American Pride to Work
At Something Besides Killing
By Terry Southern
New York Newsday
September 8th, 1992
At the risk of being dubbed a "flag-waving yahoo" or perhaps "chauvinist-galoot," I must confess I sometimes still got a small tingle when I hear a certain passage about halfway through "The Stare and Stripes Forever."
I say "still" because it first occurred when I was a 15-year-old platoon leader in a Texas high school ROTC regiment, and every Thursday morning we would have this big parade, the whole regiment (two battabons of four companies, of three platoons, of three squads) passing in review.
We would execute "eyes right" for the cadet regimental commander and the grand old (silverhaired commandant, sometimes fool, usually a full or lieutenant- colonel, U.S. Army, Retired) and it was about then ("eyes right" at the reviewing stand) that this particular part of the music would come down, sweeping across the parade ground in alternate lyrical wafts of flute and snare and majestic blasts of trumpet and trombone.
Sure enough, if I wasn't hung over, or a little spaced on local hemp, I might get a small spine tingle, small but quite discernible, of some curious ineffable pride in the good old USA, as embodied in this most rousing of patriotic tunes, "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
The reason for this feisty canter down memory lane is merely to indicate to the reader that Johnny Six Pack and the Missus have no monopoly on the sort of deaf, dumb and blind patriotism we see so much these days. Others are also susceptible. Such charades, however, as Grenada, Panama and the recent so-called "Sandbox Turkey-Shoot" are a diffiefent matter; you canTexactly get choked up and tingling about killing people from an out-ofharm's-way altitude or distance.
The human condition is such that a feeling of pride does, indeed, give pleasure; and there should be, aside from the aforementioned con-job deceptions, genuine reasons for its indulgence. "Being No. 1," as a concept, has its legitimate pride-giving possibilities, so long as it reflects an achievement more substantial than the greatest number of homicides per capita. Consider, for example, having the fastest trains in the world? Surely this would make a dandy bragging point.
And, curiously enough, as a bit of real-life serendipity, it would also serve as the keystone of a world-class industrial infrastructure: getting manufactured products from factory to market. High-speed rail is such an obvious necessity to an industrial economy (and its construction and maintenance such an extraordinary boon to employment) one can only wonder why, of all the politicians at large, only Jerry Brown and Jesse Jackson even saw fit to mention it. Is this because they know the lobbies for the oil, automotive and highway-construction interests have long precluded such possibilities? What a pity for the rest of us.
As for "being No. I," isn't it possible that a clever focus group could put the right spin on it and "having the best goddamn health-care service on earth" could easily become a handy source of pride for every red-blooded American alive? Surely it is worth a try.
And parallel to this, and most essential, is the establishment of a "special educational fund" to be used exclusively for the purpose of semantically desanitizing the idea of "nationalization"--at last ridding it of the mysterious stigma that seems to prevent us from spending our resources on things other than engaging in masturbatory little wars, and preparing for big dreamlike manly ones.
(c) The Terry Southern Estate; all rights reserved.
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