THE TIME HAS (ALMOST) COME.
I feel like I am, in general, a typically cynical person when it comes to Amurrica. When I studied abroad, I lied constantly and said I was English, partly because it’s my dream to be British, and partly out of fear I would get blown up if anyone knew I was American. I dressed in decidedly neutral colors and talked about how much I love Team America: World Police, and kept my love for country music under wraps. I’m not, you might say, well-educated on the subject of just why I’m supposed to disdain America so much, but I do it because people who are much smarter than me do it, and they have numbers and pie charts to back up their contempt. Sadly, this is the only pie chart I’ve ever actually understood:
Regardless, I once wrote a paper in college called The Demise of the American Dream, and wrote a lot of things like, “We could be good again. We could be great again,” and “The Great Gatsby does a stellar job of illustrating the inherent flaws in the American Dream,” and “I have no clue, literally no goddamn clue what I’m talking about.” My teacher was not very Paul Revered of it.
But for 2 weeks every four years, my family becomes the most patriotic bunch of hillbillies you could possibly imagine. Because of yes, oh yes, the Summer Olympics. In 1996, when I was but the age of 7, my mom let me stay up late every night to watch the Women’s Gymnastics team (I was taking gymnastics lessons at the time, but it became clear very early on that my strongest event was jumping on the trampoline we used for warm-up). When I saw Kerri Strug land that vault on her injured foot and win gold for the USA team, I sobbed with joy. I sobbed harder than I did years later when I suffered my first real loss in life, as I watched Buffy Summers vault herself off a bridge and into a Hellmouth portal in season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to save her despicable sister Dawn. Those were embittered tears of a grief. True, heartfelt, “Harriet the Spy should burn in Hell” grieftears. And as lame as it sounds, whenever I’m feeling my cockeye brim with those same grieftears of young adult strife (unemployment, relationship troubles, watching Muffincat’s fear during a thunderstorm), I watch this:
I’m pretty sure that I even saw a tear glistening in my New England born-and-bred father’s eye when Kerri stuck that landing. Actually, that’s a lie, nothing makes my dad cry. I did hear a rumor once that he almost teared up at the end of October Sky, but I never heard that rumor twice.
Kerri’s moment was my moment. In that moment, I became some semblance of a young woman, a young American woman. I remember that even then, at the tender age of 7, that communal feeling of pride in my country. It made me want to do a whole mess of things I hadn’t even considered before. Suddenly, I wanted to make out with Toby Keith in the back of a pickup truck while simultaneously chugging a Budweiser and voting. I wanted to walk into my 1st grade class the next day draped in nothing but the American flag. I wanted to buy a shotgun and start making monthly donations to the NRA. I wanted to knock my two front teeth out, build a log cabin, then burn it down. I wanted a tramp stamp of George Washington.
I have become increasingly zealous with each Summer Olympics since then. This year, despite my deep Anglophilia, I will shed the tolerant veil of my liberal arts education, put war paint on my face, sit on my sofa, and curse every other country to a crushing defeat by the U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! I will not google Kate Middleton once, or drink tea, or make any Monty Python references, or even think about Cousin Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey. I will not have one Sir Winston Churchill sex dream, out of sheer will. I will insist my place of work refrain from playing The Beatles. I will–and this is truly difficult–not watch Love Actually for two whole weeks. I will, in essence, lose the entire point of the Olympics (international tolerance and community blah blah blah) to my rampant, unfounded patriotism.
I want to see Michael Phelps dominate, I want to see him win every race and then slap his opponents in the face with a fish screaming, “THIS IS MY BRETHREN, U-S-A! U-S-A!” I want to see all those fantastic prepubescent little gymnasts flip and flop and do the anatomically impossible while wearing their colorful Saran Wrap suits. I fully plan on oogling the beach volleyball dream team Misty-May Treanor and Kerri Walsh as they dominate for a third Olympics, and then blasting Born in the USA and jumping around naked.
Then, at 12AM on August 12th, I will return to being the average disenchanted American. I’ll let myself go see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and write an apology letter to the Queen for my insubordination. I’ll go back to being ambivalently skeptical about Occupy Wallstreet when asked at parties–“I see their point, but there’s no organization, so what will it accomplish?”–and lying about having requested my absentee ballot.
But in the meantime: