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To love or shun, that is the question

Reading reactions on Facebook and blogs to the death of Osama bin Laden has been extremely interesting. My contacts seem split between those who are gung-ho “Yea America! I’m AMERICAN! We ROCK!” and those who are hanging their heads at the festivities in Times Square and saying, “Shh. Don’t notice me being quietly, disgustedly American over here… Actually, pretend I’m from Canada.”

It’s made me wonder at my own reaction and question whether or not I feel appropriately about my American passport. Should I love it or should I shun it?

I’ve not given it a lot of thought before… which is odd since I live overseas and field questions once a week from people comparing – either favorably or unfavorably – their country to mine. It’s either, “Can you get me a green card to America? Ask your father if he can find me a job.” Or “Yea, no wonder you moved over here… the US is a pretty crappy place, huh?”

I’ve never really considered my “Americanness” something to be bemoaned or celebrated. I guess I’ve lumped it into the category of things pre-determined about me. Kind of like being a woman. I didn’t decide to be a woman – that’s how God made me. And sometimes it’s pretty great being a female. Sometimes it’s not. I didn’t choose it… it was something I assume was part of God’s original plan.

Which is why I don’t understand the people frenziedly waving American flags who had nothing to do with catching bin Laden. I’m not joining them for the same reason I don’t post victorious messages under every YouTube video of a woman giving birth. “Yea women! I’m a WOMAN! Women ROCK!” I did not have anything to do with that woman’s pregnancy – never even given birth myself. Why would I celebrate as if I had?

And why does raucous celebration one day and taking pride in an event I contributed nothing to make me a “better American” than the person who works their job quietly, pays their taxes, and tries to help solve some of the crises in our country – like kids in the foster care system or homelessness?

But, then again, I don’t really understand the “pretend I’m from Canada” people either. Just like being a member of the female population isn’t always fabulous; neither is being identified as an American. I feel the same way about watching an errant countryman as I do when I saw women from the Playboy Penthouse on a talk show. They were discussing how fabulous it was to be a “professional escort” and how servicing so many different men made them feel more like a woman. Seriously? I thought. There are some women who actually feel like that? I don’t understand. It doesn’t make me want to hide the fact that I’m a woman. It doesn’t make me want to become a man.

So when I watch videos of Americans exalting in their revenge via Navy Seals or read triumphant “AMERICA RULES THE WORLD” Facebook posts, I think, “Seriously? There are some Americans who actually feel like that? I don’t understand.” It doesn’t make me want to hide the fact that I’m American. It doesn’t make me want to become Canadian. (Although Australian…)

Maybe it’s a sign of my status as an extremely individualistic 20-something that I expect to be judged on my own personal merits and not on someone’s predefinition of what an American (or woman, for that matter) should be like. Maybe it’s a sign of my generation’s “globalizedness” that I can admit, “Hey – my country’s got problems and good points just like almost every other country in the world”. Maybe I’m just weird.

A Facebook contact recently said he was worried that my generation doesn’t see America as “good” anymore. Seriously? I think. Some Americans think like that? That our country is fundamentally, without question ‘good’ (whatever that means… Morally? Ethically? Politically?) and deserves my constant adulation? I don’t understand.

 So while I’ll keep telling people here that America isn’t a bad place and there’s plenty about it I miss – I won’t be encouraging everyone I know to move there. And while I feel a sense of relief at the fact that bin Laden won’t be plotting against the world anymore, being American isn’t all-defining about me in such a way that I can celebrate as one who’s finally tasted revenge.

But I will be keeping my American passport and gladly present it to the customs officials when I return, thankfully, home.