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Love is a potentially a equalizing, universalizing and humanizing force:

…And, you know, love is the only subject in front of which we are all in equality. We always say we are equal in front of death, but when you are rich, for example, and you have everybody taking care of you, I think that you suffer much less. It must be much more painful to die when you are poor than when you are rich. But when your heart is broken, you can be rich, poor, whatever—a broken heart, we are all equal in front of it. And I think there is no subject more serious.

–Marjane Satrapi, creator of Persepolis, in response to the question “Do you think our quest for romantic love is futile?”

But also, love isn’t universalizing, equalizing and humanizing because it’s always mired in structural and personal politics:

But no bed, however unexpected, no matter how apparently gratuitous, is free from the de-universalizing facts of real life. We do not go to bed in single pairs; even if we choose not to refer to them, we still drag there with us the cultural impedimenta of our social class, our parents lives, our bank balances, our sexual and emotional expectations, our whole biographies — all the bits and pieces of our unique existences.

–Angela Carter, The Sadien Woman, p. 9

Personal meet political. Yowch.

More seriously, I hate when I read unrelated things that probably could have a nice conversation with one another but instead feel like they are in a shouting match in my mind. And man, they both make some solid, albeit conflicting, points.

Thanks for the headache heartache.

Dear British friends,

Friday night was crazy. We are talking dancing-nurses-bouncing-sick-kids-for-the-NHS-reenactment-of-the-industrial-revolution-fireworks-like-an-atomic-bomb-the-Queen-parachuting-with-James-Bond crazy.

I couldn’t dream up something so weird. Seriously. Crazy.

Danny gave us some strong stuff and it was real good. For 27 million quid, it should have been but wow. Just wow. I don’t even know how we got home, but I’m pretty sure a cauldron and David Beckham were involved at some point.

I had a lot of fun and I know you did too.

But listen. You said something I can’t forget. Even as my hangover subsided, your words didn’t. They persisted, subtitling everything as I went about my weekend in London, this city I love so dearly.

You said you loved your country. You said you loved the United Kingdom. 

I know what you’re going to try to tell me. “I was saying lots of crazy stuff, Mon. It’s just what you say in the moment.”

I’m not buying it. This is not like that. I remember you at the Diamond Jubilee. This was different. This meant something–to you.

You fell in love with your country.

And I get it, albeit as an outsider. You’ve never had to convince me the incredibleness of your tiny island, which despite your colonizing history (x2 for me), has still managed to occupy my heart with affection and inspiration. So much so I have redirected my life to spend the last four years here, for all the reasons Danny showcased and more.

Granted, ex-pats tend to associate love for the country we live in with the happiness of our current lives. And I do love my life here. Such fickleness underlines why my feelings, as American living in London, are not the same as British patriotism. In fact, my displays of obvious sentimentality towards the UK are probably quintessentially American behaviour. I know because you’ve told me, bluntly, despite my efforts there is no “Britain fuck yeah” and never will be.

And honestly, there doesn’t have to be.  It’s just that, before Friday, there seemed to be no representation of British national love you were remotely comfortable with whatsoever. In fact, you were staunchly uncomfortable with all representations put forth so far. You’re not that into the monarchy. You’re definitely over the empire. And you’re not the BNP.  So what’s left? A whole lot of “everyone but England”. A whole lot of awkward err-ing and ahh-ing. A whole lot of identity baggage for 20-somethings.

Until Friday’s opening ceremonies.  Danny put together more than a killer show. He put together a visionary narrative of what it means to be British now, and maybe, for the future. And that is something really special. I imagine it akin to my first Obama moment in 2004, hearing him deliver the keynote address at the Democratic Convention as the Senator of Illinois. I remember listening, attention rapt, thinking, this is my country and I want to part of this. It gave me hope for change before it was plastered as a  2008 campaign slogan because I so desperately needed to see an alternative version of my country to feel like I was still part of it.

I know. You can already taste the cynicism in your mouth. But before you say anything, that same mouth told me you loved the United Kingdom.

So give in and get that Britain’s number. Because you can’t look me in the eye and tell me any other convincing vision of and for Britishness, with shine and self-deprecation, in the last five years grabbed you like the opening ceremonies did.

Friday night was awesome. But from one friend to another, don’t leave things there because I’ve never seen you like this before. And that’s important.

Yours (dependent on my visa status),

An American living in the United Kingdom

The American Dream is really two dreams. There’s the Horatio Alger myth, in which a person with grit, ingenuity, and hard work succeeds and prospers. And there’s the firehouse dinner, the Fourth of July picnic, the common green, in which everyone gives a little so the group can get a lot. Markus’s work seems to suggest the emergence of a dream apartheid, wherein the upper class continues to chase a vision of personal success and everyone else lingers at a potluck complaining that the system is broken. (Research shows that the rich tend to blame individuals for their own failure and likewise credit themselves for their own success, whereas those in the lower classes find explanations for inequality in circumstances and events outside their control.) But the truth is much more nuanced. Every American, rich and poor, bounces back and forth between these two ideals of self, calibrating ambitions and adjusting behaviors accordingly.

–Lisa Miller, “The Money-Empathy Gap“, pg 6 (bolding mine)

In the cover story for New York Magazine, Miller brings light to a new group of psychology studies trying to understand the role socio-economic class has on personality, from interpersonal relations to physiological response. Turns out, despite our cultural denial about the significance of class in America, money matters. And you can see it all over our confused little minds.

[Also, super clever to use dogs to visualise class and power dynamics in the pics accompanying the article.]

So much interesting in this burgeoning field. Definitely an area to watch out for.

Happy 4th of July, folks.