While driving down the street in my quaint little suburban neighborhood, I noticed a raised 4×4 Chevy truck in front of me displaying a license plate that read, “Merican AF.”
For those of you who may not be in on the lingo, it was shorthand for, “American As Fuck.”
Ahhhh, good ole Chevy and apple pies.
As one who is intrigued with language, I cannot help but deconstruct not only the intent of this license plate moniker, but also the more general implications it reflects in an increasingly divided political landscape.
I understand the “Merican” title over the traditional “American” as originating from George W. Bush and his quirky Texan, “rednecky” pronunciation of the word. It has since come to reflect a very deep, patriotic, non-nonsense association with middle America and its love of Budweiser, bullets, and border walls. Just as AF is replacing the adverb “very,” the Merica replacement is the dropping of the A in America; and, voila, we now have America on steroids. Let’s face it, to state that you are “Very American,” just doesn’t pack the patriotic punch that, “Merican AF,” lands.
So much for my deconstruction. So what are the implications in the larger sense and why did this license plate create such a negative reaction within me?
My first reaction was to stereotype the shit out of this person- of which I caught myself and now try to practice a more critical and reasonable reaction.
Why did I react this way? What was the trigger? I am confused AF.
Since when does expressing love and commitment to country must mean you are a psycho right wing nut with a very limited education…albeit when communicated in a vernacular that would arguably warrant just a wee bit of patriotic overindulgence?
Is it not ok to “love” your country and not be thrown in with dangerous nationalists?
Or to be “progressive” demands that we “hate” America? Since when? Why?
(BTW…I really despise the word “love” to describe a relationship with anything other than a person. So I do not “love” this country, nor my house, cell phone, my precious Nilla wafers or even the computer I am writing on at this moment. Nothing personal, though I believe “love” should be between people, not things or ideas).
The following are the five reminders and lessons that Chevy truck caused within me that day.
- It reminded me that to hold an impartial or moderate view in terms of “loving” country is becoming increasingly rare. There is an ever growing divide between those who might think America is a corrupt, unfair, capitalist piece of greedy shit country, say the Occupy Wall Street crowd, versus those who think it can do no wrong and is the greatest country on God’s green earth. You know, the Merica AF crowd. Is there room in the middle? Cannot I believe something more nuanced along the lines that America has some absolutely wonderful virtues as well as some insidious history and practices? Do I have to fully buy into one or the other?
- It reminded me that human beings are just creatures searching for meaning…some kind of meaning. Many find this meaning through religion, relationships, volunteer work, and, yes, some find meaning in national identity. I am not one to find meaning in national identity and do believe it can have some damaging effects (check this out) yet is it not better for some to find meaning in national identity over something much more dangerous and sinister…like gangs or drugs for example?
- It was a stark reminder of the growing gap between liberals and conservatives. In my nearly 55 years of life, it would seem the conservative side is not moving all that much further right as the liberal leaners are moving at light speed toward the further left. I do remember a day when “normal” citizens (both left and right) could display an American flag and not be considered the radical right. That said, I still believe the Pledge of Allegiance is just weird…but that is a different topic for a different day.
- It served to remind me that I do live smack in the middle of a very blue, left coast, Southern California bubble. Perhaps nothing reminded me of this more than the last election from which I am still in shock. It reminded me that all of us live in a self-created bubble in which the contents are conveniently aligned with our preferred worldview. My guess is the Merican AF dude has so bought into the American Patriotic ethos that even if–by any political standards–the United States does something horrendous, his filters and bubble would prevent him from acknowledging it at any critical level. Every single one of us lives in a bubble. Some just prefer not to admit it.
- It reminded me that one could be patriotic for either all the right or wrong reasons. Patriotism run amok can turn very quickly into ugly nationalism in which we believe all those who are not American are somehow inferior or in some sense not worthy human beings. It can have us believing that some countries are “shitholes” and America is the gold standard. On the other hand, a certain amount of positive adherence and loyalty to a country is really necessary for it to survive. If we all hated this country there would be no one or reason to defend it…and, for some, they might consider that a good thing –I do not.
I really like to think I have no dog in the political fight. I would rather affirm or negate individual ideas over general political ideologies. Which might explain why some very close to me believe I am a raging right winger while still others believe my left liberalism is off the charts.
And I think this schism is good thing as it reflects a non-partisan take on ideology.
It is amazing the thoughts that can be conjured up simply by driving behind a Chevy.
That damn license plate has me reflective…AF.