When I hear the National Anthem in my head it is always Whitney at the Superbowl, casually soaring in her high waisted jeans. She gets to "the land of the free" then my neural network switches and in the basement of the fraternity in Animal House Otis Redding is finishing Louie, Louie, really a great drunken show, drawing it out and a rat-like man in a toga punches "YEAH YEAH... YEAH YEAH" straight from the basement between Whitney's "land of the free" and "home of the brave". Then I am on the Metro in 1996 in DC on the 4th of July chanting "USA... USA" coming home from the fireworks but the misguided aggression behind the chant isn't menacing, it isn't dangerous, it is an innocuous celebration of a law dork who venerates men being created equal with certain inalienable rights.
Now in a haze of painkillers and instant news I hear Paul Simon singing gently about America, we've all come to look for America, but it is the part about being empty and aching that reverberates through me as I recline in a hot Epsom salt bath and try to see a good end, try to see a happy ending to the story but I don't see it. I don't know if I should stop looking. I don't think every age feels themselves on the brink of much worse times to come but I wonder if my grandchildren will have hot baths and delivered groceries and I wonder how long it will take to find clean drinking water and homes for the refugees and I am overwhelmed with pain wondering how history will view us all and I am grateful for those who stand and serve in Calais and Dunkirk at the camps for surely their battle rivals the ones 100 years ago.
The darkness in Europe is spreading and raising like an internal injury, a bruise, and polls do not comfort me for something seems to be coming, something dark, the boys in the basement with their testosterone and togas. We did not look after the common good, and now the common good is weak. We were casual like Whitney, taking for granted our magnificent gifts, imagining that we had put behind us the darkness that we had relegated to cartoon Nazis and Commies. Now we are distracted, in a haze of consumerism and painkillers that leaves us grateful - grateful (!) that a neo-liberal will be president, so dark is her opponent.
We are bipolar. We are at two poles. If Trump is bad, she is good. If she is bad, Trump is good. We are choked on this limited narrative. We are hamstrung by the system that forces us not to vote our hearts but vote strategically. I know what Cburchill said about democracy, that it was the worst system except compared to every other system but I tire of this too. I am tired of it being bipolar. I am tired of my peers thinking that voting matters in this stinking, cosseted bastion of privilege that is Washington. Meanwhile airstrikes in Syria continue. Bombs explode in Baghdad. The alleged coup attempt in Turkey, the camps, the millions of people in camps.
When I hear the National Anthem in my head it is always Whitney at the Superbowl, casually soaring in her high waisted jeans and I have come to her to look for America.