Sunday, September 9, 2007

an apple pie american

As I was walking, I saw some people gathered up ahead of me. They were standing on the 66 overpass, looking at the eastbound lanes. I took off my headphones and joined them to watch a long line of motorcycles rumbling toward D.C. They came in two lines, creating a festive atmosphere. There were about 40 people looking at the highway. Kids on tiptoes peered through the fence to wave at the riders below.

"What is it for?" I asked a guy with a shaved head whose son was wearing camouflage pants.

"It's for 9/11. It's to support the troops." I tried not to bristle at that easy link between 9/11 and Iraq. I tried to just smile and wave my open palm, my Nixon peace sign.

I looked around at the assortment of neighborhood people gathered there. There were a lot of categories represented. I was confident in those categories. Some families had just left services at the nearby Catholic church. One scrubbed family looked as though they were about to go pick their own produce for the week, maybe at Farm Fresh Fields. I examined the leather wearing, tattooed riders rolling beneath the bridge overpass who honked and gave peace signs. I thought about the different definitions of peace. I thought about how weird America is.

The last motorcycle rolled by, and the emergency support vehicles brought up the rear, sounding sirens. The crowd started to disperse, chatting idly and proudly about the spectacle as it rumbled away. Patriotism feels a whole lot merrier these days than it did 6 years ago.

"Me, too!" I heard a woman call out. "Me, too! I'm an apple pie American as well! My dad was a veteran." I turned back and saw a woman with shining dark black skin, wearing a long hijab and an even longer dress in the 90 degree heat. Her 3 year old daughter, braids poking out of her head, was in a stroller.

I went back to talk to her. I didn't have anything to say, really, but it seemed like she hadn't felt included. I'm sure I had already categorized her earlier. I'm equally sure that apple pie American is not the box I put her in. I asked her about her father, asked her if she was going to go to the rally. Her daughter and I talked about yellow fire hydrants. We all walked a bit together. It turns out we're neighbors.

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