“I can’t do it.” Earlier in the morning I’d seen this boy clear a ten-foot double jump, arrogantly hanging the back wheel out motorcross style, without breaking a sweat. He would go on to win his race that day by more than ten yards, bunnyhopping the finish line in a display of exuberance mixed with outstanding fitness even in the ninety-degree heat. But now he was trembling as he clutched the flagpole. “I’ll drop it. I can’t do it one-handed. The flag,” he whispered, “could touch the ground.”
His mother, standing by the ground next to the tabletop jump on which her son was vibrating with fear and concern, pointed her finger up towards his face. Her tank top fell away from her shoulder and I could see the faded Technicolor of a half-dozen different philosophies in tattooing. One of them was a man’s name in cigarette-ink blue, followed by “USMC”.
“You,” she snapped, “can absolutely do it and I don’t wanna hear no excuses neither.”
So the boy turned away and began riding down the backside of the jump as a recorded version of the National Anthem started playing. As is my long-established custom at BMX races, I sang along in my weathered tenor — but this particular version was done in a hyper-countrified style that defied my attempts to stay with the words. A long procession of children on bikes followed the boy, Pied-Piper-style, up and down the rocky hills of the Kettering, Ohio BMX track. Most of them were twelve years old or younger. A tiny girl on a “mini” slipped her pedals and tumbled backwards down the face of a five-foot tall double jump. Her friends came to a halt and helped her stand again. I heard the distinctive “click” of her SPD pedals as she backed up for another run at the jump’s steep face, then I saw her wobble to the top like Beck Weathers in the snowstorm on Everest.
My son had been late to the assembly area for the parade but by the last straight he’d filtered through to the front. He takes the American flag seriously. The school in his mother’s neighborhood tries to fill his head with the usual garbage about diversity and multiculturalism, but although the teachers are a monolithic mass of second-rate state-school education graduates with snakes and feels in their amygdalae the kids themselves are an embassy-school mixture of Indians, Pakistanis, Somalis, and every other country which has sent its middle class to America so that they may surf the H1-B wave of prosperity that has washed over our own citizens and left them perfectly dry. The excitement these kids have about being in America is contagious and they are on a mission to become as American as humanly possible. John tells me that their knowledge concerning the provenance and value of various basketball shoes verges on the encyclopedic.
I try not to think too much about the contrast between the new Americans of my son’s school, with their new-build four-bedroom homes looming over temp-tagged Toyota Avalons in the driveway, and the gritty, deployment-scarred parents of my son’s competitors at this Midwestern BMX track. I will say this, however: they are both raising children who are profoundly interested in patriotism. This devil’s bargain where Midwestern kids lose their legs so kids from Hyderabad can own rental property on the main streets of small-town Ohio appears, strange as it may be, to satisfy both sides.
My own son seems comfortable in both venues. He makes polyglot friends at school and he chatters after his races with the Appalachian-accent children of plumbers and sandwich artists. If Vox Day and some of the other writers out there are correct, he will eventually be forced to choose a side. I’d like to think that Vox is wrong. I’d like to think that we will eventually settle on a concept of America that satisfies both the people who built this country and the people who would like to come here and build something of their own. My crystal ball is too cloudy to know for sure. I will say that there was a thought that came unbidden to me as I watched the flag parade this past Sunday morning. I saw a lot of children who were strong and competitive and not particularly afraid of being injured. I noticed that they formed up effortlessly behind their flag and that they exercised a sort of spontaneous discipline once they were in their ranks. I saw the young man who had worried about carrying that flag beam with pride once he realized that he had succeeded in his task. At the end of the race, they went home in trucks covered with stickers. The stickers said: Browning. Colt. Glock. United States Marine Corps. Trump/Pence 2016.
While you’re teaching your son how to be a feminist, these kids are learning how to march behind a flag and wipe the blood off their faces between motos. Right now they are just children. They won’t be children for long. If they ever decide, en masse, that they can’t live with the way this country operates, you would be a fool to bet on the other side.
Brother Bark reviewed the Evora 400.