What I Love about the US of America: Overture to an Unfinishable List

by Mark Chmiel

Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Riverside Church, NYC, April 1967; Route 50 in Nevada; Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass; Duke Ellington, “Take the ‘A’ Train”;  Joey Neilsen, resister of Catholic high school homophobia; massive protests in Washington, D.C. during Democrat administration in power; Kathy Kelly’s prophetic, peripatetic interventions on behalf of America’s “unworthy victims,” e.g., Iraqis, Nicaraguans, Palestinians; Thomas Merton sending out a million letters from the Abbey of Gethsemani; Janey Prejean, in navy Notre Dame t-shirt and jean cut-offs,  swishing from 25 feet;  Joanie French teaching efficient and elegant movement to afflicted, aching, strained students; Bob Dylan, “Masters of War”; Tyeysha Jones: “I love to make white people uncomfortable”; Mev Puleo, polyglot photographer, honoring Dignity in Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, & Haiti; 23 Louisvillians (including Kelly Cowan) arrested and hand-cuffed for protesting Congressional aid to U.S. reconstituted Nicaraguan National Guard “contra” terrorists, destroyers,  & rapists christened by Reagan as moral equivalent to U.S. Founding Fathers; Pat Geier, befriender of Vietnamese refugees, Guatemalan doctors, and Palestinian exiles; Jefferson Lake, Forest Park, Saint Louis, Missouri; Jack Kerouac, “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose;”; Berkeley cafés and bookstores; Thuy Khuu, age 22, graduating with a 3.7 fourteen years after coming to this country;  massive protests in Washington, D.C. during Republican  administration in power; uncountable U.S. Christians who went to Central America to see for themselves the results of U.S. intervention; Dianna Ortiz, traumatized yet telling the truth; Diana Ross and the Supremes, “You Can’t Hurry Love”; letters of appreciation via post office and cyberspace for El Libro de Maria Evelina;  Harold Bloom, national guru of reading; Noam Chomsky, national dissident for going on five decades; Randa Kuziez’s inexhaustible smile; the Hudson, the Charles, and the Mississippi; Kate Heidemann’s violin playing, gorgeous spring day, April 2006, West Pine walkway; the global community during early morning walks, Lake Merritt, Oakland, California; Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On; Natalie Goldberg inspiring thousands of scribbling American bodhisattvas;  Bob Dylan, “Brownsville Girl”; all those who resist the military-industrial-academic-ecclesial complex; Rachel Corrie’s e-mails; Nima Sheth’s emails; …

— Summer 2008