I woke up last night with words running through my head, as they are wont to do. Sentences and sentiments that rose unbidden in my brain and demanded to be let out. I was thinking, as so many of us are these days, about the chaos in the United States, and, as I lay there in the dark, I wondered why I, as a Canadian, care so much about what happens to my neighbour to the south.
I thought about all the incredible American cities I have visited. Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston and hanging out with the Movies About Girls crew before we podcast-faded. Eating deep dish pizza and listening to the blues in Chicago. The incomparably cool vibe of New York City at night. The glitz of Las Vegas and the grandeur of the canyon in Arizona. Rock and roll road trips to stand in front of bands in Detroit. Red wine and hummingbirds in Napa and Sonoma, the glorious towering redwoods, the hills and rolling fog of San Francisco.
I thought about all the amazing American artists whose work I have seen in galleries in the U.S. and around the world. Andy Warhol's celebrities and Jackson Pollock's splatter-drips and Georgia O'Keefe's skulls and flower labia. I have found joy in the whimsical sculptures of Jeff Koons and the comic book paintings of Roy Lichtenstein. I have gazed into Mark Rothko's colour abyss and marvelled at the intricacy and delicacy of Alexander Calder's mobiles.
Thanks to Americans, we have electric light, photographs, record players, computers, and flight.
Thanks to Americans, we have the blues and punk and motown and pop and rap and motherfucking rock 'n' roll, can I get a hallelujah, brothers and sisters! Johnny Thunders and Johnny Cash, the Ramones and the Stooges, Debbie Harry and Richard Hell, Bo Diddley and Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen and Dolly Parton and Tom Petty, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston, Sam Cooke and Snoop Dogg, N.W.A. and Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the Beastie Boys, The Velvet Underground, Prince, Madonna, and Michael Jackson.
American authors and film makers and television show creators too numerous to mention have helped shape my world. Who would I be without Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Mulder and Scully? Without James Cameron's gutbusting alien or Tobe Hooper's chainsaw-wielding maniac or Steven Spielberg's translucent extra-terrestrial? Without the darkness of Stephen King or the bad taste of John Waters? The stories and philosophies of Steinbeck or Hemingway or Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy? The wisdom of Ray Bradbury, Judy Blume, or Beverly Cleary?
I love you, America, for all the ways you have contributed to the person I am today.
You have many, many faults. You are not often humble, and you frequently get involved in wars that are none of your business, to the detriment of everyone involved. I do not understand your fondness for automatic or even semi-automatic weapons, but I am frequently amused by your insistence on the right to bare [sic] arms. You still haven't really dealt with the impact of slavery. You are often under-educated and ill-informed about the world around you, and I will never comprehend your resistance to universal health care.
Over the last four years, I have watched your elected leader, a conman and a liar, encourage these faults. I have watched him strut and preen, incite violence and hatred and fear. I have watched him embolden people to embrace all the parts of humanity that we, as a global community, should be striving to eradicate. (I am not so naive to believe that this will ever truly be possible, but I am optimistic that we can move forward and maybe not be quite as shitty to each other.)
I want better for you, America. I don't want you to be great. You don't need to be the best. I just so want you to be good.