Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Mortgage-paying Nation in Exile

I’ll admit I’m from lime shag carpet between my toes and biting holes in the center of processed pre-sliced cheese. And to be honest, Sergeant Slaughter supplied the bulk of my childhood moral education with his fist-pumping affirmation, “…and knowing is half the battle.” But despite my western domestication, there’s something about the dust-ridden transient life that generations of Israelis endured that resonates with me—that resonates with US. We also live in a nation in exile.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to pull a far-fetched parallel trivializing what the Israelites in exile endured. How trite and insignificant does my eight-year-old dilemma deciding between the cheese-infused hot dog and the tater-tot chili boat sound now? How can I, with my Richie Cunningham existence even begin to fathom what it would be like to spend my pre-teen years carrying family heirlooms in a knapsack perpetually following God knows what.
While I haven’t come close to experiencing anything in the same region of intensity, for some reason, I feel like something within me has that same sense of longing and of displacement.
Despite our globally-relative affluence, and sense of rooted king-of-the-mountain mentality, the United States of America finds itself in a state of exile because the United States of America is made up of a bunch of humans singing along with Bryan Adams, wishing the summer of ’69 really would last forever.
Is it just a primal obsession in me and the top 40 charts with American flags, blue jeans, and car washes, or is Bruce Springsteen really on to something when he growls out his anthemic declaration that, “Baby, I’m born to run”? It’s not just a blue-collar battle cry. We crave for something we realize we don’t have.
I know I’m not alone in this craving, because every television network has picked up on it, and has begun to feed off this nation’s obsession with celebreality (do I need to put an ® there so VH1 doesn’t come after me?). We elevate these pseudo famers and fantasize about putting them in a mansion and having them fight over a jar of peanut butter. It’s as if we aren’t comfortable or satisfied with our own realities. We’re a nation of firmly planted mortgage payers, obsessing over the green grass on the other side.
It’s why we use credit cards to try and rise above our standard of living, and why “The Price is Right” is still on day-time television: we all want something more.
In mulling all this over this past week, I think somewhere between an episode of “The Hills” and my re-reading of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, I had an epiphany. I’m not sure if it was the petty whining of the high-brows or the desperation in George & Lenny, but I realized that we weren’t meant to live migrant lives of want. Some epiphany, eh?

Glenn Krake teaches English Literature to high schoolers, and continues to lament the loss of his fourth grade pet tree lizards, Milli and Vanilli.

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