I attended a very liberal university during a period of history where the U.S. was making some questionable decisions. We were like a drunk frat bro who got sucker punched at a kegger, then got up all wobbly and took a swing at the Asian kid in the corner who had nothing to do with it. Then we were like, “Fuck this, I’m going to find that dude,” and we got in our dad’s Mercedes, but crashed immediately into a stop sign and threw up on our cargo shorts. Then the cops came, but lucky for us the chief of police was our uncle so we got to sleep it off instead of spending the night in jail, and everyone at the kegger was left saying, “Wow, fuck that dude.”
I guess what I’m trying to say is you wouldn’t have found any Bruce Springsteen on my IPod in the mid aughts. (Except “Dancing in the Dark.” That song is just awesome.) I was anti-Bush, anti-conservative, anti-shwag weed, and anti- American. During my junior year abroad I was hesitant to tell people I was American, opting for Californian in hopes that they liked O.C., Terminator or Red Hot Chili Peppers. I remember a group of American tourists who had sewn the Canadian flag on their travel packs to try and avoid uncomfortable situations. I held the belief that I was the awesome exception to a cruel norm, which I shared nothing in common with. Americans are racist and I am tolerant. Americans are stupid, and I am smart and witty. Americans are fat and loud; I am lean and partially reserved. Clearly I must be non-American, or some kind of genetically mutated American, impervious to stereotype and generalization.
I considered myself strictly a citizen of the world until one cold night in Buenos Aires changed my perspective. I moved to BA after college to “teach English.” I was looking for adventure and an escape from the unbelievably boring States. Some locals invited me to smoke and drink fernet in a plaza in San Telmo. (Ooh, how cultural) I was introduced as Andres from America. This of course sparked South Americans favorite debate, which is that we are all Americans so I should say I am from the States. After bumbling my way thru my drunken Spanish opinion on that matter, a rat-tailed Argentino stopped playing Bob Marley long enough to try and rip me a new culito.“Why do you like Bush?”
“Why did you vote for him?”
“I didn’t. Other people did. Bush doesn’t represent everyone in America…err sorry, the states.
“Why did you vote for him twice?”
“Umm. That is difficult to explain in any language, but you must understand that the U.S. is huge! It cannot be defined only by its government or one person’s actions…”
This went on for almost an hour. I grew frustrated, but also more passionate as the hippy refused to stop prodding the issue. I had never defended my homeland so vehemently in my life and I was finding that I was eager and even happy to do so. Maybe it was the brown shwag and rich man’s Jaeger talking, but it was the first time I can ever remember taking pride in being American.Watching these 2012 Olympics I try to tell myself that the only reason I tune in is because I am a fan of sports and competition, and if a fellow countrymen were to win that competition, all the better right? This just isn’t true, and I can’t hide anymore from the brutal reality. I would never watch a gymnastics routine any other time in my life. If I turned on ESPN in September and there was some ripped midget straddling a pommel horse, I would throw my Budweiser at the screen and write a strongly worded letter to Bristol.
I not only want Americans to win, but I want the other countries to be humiliated. I want to see Poland’s canoe hit a rock and careen off a dangerous waterfall. I want to see Australia’s bicyclists ride too close together, rub wheels, and crash against the wall while the Americans leisurely pedal their way to gold. I want a Russian to snap his leg during the 10,000m. I love the San Francisco 49’ers, but I didn’t shed a single tear when they lost in overtime to the NY Giants last season, but you give me five American gymnasts with some compelling back stories, an American flag and an electric vault routine and I’m balling like a teenage girl who just found out K Stew cheated on the lanky white.
When the Olympics finish, I will stop wishing terrible things on the rest of the world. I will return to forgetting that I live in America and will reassume my identity of laid back cool guy from the west coast who doesn’t get riled too easy. It’s nice to know, however, that for a couple weeks every four years I feel a connection to everyone else in this huge country, and that we can bond over a universal truth. We’re Number 1. We’re Number 1. U-S-A!