I remember having seen it before, several times. It was on C deck, about amidships, in the window of a small meeting room that was always dark and with closed shades. You couldn’t go from the pool ramp to the casino without having gone past it. At the time it made no sense, “Friends of Sam-10AM’, so I gave it little notice. Until now.
It happened last evening at the late night snack bar. It was one of the few times on this cruise no Nation people were in the crowd, no Americans at all apparently, lots of others. In a way it was sort of different, more relaxing, maybe that’s why it happened. Did I mention this was a theme cruise I was enjoying, sponsored in part by The Nation magazine. It began in Alaska, ended at Vancouver, BC.
Anyway, at this small gathering the conversation, as it often does, drifted to America’s place in the world and why. The usual. Maybe as the result of so many intense seminars and ardent cocktail chatter for several days with the Nation people I was expounding on the usual talk of America’s greatness: her stellar role on the world’s stage, you know the drill.
Well, after a long spiel on my part a hush was apparent. People glanced at one another until finally someone said to me, “You might want to try A.A. They might be of help”. Others murmured assent and I looked about in amazement wondering what on Earth was going on. Carefully it was explained, the consensus being firm, that I was hopelessly American and could benefit from A.A, Americans Anonymous, and they met every morning on C deck. I should look for the sign, ‘Friends of Sam.’
I stormed out of the area and headed back to my cabin in the stern of the cruise ship. Of course I stopped in front of that now sinister room and glared at that annoying sign. Whatever, I pondered, does this have to do with me? Now I’m about to learn since it is 10.05 AM and I’m at the meeting room door.
Come in friend. A voice beckoned.
Is this your first time?
I have no idea why I’m here. What’s goes on?
What’s your name, friend.
What’s that got to do… I don’t want to…
First name is enough here. Just so we know how to address you.
Well, yeah, okay, it’s Bob.
Welcome Bob! Welcome to Americans Anonymous. A chorus of voices.
Then one: Remember our motto. “If you Don’t Want to Think, That’s your Problem. If you Do Want to Think, it’s Ours.”
I sat down then and studied the group. All ages, sexes and appearances. They sat about casually and occasionally sipped at glasses of what appeared to be simply water. The one who seemed the spokesman addressed me and asked:
Bob, have you anything to offer us. Are you bothered by any tendency to think or say certain words or phrases that you can’t control as you would like to?
What do you mean…certain words, phrases…What?
Well, Bob, such as American exceptionalism, city on a hill, indispensible nation, we’re number one… that sort of thing.
Yeah, yeah is that a problem?
Well, is it, Bob? Can you control your thoughts, your language or…?
Do you want to tell us, Bob? Nothing leaves this room, ever!
It’s just that…sometimes I want to not think that way but…..
The chorus muttered encouragement and whispers of we all suffer at times and we’re here to help you Bob, came across to me.
Do you feel you’re not in control at times, Bob? Is that part of it?
Exactly. I want to think in other directions but something pulls me back. I slide down into banality and cant that I’m unable to overcome.
Keep talking, Bob. We’re listening. We feel your pain. We’ve all been there. We’re Americans, too.
What can I do? Is there any way…
The session continued for another hour with several individuals offering insight into struggles with their own Americanism and support was offered where it was fitting. At breakup I was encouraged as a newbie to express my thoughts of what I had experienced thus far.
You’ve started, Bob. This is first step. More to come. Take one of our “City on a Hill-Not” pamphlets, with you.
Yunno, it’s a load off me already. I hope I can someday begin to finally think and speak without all that cultural baggage prompting me. And think and speak without sounding like…I don’t know … some kind of demented jingo or talking head. Glad I found you A.A guys. I’ll be here tomorrow.
The cruise will soon be over but I feel I can more comfortably endure the Nation folks chatter now that I will possibly be able to think for myself; if only a little. After all, I’ve only taken the first step, They told me there are eleven more. Twelve steps. Wow, I’m saved!