My Brother is in Afghanistan, Coffee and Mosh Pits are the Best Parts of Waking Up, and my Best Friend is an Anarchist: PART ONE, I fell on my face for the rhetoric of empire. And spit teeth.

Dear few and cherished readers of this blog (I love you more than coffee and mosh pits):

Remember back in February when I was like, I’m gonna start a blog exploring what it means to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California from all enemies, foreign and domestic” because I want to remain loyal to the oath I took when I became a government employee? It’s okay if you don’t remember. I’m a big girl. I realize I’m not The World. Even if America doesn’t.

Well, anyway.

Screw that.

To explain metaphoric, non-sexual screwing, I’ll take you back hella dayz, circa the start of April.

DISCLAIMER:  I use dirty words.

I was storming off campus because I was fucking pissed. I know some could successfully argue that the volume of pissery was disproportionate to the situation, but manic fixations are manic fixations. A firm grasp on reality is not among its symptoms listed in the DSM-IV.

In my journalistic pursuit for the meaning of the Oath of Allegiance, I lost much sleep. I neglected academic obligations. I missed buses. With all the time we spent together, I was practically BFF with the unconsummated ringing of the DHS Public Comment Line. I've been labeled a domestic terrorist, a dork, and I have good reason to believe that, to at least two of the women who work in Payroll, I’m That Girl.

I had conversations with a lot of people and got a lot of responses, running the gamut from intelligent to witty to hollow and useless. I’ve been told that it’s optional. It’s conditional. It’s incredibly important, and it’s utterly meaningless. It’s a state thing, a federal thing, a post-9/11 thing. Payroll insisted that it has absolutely nothing to do with education and everything to do with not giving government information to terrorists. Another source said it signifies a duty to “defend English grammar to the death.” Others surmised that it requires me, in the event of encountering an unpatriotic term paper, to immediately report to my supervisor, who will in turn notify the feds by way of the direct line installed behind her desk, so that they may come to the English Lab and whisk the dissenter to a secret location where ...things will happen to them. Things we’d prefer not to know about.

As entertaining as the witty ones were, the sheer volume of unhelpful responses was getting to me. I was tired of veterans shrugging and saying they hadn’t given the Oath of Enlistment a second thought. As much as I love my colleagues, I was growing weary with the increasing number of tutors I spoke with who plumb don’t remember signing it at all.

Lots of swearing going down here. Not a lot of it solemn.

It meant something to me. It meant a lot. How could it mean nothing to all these other people?

On that fateful day of pissery, I was already approaching empty as I sat in the corridor outside the Anarchist’s history class, waiting to spot his mohawk in the stream of exiting students.

“Are you ready for how out of control this’s gotten?” I said to him. “I was ready to ditch oceanography – and it’s a very important day in oceanography! – to visit a professor’s office hours to talk about the Oath.”

He didn’t even blink. “I’ll go for you.”

…this is why I practically, not definitely became BFF with the DHS Comment Line ringing.

The DHS Public Comment Line doesn't stage dive at Anti-Flag shows.

I debriefed him, had him read the copy of the Oath I had on my person at all times – he got a good laugh out of the “without mental reservation” part – and proceeded to class. I spent seventy-five minutes not taking notes on, let alone paying attention to, the very important oceanography lecture; instead, turning over in furious contemplation* all Oath-related information I’d gathered.

Then I met up with the Anarchist.

And broke.

As previously stated, I already knew that, of all the swearing going down at Payroll, not much of it was solemn. Despite its fancy wording and loaded language, the oath fails to stir enough patriotism in most people for it to be anchored in their memory. Furthermore, I believed Payroll when they told me multiple times that it was a post-9/11 thing. I was ready to stick that information in a blogpost after I got home that afternoon, because enough people had told me that I believed it to be fact. So, imagine my surprise when I found out that countless people have been signing and forgetting this since THE FUCKING MCCARTHY WITCHUNTS! That’s over HALF A FUCKING CENTURY!**


This professor guy. Who remembers signing it vividly, and whose friend was fired for not signing it back in the seventies.

That bloody terrorist...

The Anarchist continued to recap the visit, reporting that it doesn’t mean anything, and it can’t mean anything. The only people it could possibly, maybe apply to are our military, and even then, the only enemies there could be are suspected enemies – you know, like Dorothy Parker – or spies, and the Constitution is an American legal document, and despite all delusions, America is not The World. You can’t impose or defend the Constitution where it is not law. Even if it was a legal document in Canada, Afghanistan, Italy, wherever… it wouldn’t even be our place to defend it because it’s NOT OUR COUNTRY. Sovereignty. Look it up.

No one’s willing to get rid of the oath.

It doesn’t mean anything.

It could never mean anything.

“It could literally apply to you never,” the Anarchist told me. “Yes, you can quote me on that.”

“Puppies turn into dogs. Who grow old. And die.”

It wasn’t like someone had proven to me that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. It was like watching Santa Claus get shot in the fucking face.

I was in a one-sided relationship. America would never love me back, especially not to the unhealthy measures to which I had loved it. Nobody really seemed to care. Not enough to remember. And the unhealthy measures… yeah, you could point to that and roll your eyes and discredit.

You could be like, geez, Kathryn. Don’t take it so personally.

It’s just a piece of paper. A dead legal document.

Frankly, my disappointment, however exaggerated it appears to be, isn’t totally ungrounded. I started off on this project because I actually, really felt like I had a duty to fulfill. It’s not like the Oath is some sober, cut-and-dry business contract that lays out x, y and z: here are the stipulations, here’s what’s expected of you, here’s what you can expect from us, sign and date.

It’s abstract idealism and loaded language. Start talking about swearing oaths, and putting faith (it does use that word) in something or other… that’s fucking personal. It’s emotional manipulation.

Santa is dead. Puppies will die. You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake.

As I stormed off campus. I had half a mind to turn back and run through the faculty offices until I found a history / sociology / whatever teacher and ask, trying not to scream, although that’s all I could do in my head, “SINCE MCCARTHY! WHAT THE FUCK?!?!” And really, “Why would they do this to me?” Why would they lead me on?

But mostly the screaming.

Then I ran into Jake.

* Assuming one can contemplate with ferocity…

** As it turns out, a more careful Google search would have revealed this to me. But I’m not sorry I asked, like, everyone and their mother first, because I would have missed out on such gems as my hypothetical domestic terrorism, and a sergeant recruiting outside the bookstore telling me that it’s my constitutional right to purchase vanilla lattes. That guy was nice.