James Strauss

We’ve come upon hard times. The perspective of almost every human being at any time through all of the species’ history indicates that this psychological position is the one most commonly held no matter what social or cultural overlay has existed. Human beings have an indefatigable ability to believe that the planet is dying, or that life itself in the universe is over. The number of doomsday predictions on the Internet is daunting, even overwhelming if you enter some phrase like “Planet X” or Nibiru, or “Pole Shift.” Many of these thousands of serious-sounding, but almost totally bonkers, speakers on the video presentations have websites and large followings. These followers subscribe, and pay to keep the sites going, while YouTube continues to support this behavior as if it had any shred of science or reality to it, which it does not. Right wing Christian media has allied itself with many of these sites, and quotations from the bible are frequently used to validate a coming ‘end of times.’

It’s all part of social survival. It’s quite normal for humans to openly, or secretly, believe that everything is going to be violently over in very short order. For some reason, like the reason survivalists (now called ‘preppers’) come to actually want the apocalyptic end to arrive soon so they can be proven right, people who espouse more than a passing interest in the coming end of everything get some warm satisfaction in thinking that “the end” would not only be okay, but preferable, to working, playing and continuing through the rest of more normal lives.

There are people who don’t agree. In fact, that statement “don’t agree” might best describe this United States of America. It’s a nation of “don’t agree,” a land of different beliefs, and a country where argument reigns over most discussions about taxes, money, economy, war or almost anything else. It is the ability to not agree, and yet stay together, that is the signature quality of the United States.

Right now some NFL football players are protesting racial disparity by not honoring the America flag. Are they wrong? To me? Yes. Will I add to negative voices requesting draconian punishments for their protest? No. I am an American. I can take it. I can take ridiculous swimming costumes and ugly head scarfs all day and night long. No problem. One of the presidential candidates is like a rodeo clown. Not an issue. These things and people have just added to my inventory of humor. Because I’m an American. And because I’ve figured out that the true, and nearly exclusive quality of being American is the ability to take it and come through with a knowing smile, and taking action using only that smile and a bit of ridicule as tools of punishment. America’s become known for a good deal of punishment, but it’s accomplishment that truly sets it apart. If you want your spacecraft to work, then you better consider American products. If you want military stuff, well, nobody else comes close. Stuff is made in America for the long haul because the foundations of this culture are long haul. If you want clothing that falls apart then go ahead and wear Asian stuff. Chinese tools might be guaranteed for life, but SnapOn and Mastercraft stuff don’t need a guarantee because they’ll be around until you expire or somebody steals them. Nobody will steel your Chinese tools, or your Asian clothing.

Last week I went to the Walworth County Fair in Wisconsin. They held a bull riding contest, which is about as far from my normal life as flying in a UFO, but the experience renewed my feeling about being a real American. I love my country. I loved the people that were around me, even though they were nothing at all like me. The managers of the show had a young girl sing Amazing Grace, while another young woman rode on a horse in front of the grandstand holding a giant American flag that flowed behind her. I’m not an organized religion person, but I loved that sentiment.

When the national anthem was sung by another gifted young lady everyone stood up. Everyone. We stood silent, listening to the feelings the song creates, rather than the words that don’t always seem to make much sense. As The Star Spangled Banner was ending, a flock of geese flew low over the open area where the girl with the flowing American flag was prancing around in tight circles on her horse. The “V” formation of low flying geese glided over her only about thirty-feet in the air, from one end of the stadium to the other, as if they’d been hired by the show managers to do their part. They flew in a “V” formation. Did that “V” stand for victory, or was that simply an exercise of goose aerodynamic efficiency?

Or was that entire finale a sign from God? Maybe the show emcee should not have said a prayer to a Christian God and required everyone to be silent and take off their hats. Maybe Amazing Grace was out of place, although there’s no question that the lyrics “a wretch like me,” touched a lot of us in the audience.

Maybe the whole ten-minute introduction to the insane event of regular guys trying to ride two thousand pound bulls was as crazy as the event itself. But I didn’t think so then, and I don’t think so now. The fair was about bull riding, barrel racing, cotton candy, bratwurst, 4H Club, carnival rides and plenty more. Most of all, I came away with a feeling of love and care for my fellow Americans. That “V” formation said it all to me.

Victory is in the love we feel for one another, not the naked fear we let out upon so many occasions.
“My country tis of thee,” not me.
~ James Strauss

Sign up for Updates