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Spirit of the American
After having read some of my Verse-a-tales, a friend suggested that I try spinning a few on different nationalities. I warmed up to the idea and the obvious choice for my first foray should have been about Indians. However, the challenge of writing about another beckoned alluringly and I succumbed. The trick was to let the spirit representing the nationality in question to possess me, so that I could see the world through its mind. My choice for the inaugural attempt was American.
Being a greenhorn in the matter of being possessed by alien spirits, I found that the task wasn't as easy as it apparently seemed. First, the Indian spirit had to be temporarily displaced, which had the status of a permanent resident and did not take kindly to the idea of another taking its place, and have the spirit of the American fill the vacated niche briefly without letting it nurture designs of usurping it. Further, I had to work constantly having the one supplanted looking over my shoulder from behind, donning a terribly aggrieved countenance and muttering fairly despicable obscenities.
The job was finally done and a semblance of harmony re-established. After reading the tale that follows, could you please tell me whether I have been able to express the mind of the American spirit correctly under these trying circumstances?..
Spirit of the American
There ain't one in the range of human emotions of which I ain't the butt;
Oblivious to 'em all and driven by my ideals, regardless I ceaselessly strut.
Worshipped, despised, praised, condemned, and often the subject of many a pun;
While the rest of the world talks, I just do; I am the inimitable American.
My forefathers claimed ethnicities and connections across the world;
The days before this state was born, saw many a national flag unfurled.
From this cauldron, fired by resolve, and spiced by zeal - so to phrase;
Emerged a new class that imbibed the best from each - the new American race.
German determination, French romanticism, and British practicality;
Spiritualism from the Indian; from the African unbridled vitality.
Japanese forbearance; Chinese ingenuity and Iberian persistence,
Are the ingredients of the hybrid American psyche that power its dominance.
The principal American characteristic is however purposeful action;
Providing for his grandiose and flamboyant dreams the necessary traction.
Art, for me, is an avoidable yet an inevitable and disruptive thing ;
I'd rather work, than appreciate a glorious bloom at the height of spring.
Dream, has a different connotation for me, and the time for action is here and now;
Dwelling too far in the past or future, is an indulgence that I'd rather not allow.
I have a penchant for believing that things can always be done and made to go faster;
Distractors have been prophesying in vain since long, of an impending catastrophic disaster.
Another fervent predilection I have, is the one for immensity ;
It has probably something to do with the land that has nurtured me.
The enormity of mountains, the vastness of deserts, the hugeness of many a lake;
With these for inspiration; Smallness - the mind is forced to forsake.
An inconsequential fallout of this rabid propensity for the superlative ;
Is having to wear the mantle of leadership, though it is a bit distractive .
I am often accused of being morally naked, having all decency shed;
When all that I sincerely strive for is, me being, of myself, always ahead.
When the chips are down (a rare occurrence,) and I am in a reflective mood;
I witness within me, in all its intensity, the spectacle of the eternal feud
Between "Right" and "Wrong", in the context when two races were trading mortal blows;
Centuries ago, when the mighty American nation was in its birth throes.
Change is the essence of existence and activity its sole agent;
Which has its own agenda, regardless of upon what the doer's mind is bent.
A disturbance to the environment always causes effects in the extreme;
It is the law of nature that the strongest prevails and reigns supreme.
It ain't easy to plod the untrodden path and be a pioneer,
Which requires a steady mind, quick reflexes and a calm veneer.
That I am around still, despite assaults at every turn of history,
Only confirms the fact that I am where I certainly ought to be.
Human memory is so incorrigibly short, and flippant remarks abound;
To say that Americans have never fought a war on their own homeground.
It is just a century and half past, when the whole of USA was a war zone;
British, French, Spanish, and Dutch troops, the Americans battled alone.
What saw us through those difficult times was the unflappable American spirit;
And the vision of deeds and their actual attainment that only the courageous merit.
What was seen as a blot on our ethical fiber and took a while to reconcile;
Has provided us with the experience of parochialism and its dark profile.
It took a civil war that resulted in more than a million deaths;
And a lot more in terms of the ensuing misery that stifled the nation's health.
To end the abhorrent system of slavery that cast upon us a black spot;
Perhaps this was to be so and so it was - destiny's immutable plot.
As every proverbial dawn of hope follows a stressful and dark night;
Sanity and a mood of forced compromise replaced the season of spite.
Although the civil war extracted a terrible price including a president's life;
It decisively shaped the era that followed, with stupendous opportunities rife.
By the beginning of the 20th century, continental USA was in place;
Bound by the Constitution and forming a Union stood the 48 federal states.
Railroads crisscrossed the land to provide a reliable, connective cover;
America had arrived as a nation to become the world's leading industrial power.
As night is inseparable from day, so also is power from responsibility;
The combination apparently conferring both intemperance and sobriety.
Wielding them is dreadfully demanding, and is with frustration fraught;
Granting at times undeserving acclaim and at others damnation unsought.
The first initiative of our diplomatic and regulatory skills in the international arena,
Flowed from our missions across the world and our coastlines dotted with marina.
The theatre of action was World War I, that engulfed much of continental Europe;
Our intervention preventing instability, the balance of power to usurp.
For another's cause our soldiers gave their life and dreams, until their final breath;
Sacrificing themselves at the alter of martyrdom scoffing all the while at death.
It is recorded that the USA shipped to France ten thousand soldiers a day;
To shore up Allied defences, when the enemy seemed to hold complete sway.
The prime mover of industrial growth has always been innovative invention;
Of every dozen new ideas that have spurred activity ten have been American.
A measure of our irrepressibility and the hours, on hard work spent,
Is that the US patent office granted in the 1800's, six million patents.
Edison's light bulb, Morse's telegraph, McCormick's mechanical reaper;
Singer's sewing machine, Tesla's AC power system, Eastman's camera;
Goodyear's vulcanized rubber, Gatling's machine gun, Westinghouse's transformer;
And Bell's telephone, were some of the great American inventions of this era.
If technology is akin to the body then science is its pulsating heart;
Always do they go hand in hand, until the end of the world "doest them apart".
The pursuit of science, a sublime activity, is a never-ending quest;
In it, an American for what he is, can't be found wanting in interest.
Education as a means to all around excellence, has been the American stand;
The finest of such institutions are spread across this promising land.
The oldest among them being Harvard - a little short of four centuries;
That has given America, 7 presidents, 40 Laureates and a host of luminaries.
It is an unwritten edict that everything in nature occurs in contrasting pairs;
Summer and winter in seasons, or with the bourses - bulls and bears.
And so it was that a rival rose, who subscribed to a divergent political belief;
For us, who thrive on obstacles, it was both a welcome challenge and a relief.
In every corner of the globe we pitted our wits striving to best the other;
Grappled in the deserts, wrestled in the snow, sparred on tenuous tethers.
Our rivalry spilled beyond the bounds of the earth and into outer space;
Weaker hearts quaked, as they beheld this terrible race and its blistering pace.
We did lose an occasional battle, but the final victory was ours in every case;
Which was demonstrated tellingly in the conquest of the Moon and outer space.
It was in the summer of the year 1969 that an American stood on lunar soil;
Which made us puff up with pride; Culmination it was, of a long and dreary toil.
The final victory came our way when our adversary expectedly collapsed;
Under the weight of his unsustainable incongruities, he irreversibly relapsed.
For a time we reigned as the only and unchallenged superpower on earth;
Of challenges - lack of challenge itself being one - there was however, no dearth.
Our copious contribution to scientific knowledge continued unabated;
Our earlier discovery and development of computers providing the required leverage.
Enquiry and experiments were undertaken on a phenomenal scale;
Possibilities were simulated virtually, before with reality it was necessary to engage.
Granted that we have some exceptional traits, but humans we are after all;
We have badly erred many a time, in assessing situations big and small.
Inexorably our mistakes have, in the course of time, come home to roost;
That we have tackled such matters too successfully, does despondency oust.
Achieved we have what was unthinkable, as late as a few decades ago;
By giving those of our people we had wronged, their rightful place to grow.
It is time to announce to the world with modest pride and subdued elan;
That we can do most anything - Yes, we can; We most certainly can.
Have I been a reasonable host to the Spirit of the American?
The American Spirit has returned home after its brief holiday and its Indian counterpart has regained its rightful place. Please do leave your comments below on the outpourings of the American Spirit while it was in posession of my mind.
The story however, doesn't end here. There have been enquiries from the Spirits of the African, Chinese, Russian, and even from that of the Roman empire. I have granted them appointments over the next few years and would probably have more tales to tell.
© 2010 Ram Ramakrishnan