to the founding father's hard work that they supposedly respect. In listening to my Aunt talk, some of the best times of her life was when they had nothing, ten of them living in one house and helping out any way they could. With the middle-class almost extinct thanks to the Republicans, we're now forced with a choice of becoming aggressive and back-stabbing towards reaching wealth or settling into the misery of being poor. When it was the Democrat's turn, the message was very different... full of stories of people's upbringings and how those before them were only trying to make their kid's life a little better. It was a simple message that resonated with me and suddenly, I felt my connection back to my party, because that's exactly how I feel.
I am, again, proud to be (this type of) American.