Monday, October 27, 2008

What does it take to be an "American Idot"?

It seems like I was in my car all day, which is scary, and a miracle, considering the shape I'm in. Much of that time was spent shuttling my son hither and yon.  First it was to get his flu shot, then back home again in time for me to make "dinner." After dinner I took him to his Tae Kwon Do class.  After class, a road trip to Dairy Queen, where he cashed in a coupon for a treat that was burning a hole in his pocket.

I'm tired. But I shouldn't complain. Everyday is Friday when you are a housewife--or so the myth goes.

While my son has his treat. I get an earful about his day as only he can tell it.  

First, he tells me he kicked butt at dodge ball during P.E.  Nobody could hit him, he says. This made his classmates "insane," he said.

I wasn't surprised. I play dodge ball with him every time I try to discuss homework with him, or get him to take medicine, or just turn off a light.  And we all know I'm insane.

Then he talks about this one girl who was giving him a hard time. I ask him if it was one of the "popular" girls that are currently the bane of his existence. 

He says no the girl is British, so she's not popular. Then he yelps, "The British are coming!" "The British are coming!"

First it was the Canadians; now our neighbors across the pond? What have they done to him lately? Besides, they probably don't think too much of "Americans" right now.

He then says that if he were in a British school he wouldn't be popular either, and adds that "only the Americans" are popular at his school.

Since when did my boy get the notion that all you need  be American is to be white and wear the appropriate flag pin? At any rate, I'm pretty sure most of the children at his school are American. And so what if they aren't? 

I ask him what he thinks it means to be American.

At first, he doesn't want to answer.

Then he sighs and says, "anyone who is born here."

I say he's right, but that even people who aren't born here can become citizens, recalling the story his second grade classmate--an American boy of Middle Eastern heritage, who took a day off to see his parents become citizens.

One of the things I love  about this country is its ideal of achieving diversity and equality. And one of the things I love about my son is that he marches to his own drummer. As he gets older, it will be harder for him to not cave in to what's "popular".  I hope he makes good choices.

Our differences should create excitement, not tension.  We can learn so much from people who aren't like us.  But despite the lofty goals of diversity and equality we have in this country, it seems we're given the  message that we should all be alike--a nation of sheep or clones.

One of me is enough, and one of my son is enough, too.

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