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An Indian Writer's Patriotism By: Sherman Alexie
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 26, 2004


What follows is the introduction to a lecture at the University of Washington by Sherman Alexie, a Spokane Indian and renowned writer of magical stories ("The Toughest Indian In The World," "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist-Fight In Heaven" and "Ten Little Indians"). Sherman is a self-described "liberal" and an e-mail friend -- David Horowitz

"I
love my country like I'm married to it, meaning there is no other country. I want to love this country hard, and there is no other country I'm more committed to.

At my most needy, I turn to this country. At my most lonely, I turn to this our country. When I need reminders of my country's beauty, I just turn on the dang TV, or read a magazine or book, or watch a movie or television show or listen to music made by an American, and I feel endless and hopeful.

I love my country like I'm married to it, meaning there is no other country that  irritates me more. You have to love it so much to feel so much disappointment at its betrayals and inattentions. But I never hate this country. Never. I'm going to be married to it forever. I am only angry with it when it fails to live up to its potential. And it should only be angry with me when I fail to live up to my potential.

Now, I don't have sex with my country. You can't really have sex with a country or the idea of a country, can you? So instead of sex, my country and I express our love, our physical and spiritual and emotional love for each other, with something called the American Dream. And trust me, the American Dream, in all of its reality and illusions, is just as wonderful and magical and powerful and terrible and awkward and embarrassing and fraught with danger and death and pain but also filled to the brim with hope and promise and MONEY!!!!!!!

And I can say all this because I was a poor ass reservation Indian boy who didn't have indoor plumbing until I was seven and now I'm an internationally successful writer who is teaching at a wonderful public university. I've made an incredible journey from poverty to money, from powerlessness to power, from third world economics to first world privilege.

You know who I am? I AM JAY GATSBY! Much less cute than ol' Jay, of course, but I still feel like him. And you know who else is Jay Gatsby?  Bill Clinton is. Superman is. George W. Bush is. Randy and Vicky Weaver are. Hell, that Japanese-American sniper, raised in Hawaii, who shot and killed Vicky Weaver, he's Jay Gatsby, too. Of course, it's scary to include myself in that group because their Jay Gatsbyness doomed them all to lives of pain and violence and loneliness and insecurity and promiscuity and dishonesty and manipulation and naked ambition and addiction and so much freakin' potential wasted that it drives me mad. So now, let's talk about all of them, about the incredible way in which real and fictional Americans constantly reinvent themselves in the pursuit of the American Dream, and let's see how many of you feel like Jay Gatsby by the end of this lecture."


American Indian poet Sherman Alexie is a prolific poet and author of numerous books, including Ten Little Indians.


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