Why I Love America

[Excerpted from Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil]

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I love America because Malcolm X is from here.

I love America because Malcolm X, Audre Lorde, Paul Robeson, Diamanda Galás, Robin D.G. Kelley, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Paris, my Grammy, Missy Elliott, Yuri Kochiyama, Oscar the Grouch, Ho Che Anderson, Janeane Garofalo, Cookie Monster, Maxine Waters, Cynthia McKinney, Jan Schakowsky, and Gore Vidal are all from here.

They all grew up in America, just like me.

I love America because it’s where I’ve had Iranian rosewater syrup ice cream and Indian cardamom ginger ice cream too. America feeds me vegetarian kung pao chicken, rich Ethiopian stews, and Boca Burgers with organic tomato slices, fat and juicy and salt-and-peppered. I love the food of America. It is the best of the whole wide world.

I love America because there are so many voices here. There is Neil Diamond and Talib Kweli. Ann Coulter and Lisa Tiger. Bill Cosby and Louis Farrakhan. Colonel David Hackworth and General Tommy Franks. When I think of all the voices in America, I almost lose consciousness with the breathtaking whirling in my mind.

the statesI love America because each state is a different country and when I am all bundled up in “Minnesota” when it is a bone-numbing forty-six degrees outside,total strangers chide me and tell me to take off my hat, and in “Ohio,” a group of young Amish people told me I was English, and I said, “No, I am Irish and Italian,” and they laughed at my ignorance, because to them, everyone who is non-Amish—including Neil Diamond, Talib Kweli, Ann Coulter, Lisa Tiger, Bill Cosby, Louis Farrakhan, Colonel David Hackworth, and General Tommy Franks—is “English,” and in “New York” it is totally against the law to dance in a bar and you can get in big trouble, and if you tell people in “Louisiana” that you don’t eat meat, they will feel sorry for you and express their sincerest condolences. One of my favorites, I think, is when I am in “Michigan” and if I ask someone where they are from, they will hold up their right hand and point somewhere on it.

I love America because almost everyone I hold dear to my heart and share memories and history with lives here.

I love America because it offered a home to my immigrant mother, gave her a place to raise her children.

I love America because there is a festival here for every conceivable occasion, celebrating the strawberry harvest, the antique motorcycle, the first day the mall opened, the most poised six-year-old girl in a specific geographic region, and the go-cart. There are Greek Orthodox festivals, hippies run amuck festivals, black nationalism hiphop festivals, Sun Dance Warrior festivals, Japanese cherry blossom festivals, lunar new year festivals, gang truce festivals, and Mennonite quilting festivals here in America.

gold velvetIf I did not love America, I would do what the bumper sticker says and leave it in a heartbeat, but I cannot imagine how sad I would be living somewhere that is not America. How could I survive without radical cheerleaders and Dave Chappelle, without loud-mouthed assholes like Howard Stern, without pampered doggies in cashmere sweaters, without Margaret Cho and Alix Olson, without deep plush golden velvet interiored lowriders and flamboyant homos prancing down the street in ball gowns aglow with little white lights in the tulle?

I love America because it describes every aspect of my identity, humanity, and complex ideology.

It is a beautiful place and I am deeply honored to have been born here.

I love America.

 

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