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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Magnetic Pride

A few weeks ago, I was engaged in a lively dialogue with a co-worker about something or other that was wrong with this country. I think it might have been political correctness. Actually-- yes, that was it. My co-worker, a psychologist, who also happens to be Israeli, was railing against people who take issue with the term "mentally retarded" to describe people who are, well, mentally retarded.

"What dee fack?!" he screamed in the chart-room, in his charming dialect that I know all too well, "mentally retarded eees mentally retarded! It's not a facking insooolt! Now, if you are saying it to put somebody down, okay, fack you, you're an ess-hole, but der eees nathing wrong wit 'mentally retarded' as a clee-nee-cal term!"

And I agree. Slower processing. Slower cognition. Retarded. Nothing wrong with that. However, in this country of ours, where everybody is so petrified of saying "the wrong thing", we are content to seek shelter behind euphemisms and politeness and couching. It's funny, because I think, if you asked most foreigners if Americans were a "polite" society, they'd laugh in your face. No, we're not polite, because politeness really means graceful and considerate, it doesn't mean not speaking the truth. We're rude and brash, and we're generally socially unacceptable, but, don't worry, we won't dare call someone with an IQ below 70 "retarded".

I can remember feeling slightly bad during this conversation with our Israeli psychologist, and he said to me, "Don't worry-- you're not American, you have a dee-freent perspective than these other morons."

And I remember finding that funny, because I've never really thought of myself as not American. Sure, my father is Israeli, but he moved here eight years before I was born. My mother is American-- so American that she used to flirt with life guards in Atlantic City when she was fourteen, lying about her age. I mean, what's more American than that?

On paper, I'm American. In my heart, I'm... whatever. I don't know. Israel seems to think I'm Israeli, at least that's what they told my father when he was planning a family trip for us there back when I was seventeen. They told him that I would be taken into custody at the airport and inducted into the army. Oh, but there was some paperwork that could be filled out to avoid this happening.

"No thanks," my father told the consulate.

I don't know if my views on America have been more shaped by the fact that my father is Israeli or the fact that I'm a cynical, skeptical bastard. Of course, I may very well be that because my father is Israeli. Chicken. Egg. Israeli. Falafel. Who knows?

I like this country well enough, I suppose. Sometimes, things that our government or some of its citizens do embarrass me, or make me ashamed, or make me want to pretend I'm from Oxford, but I expect that citizens of other countries can't help but feel that way about their homelands, too. Sometimes my family members say and do things that embarrass me, too, but it's not like I can say, "Oh, see that goy family eating ham and swilling zinfandel in that big stone house with the Mercedes 550 in the circular driveway over there? That's my family," because we all know it's not.

We all know.

I look at peoples' cars sometimes, with their "Proud to Be An American" bumper-stickers and I can't help but envy them sometimes. I wish I could feel that way all the time. Maybe I could have a "Proud to Be An American" magnet, that I could take off and put on according to the behaviors and statements and actions of our government-- and its citizens. Like, if I'm in line behind a boorish, petty, obnoxious, ornery American at the bank, I could go out to the parking lot and take the magnet off. When we devote humanitarian aid to a foreign country (one where we have no special interest), I could slap that puppy back on my trunk.

I would be okay with that.

I think.

Yesterday morning, I was in a doctor's office waiting room while my wife went in for an appointment. On the television, some crazy-ass network I'd never heard of called "HLN" was featuring coverage of the Casey Anthony murder trial. It brought me back to the heady days of 2002, when I would sometimes skip class in college if a particularly good trial was being featured on "Court TV," and it made me remember how much I can't stand Nancy Grace. But what was far more interesting than anything the prosecutor was saying in her laborious opening statement, was a small graphic in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen that said,

"Justice for Caylee"

And I thought to myself, Wow. If I had that magnet on my car, this would be one of the times where I'd take it off.


  1. It's funny that Israelis don't consider you American. Most Greeks consider me very American and let me know it. But I don't care about that - I actually like my hybrid status. And for another, people are rude, brash, and annoying in every culture and language. I don't apologize for being American (most of the time).

  2. I agree with you Apron. I myself am retarded and take no offense to the term. Except when people say it in an affected way, like: "Hey RETARD!" That realy burns my ass.


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