I came of age in the turbulent 60’s and early 70’s. There were lots of reasons to hate America – or at least its government. In fact, let’s set the record straight right away: it was great to live in America in that decade and to feel a part of the movement that hated the government. We created a remarkable community of Americans banded together with a mighty purpose – how American is that? It just happened to be that our purpose was to overturn the establishment which included the government, our parents, the rules of society as we knew them.
I remember my first taste that the era had ended. I was a big basketball fan and took a boyfriend to see a 76ers game in Philly. We had great seats, a couple of rows from the floor, center stage. The national anthem played and I wouldn’t stand up. The boyfriend was horrified. So was everyone else around me. Hey, wait a second. Where were all my comrades then? Had they already exchanged their tie-dyed shirts for business suits?
Patriotism came back into style. Even I got on-board for awhile. I lived in Paris for five years, from 1988 – 1993 and realized, as ex-pats often do, that I was, in fact, very much American, and for many good reasons, pretty damn proud of the fact. I loved Paris and still dream of living there again someday. But I became an American amongst all those foreigners.
And then came W. It’s fashionable to be anti-American again, though again, what we’re really talking about is anti-war and anti-government policies and anti-domination by the religious right. Obama is bumping up against this – and so is Michelle who had to get really really clear about when she’s proud to be an American and when she’s not so proud.
July 4th – a time to celebrate? I’ve never celebrated this holiday. I’ve always felt squeamish about paper plates with flag designs and folks dressed in red white and blue. But this year, on Independence Day, with Obama running for president, I do feel proud to be American and hopeful about real change in our country.
I titled this blog: Patriotism – is it a dirty word? I’ve just finished a phenomenal three week book tour for my new book, DIRTY WORDS: A LITERARY ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SEX. In the book I challenge the notion that sexual terminology is “dirty” – and I (with the help of 94 amazing contributors) encourage the reader to celebrate the so-called dirty words. (Though we’re still up against a lot of barriers – many of our country’s book stores won’t put the book on the shelves!)
What about patriotism? I love the America that gave me the experiences of my rebellious youth – and I love the America that is responding to Obama’s call for unity and hope. Happy July Fourth to all of you.
ELLEN SUSSMAN’s Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia Of Sex, was published by Bloomsbury in 2008. Her anthology, Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave, was published by W.W. Norton in 2007 and became a New York Times Editors Choice and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Seller. She is the author of the novel, On a Night Like This, (Warner Books, 2004) also a San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller. It has been translated into six languages. Her website is www.ellensussman.com