American Idiot: Reprieve

September 12, 2020


My aunt asked to read my essay “I Am Become American Idiot,” and I sent her a link without warning. I hadn’t written with ill-intent oAr to spite her; regardless, my words blunted her. She was rightfully angry because her Sobrino, who’s living within her grace, had shared his all-too-honest opinion.

Of course, after the emotional fallout comes the making-up. We had a heart-to-heart, shared tears and feelings, much like we’ve shared meals. I’ll refrain from making judgments, but I feel whatever is the result of that essay that there is some benefit to gain.

By nature of my family and our cultural composition, discussing our varying opinions has not been a skill — many people, I’m sure, could say the same. Yet, my mother’s Mexican family, despite intellectual miscommunication, has stood to me as an example of familial connection — call it love.

Our familial love is why my Tia allows me to dwell in her home while knowing that we cut ourselves from sometimes glaringly different cloth. Her love and hospitality provide me a means to a good life. If I were not living with her, I’d be someplace, but I am here now and must obverse, respect, and honor her generosity because this is how my Mexican family raised me.

I do not know any other way.

God, Perception, Odi et Amo
A clash between our cultural matrixes, as phrased by R. J. Rummel, causes the rift between my family and me. In a world view, conflict between cultural matrixes are cause for societal problems. War is, in fact, an inability to compromise and an exercise of power. In war, two perceptions of reality are competing.

The existence of love is one of conflict — much like Pat Benatar claims. My relationship with my family is one of nuanced strain, and that is my burden to carry. Some people enjoy their families, some tolerate family, and some people remove themselves from their families. Usually, I find myself between all of those states simultaneously, with my patience eroding.

Often, in my experience, the metaphysical holds more flavor than the physical. As if the physical world is a place setting and the metaphysical a feast. Living in this space provides endless discovery yet equal amounts of scruple. For better or worse, this mindset makes one a philosophical tourist wherever one may go — “intellectual stranger,” as I mentioned in the previous essay.

If this makes sense to the reader, then the reader now understands the writer’s conflict with his family. Catullus, a Latin poet of old, has the perfect poem to describe what I have shared here:

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requires.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior

I hate and I love. Why I do this perhaps you ask.
I do not know, but I sense that it happens and I am tormented.


We do not choose our family, and it is because of this that we are obliged to love them (right?). While my parent’s or, in this case, my aunt’s cultural matrix — American Christianity, and then some — may be cause for philosophical conflict between us, it is their faith, in theory, that allows them compassion and care.

The Jesus we choose, whatever that ideological substitute for Jesus may be, sets our standard for love. It is the question in the back of our minds, what would ‘Jesus’ do? that shapes our ideas of goodness.

For one reason alone, I am grateful: that I was born into a family who, despite all strain, finds it within their body to nurture and give love.

My parents introducing me to scripture, to higher thinking, led me to define and create my Heaven. The bombastic gatherings of my Mexican family are what taught me to, as Langston Hughes put it, laugh loudly in the hands of fate.

As I sit here, on a warm Sunday afternoon eating yucca and chicken soup of golden broth, as my Tia continues to share her grace, I find respite. My Tia and I are imperfect and human with our clashing cultural matrix. The beauty here is that in our philosophical parallels, we can sit here enjoying life together at this table.

El Mundo

Despite all of my travels or education, there is still much to learn about the eight billion or so people who are here on earth and those who came before us. With all of that, the words of Catullus become relevant again because I love and hate to be here with everyone; this is my torment (and the torment of anyone else with similar sentiments).

For the endless beauty and sublimity that begs us to find and admire them, there are equal parts of the brutally ugly. I find it difficult to notice one without paying the same attention to the other. Sometimes, the ugly becomes too loud to ignore while the beautiful too gentle to notice.

As a young person, I am careful to make universal claims because my life has only allowed for small amounts of experience. Yet, perhaps what we’re looking for, those searching for beauty or peace, is a table where we all sit together. Where we feast together despite differences and enjoy the metaphysical meal of life.

Anyhow, what do I know of coexistence or of peace? What could one scantly read essay provide to the entire planet and all eight billion of its inhabitants?

← Return