Sunday, July 4, 2010

American Mythology

For the special 4th of July post, I want to wish my fellow Americans Happy "Independence Day” (Happy "Forth of July" to everybody else). This day is one of my top holidays, it's no Halloween, but it's a good one. I love my country, and I am proud to say I'm a patriot. I believe in the core doctrine of the land and salute my flag. I am not an "'Amurka' is spelled F-R-E-E-D-O-M" patriot, but we can't all be. I want to take this moment to look at what America has given the world in terms of mythology. As a ridiculously young country, most of our mythology is stolen, borrowed or adapted. As such, purely American myths are few and far between, but as the years go by they grow in number. Our oldest myths belong to the west and the spirit of exploration. In fact these myths are so a part of our culture that they are typically forgotten. I'm talking about Tall Tales.

Elementary students hear about the exploits of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, John Henry, Johnny Appleseed, and Pecos Bill. Unfortunately, when asked about these figures later without a small bit of prompting they typically forget many of them. The region that you are from does influence which of these tall tale heroes you are most familiar with. In the Midwest Paul Bunyan is all the rage, his statue is all over Wisconsin. The Michigan vs. Michigan state football game winner gets a Paul Bunyan trophy. The Wisconsin vs. Minnesota game winner gets Paul Bunyan’s axe. As a Lumberjack his story is intertwined with the history of the region. Pecos Bill is a cowboy through and through and is the reason for the Lone Star of Texas. John Henry proved that the American dream is stronger than any machine as he drove steel for the railroads. Johnny Appleseed is so ingrained in the American mind that even the Girl Scouts have a song about him that they sing before meals from time to time. Johnny also has the distinction of being a real man whose life has been remember through myth. There are many other American men (and women) of legend. They continue to shape our modern mythology (e.g. “Steel” of DC comics is a modern take on John Henry).

So on this 4th of July, this day of Independence in America, take a moment to think of those mythic heroes who embody the ideals of this country.

Enjoying the holiday,
J.R. West the Raccoon

No comments: