What is America for Mummy?

[This is one of Jessica's first posts here, I was looking through our records and it struck me that we often become bogged down in detail, in theory, in the mundane day-to-day stuff that we deal with. We tend to forget what it's all about, and we shouldn't. Almost from the beginning America has been a dream; a dream of freedom above all, but also of material prosperity.

It was such a potent dream that Italian peasants told each other that the streets were paved with gold, although they knew what really awaited them was hard work, and bias against them because of their language and religion but, they came anyway, and if they didn't have much but hard work and cramped tenements, their children did. And that's really what the dream has always been: for our children to have a better life than we did. In the nineteenth century, Russian immigrants who had never had anything but black bread, except maybe on holidays, wrote home ecstatically that "in America, we eat wheaten bread every day." And that too was part of the saga of America.

That's what we have built over the last 400 years, a dream of freedom, of individual liberty, yes, but also of freedom from material want by virtue of hard work. And you know, as Jess is going to tell you again here, that is really pretty damned heroic as well. Neo]

When I was ten, I lived in America for a year – in the mid-West. I remember when we got to O’Hare airport looking at its size and marvelling; it seemed bigger than the town in which we lived in Wales. I recall going to St. Louis and seeing the Arch, and going up it and looking across the vastness of the city and asking my mother: ‘What is America for mummy?’ I can’t remember what she answered – she probably thought it was me trying to be clever; but it was a real question, and one I came to ask a few times whilst I was there.

I think I asked it for the reason many foreigners ask – there is something different about America.  I remember going with my mother to a Kiwanis Club and being struck by the way everyone put their fist on their breast as they swore the oath of allegiance to the flag. Indeed, I was so impressed that I memorised it so that the second time we went, I could do it too. I remember a nice man smiling but saying that I couldn’t do it because I was not an American citizen.  ‘How do you get to be one of those’, I asked? ‘Well, little lady, you could always marry an all-American boy’, was the answer.  I think I said something about ‘smelly boys’ and never wanting to get married because I wanted to be a nun. But a bit later I recall thinking that maybe the kind man had a point.  America, the very idea, seemed Romantic.

My father was fifty when I was born, and his tastes in movies became mine. When other teenage girls were swooning about Kevin Costner (really???), I was dismissive. John Wayne was my hero – and remains so. He summed up America for me. Strong, but never boastful about it. I remember crying when I saw ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance’ – it was so unfair – it was Tom Donovan, not Ransom Stoddard who shot Liberty Valance, so why did the latter end up with the girl? Huh, I remember thinking, if I had been ‘the girl’ there was no way I’d have chosen Jimmy Stewart over John Wayne – what was she thinking?  But, as Tom Donovan might have said: “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim”.

The film’s message, which passed me by in my indignation, was about the passing of the old West, and the place of myth in the making of a nation. America is a nation build around myths and legends. That is not to say they are wrong, it is to say that those movies told a bigger story about the making of a great nation and what made it that. All nations need myths, and the point about the American one seemed to be encapsulated in my second favourite John Wayne film – ‘She wore a Yellow ribbon.’ Captain Nathan Brittles was the quintessential quiet American. A man who, having lost his family, was married to army, and who did his duty, no matter what. My teenage heart went out to him, and I was very sniffy about the heroine going off with those ‘boys’ rather than a ‘real man’.

What John Ford caught in those films – especially the great trilogy which began with ‘Fort Apache’ and ended with ‘Rio Grande’ – was the very idea of America.  Call me a Romantic (no, do) – but that idea of America remains with me to this day. God Bless America – the land of the free.

[I think Jess is very right, America is romantic, and yes, you can call me one too. But if we take the romance, and yes the legend and the saga out of our history, we are left with a strip of dirt, and just another group of people. That's not my America, either. Here's a piece of the legend. Neo]

Enhanced by Zemanta

About JessicaHof
Anglo-Catholic Christian, facilitator, reader of books, multi-tasker

4 Responses to What is America for Mummy?

  1. illero says:

    This is terrific. Great insight, great reminder.

    Like

    • JessicaHof says:

      Thank you :) x

      Like

  2. Like

    • JessicaHof says:

      Thank you :)

      Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Omaha News & World Report

Local, National, & World News; Expert Reviews, Biased Commentary, Raw Polls, & Random Musings

Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Joanne Bailey Muses on History

Talking through my research

nebraskaenergyobserver

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

The Nice Thing About Strangers

Non-Fiction Short Stories. Travel, oldsters, love, moments worthy of pause. Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

Ye Olde Soapbox

News and Views, Stimulus for the masses

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

Watcher of Weasels

Keeping an eye on the weasels of the world

Villainous Company

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

Unedited Politics

Political News, Commentary, Interviews, and Discussions

Two Nerdy History Girls

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

Thomas Sowell's Townhall.com Column

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

The Tree of Mamre

Politics, religion, and life. Unapologetically conservative, Christian, and iconoclastic.

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

The Daley Gator

If you are LEFT, you just ain't RIGHT

The D.C. Clothesline

Airing Out the "Dirty Laundry" of Government, Big Business, or Anyone Else Who Stands in the Way of A BETTER America!

The Anchoress

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

Sago

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

Small Town Nebraska

Living and Learning in a Small Farm Town

Roger Tharpe

a voice crying out into the wilderness

Roger Pearse

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

Researching Food History - Cooking and Dining

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

Right Wing Nuts and Bolts

Applying Classic Liberal Education to Today's Topics

RedStateEclectic

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

RECLAIMING THE SACRED

Be extraordinary. Change the world.

The Libertarian Liquidationist

Advocating a Virtuous Voluntaryism

Public Catholic

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

Power Line

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

Posts - Chicks on the Right - Chicks on the Right

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

PA Pundits - International

"the relentless pursuit of common sense" A Variety of Opinions From Various Writers

Ooobie on Everything

Opinion on issues of concern to Republicans and conservatives

Objective Conservative - The Voice of Conservative Thought in Nebraska

The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy

NoOneOfAnyImport

just one voice from the rabble

nebraskattitude

Just another WordPress.com site

%d bloggers like this: