Friends, Romans, Countrymen….Lend me your ears!
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."- Kurt Vonnegut
My name is Erika, and, since I look out through these eyes, one might assume that I know something about the person who is known by this name. I hate to disappoint you, but I think I may be the least qualified to explain myself, since “Erika” is a composite of perceptions, of visions and assumptions made by the rest of the world- including everyone here today. Congratulations, at the moment, your versions of me are being added to what I affectionately refer to as the Nation of Erika.
I have never been fond of labels like American, Jew, or Psychotic, each of which has applied to me in a different time of my life to differing degrees. Hundreds of thousands of me exist in here, held together loosely and ruled by a Platonic philosopher king lurking behind my eyes, or in my soul- this is the national spirit that defies description in normal terms.
My national origins are humble- from a rural farming village that could have existed in the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry like the Greek nation-states of 1500BCE. Before any written definition of the nation, there were cows and cats, dogs and apple trees that needed someone to care for them by an almost Biblical imperative. At the time, the nation was small- peopled only by the perceptions created by family- my sister, my mother, and, of course, the cows. In this fabled, almost mythological time, there were mermaids in lagoons and elves who prepared scenery for the gods to play in, aliens who came from light-years away to be blessed and taught by the nation of Erika.
Despite this golden age, no nation can prevail without strife, and there were conflicts aplenty with other nation-states in the form of the dreaded Public School, where I became a villain to some, an idol to others, and the population of Erika began to grow. Conflicts with other nation-states re-wrote the constitution, building in exclusions and definitions that didn’t previously exist. On the first day of Kindergarten, as the story goes, Erika decreed: “I don’t know what popular is, but I am going to be it.” How’s that for a goal of Empire?
As population grows, as any Political Science major can tell you, so does the possibility of revolt. College came- with the ecstasy of recreation- a renaissance of a kind that can uproot all cultural conventions. The population began to split into differing religious groups, warmongers and peaceniks, owners and slaves- personalities that no longer seemed to have anything to do with one another. Versions of Erika were caught in rebellious action against the dictatorship, and punished to the full extent of the law.
Walking down the street in Boston one day in 1996, the riffraff of the nation staged a coup against the established monarchy of Erika. The fleeting perceptions of passersby opened fire on the nation as a whole, crucifying the powers that had been in control, and throwing off the crucial processes of government in the process- like thought, emotion, and self-preservation. I found myself suddenly identifying with a rebel against my own mind, which had been formed on misunderstandings and false premises- wanting to defect from myself- staring at the cars that sped by beneath the overpass and wondering if their passing perceptions of me were as valid as my own.
The aftermath was a long rebuilding of priorities. As a result, I can choose to disregard your version of me- or yours- if it does not fit with my own definitions. I suppose it can be considered a version of ethnic cleansing, and I could be liable under the Geneva Convention.
Finally, the hierarchy is settling into place as an oligarchy, or rule of the few. Priorities have placed the perspective of the inner mind on even ground with the perceptions of close family and friends. Though disagreements still plague the nation, as they do every relationship in human life, there is a rough balance, encouraged by modern medication and a lot of laughter.
"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best" - Marilyn Monroe