It was a week or so ago. I was making breakfast. Eggs, probably. Someone said “America.” I said, instinctively, “Fuck yeah!”
And of course, there’s this:
Team America: World Police was, at best, an uneven movie. There were parts of it that I enjoyed, but other parts of it that I thought fell flat as satire. The abovereferenced song, though, is probably the most successful thing that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have every created. It is better than any single moment of South Park or Cannibal: The Musical. It is better than Orgazmo. I doubt that their upcoming musical, The Book of Mormon, will be able to best their success here.
The song is obviously about how bloviatingly bombastic America and Americans are or are perceived to be. It’s a send-up of the ultranationalism and chauvinism that typified George W. Bush’s America, a thumb to the nose of everyone who has a “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker. Parker and Stone go out of their way to portray America as evil (by referencing slavery), shallow (by calling out Bed Bath and Beyond) and stupid (by taking credit for sushi, which is notably from a place that is not America).
However, if the song was only a hateful spitwad, it wouldn’t have the enduring appeal that it does. There is something genuine about the song. Even an urban liberal type such as myself really does think, at times “America! Fuck yeah!” I don’t think that the guys in the big truck blasting on the Fourth of July were getting it wrong, either. It wasn’t the case that the satire was lost on them. They were reveling in the very real (and sort of obnoxious) patriotism of the song.
Yes, I think this song is patriotic. In a juvenile and twisted way, it is. Displays of patriotism are often overtaken with saccharine injections of sentimentality that make them nigh-unpalatable to anyone with even a modicum of skepticism. Parker and Stone, though, have put in just enough self-critical irony make it palatable.
Yes, I know there are problems with irony, but put those aside for a moment.
Let’s all admit, if only for a moment, that F/A-18s are really fucking cool. That it’s sort of awesome that we invaded France and kicked Hitler’s ass. That we totally won the Cold War. And, that ruling the world is sort of badass. Yes, yes yes. Admitting this makes you feel weird. Trust me, I feel the same way. I used to have a Che Guevera poster on my dorm wall, for god’s sake.
But, just for a moment, think about how stupidly awesome we are. Doesn’t it feel sort of neat?
Parker and Stone made it possible to sing proudly about America even as we acknowledge all of the problems this place has. All of the stupidity and greed and big, nasty history. All of those things that get in the way of singing about Purple Mountain Majesties. (And besides- since when are mountains purple?)
Patriotism doesn’t mean being uncritical or sentimental. It doesn’t mean you love unreservedly. It also doesn’t mean that you have to be all solemn and pietistic. It doesn’t mean you have to stop being self-aware.
So, happy birthday, George Washington! Thanks for kicking King George’s ass, though you couldn’t have done it without France’s help.