July 2, 2015 § Leave a comment
This time every year, I can’t help but think of this amazing video:
I love this video for its own sake, but I especially love it because it reminds me of this:
If you don’t know, this book is where that cherry tree story comes from (“I cannot tell a lie”) and many others. Weems made stuff up to build up America (and for personal profit). It was a new country and it needed some stories, some culture, some history of its own to help it feel established and viable and “real.” And Weems wasn’t the only one on this band-wagon. There’s a reason so many buildings were built with Greek-style columns (the Greeks had credibility, they had gravitas) and I’ll always remember learning, when I toured Yale, that the windows were intentionally cracked and then repaired and that worn cobblestones were imported from Europe to give the place an older, more established feeling.
To me, the Cox & Combe’s video is just taking absurd part in (and, sure, poking fun at) this same tradition.
I love that tradition. Well, I don’t love the making-stuff-up per se, but I love the spirit of re-invention. I love self-determination and being the author of your own story. I love Jay Gatsby inventing a new, fabulous life for himself. I love that no matter where we’re born, we don’t have to feel destined to end up there.
Yup, there’s a lot that’s wrong with our country. Jay Gatsby is a fiction and a white, male one at that.
Nevertheless, on the anniversary of our country’s independence, I like to appreciate that dyed-in-the-wool of America is the energetic belief that each of us is free to pursue his dreams and to be whoever he or she wants to be. It might not happen for everyone but it wouldn’t happen for anyone if we didn’t begin with the assumption of that possibility.