Ode to America by mateo hoke

“You hate America, don’t you?” she said.

“That would be as silly as loving it,” I said. “It’s impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn’t interest me. It’s no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can’t think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can’t believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to a human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will.”

-from Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

I don’t love “America.”

I’m really not interested in real estate.

I love land, as I love water, as I love forest air, as I love a life that allows me to read poetry, make love, feel the tickling pain of tattoos.

I love the land that I live on, that has fed me and cultivated this soul, but I don’t love it any more than I love any other terrain that I amble upon. My love knows no discretion between the 45th parallel and the 15th. I love any earth I encounter, regardless of who claims control.

Borders are merely imaginary lines drawn in the minds of humans in order to control resources. Humans are territorial animals and defend the terrain they mark with incredible violence. Humans are not sharing, communal animals. We are mean and greedy, and the borders we enforce are merely reminders of how hateful we really are.

I love the community I cultivate wherever I’m calling home. I love many people that have spent their lives amidst the land collectively referred to as “America.” They are breathing works of art.

Though, the borders that encompass “America” mean nothing to my soul.

Laughter and disease cross borders at will. As do clouds, birds, roots and water.

Walking, I see no difference between the landscapes of Southwest “Colorado” and Southeast “Utah.” The land is just that—land. “America” exists only in the minds of human animals, and as my connection with nature deepens, the laws of humanity mean less and less.

I cross a border, do I notice?

Do I know “Mexico” from this country I’ve been bred to love?

Do I know “Canada” from “Alaska” if I awake in the wilderness?

Are the trees of “Vermont” American?

Are the cacti south of “Texas” Mexican?

Can water, forever traveling, be Canadian?

Do I love “America?”

What is “America” my soul asks, as nature snickers at my human silliness.

I too love to laugh, and “American” humans certainly entertain.

The “border” that separates “Oregon” and “Washington” is directly in the middle of a regal river referred to by humans as the “Columbia.”

A border in the middle of a river.

As though a river may be separated lengthwise. As though the water and the fishes give a damn. As though a human border could mean anything.

Is it the culture of “America” I am to love? Because that is not something I can wrap my heart around. “American” culture is far too complex for me to love outright. I abhor the destruction of natural “American” beauty and love “American” tree spikers. There is a chord in my heart for anyone who respects and nurtures land, be it “America” or any other parcel of earth. I love books that embrace the energy of “American” loam, yet that energy is merely coincidental, it could be there, or it could not. My soul loves lessons no matter the origin, is ignorant to human boundaries.

“America” is not better nor worse than any other land. It is land, beautifully gritty and moist, and like other soil masses it is occupied by trees and plants and animals, including us humans.

If I do not adore this “country,” does that mean I hate “America?”

That would be as silly as loving it.


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