Being a Usaian

I’ve been absent from here and most places online for the last two weeks because my job took me first to Dallas and then to Chattanooga, Tenn., this last for what we consider our “home convention” for science fiction and fantasy.

Yes, we are aware it’s a three-hour flight from where we live to our “home con.” But it was the place they treated us right, the place where my fans from the East could come and see me most easily.  We are contemplating a secondary home con in the West, trying to choose between LTUE in Utah and COSine in Colorado Springs. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point of this post is that a friend had red/white/blue badge ribbons printed, with the word Usaian imprinted in gold, and he gave them to my husband to distribute. [Editor’s note: for those of you not already familiar with Sarah’s Darkship books, this Christmas story will give you an introduction to the Usaians.]

My husband, being himself, would ask people “Are you a Usaian?” Even though I know I have a lot of fans there, I was surprised at the number of resounding “Yes” answers and the people who sported that ribbon on their badge.

So, what does being a Usaian have to do with my fans?

In my future history, the one where my Darkship books take place, the U.S. as we know it is so long gone they aren’t even sure – or absolutely sure – where its boundaries once were.

It is implied that the U.S. fell in some great act of internal treachery. I won’t write it. I’ll never write that portion of the future history because it would feel like coming apart from the inside out.

However, in that future world a glimmer of what is us remains. There is this religion that holds that the Almighty, having ordained the rise and destruction of the United States of America, will never let it utterly perish from the world.

Those who hold on to our founding documents and to the memory and hope of a Land of the Free believe that one day it will rise again, and this time it will respect the Constitution.

They are a small – or believed to be small – and reviled sect; their belief that individuals should control their government and not the other way around makes them unwelcome most places. Almost everywhere, their penalty for being found to adhere to the proscribed religion is death.

This odd religion – which allows people to believe in and follow other religions at the same time – has many martyrs.  And though proscribed, and though forbidden, each of them carries a piece of flag, said to have flown over the home of the brave five centuries before.

Oh, and I got the name from the fact that on various international forums, foreigners throw the word Usaian in our teeth, to not offend the sensibilities of Canadians and Mexicans not to mention Argentinians and Brazilians who – the foreigners say – are also Americans.

I figure the word was thrown at early adherents of the religion, and that they adopted it with the same pride they once adopted Yankee.

So – it’s a religion that doesn’t exist.

Except once a couple of books on it were out, I started getting queries on what the Usaian holidays were (other than the obvious, and for that, I get questions on how to celebrate the High Holy Holidays). Honestly, we do what we always did: watch patriotic movies, read the Declaration of Independence, have a meal, watch fireworks.

Also, as I spent the entire weekend: saying “I am not L. Ron Hubbard.”

But hearing person after person declare themselves Usaians and clamor for their piece of flag, and say that yes, if worse came to worse, they were willing to pay the price that was once paid (their life, fortune and sacred honor), I started to think that the Usaian religion doesn’t exist, but it kind of does.

Many of us hold both the founding documents and the idea of a Land of the Free and a Home of the Brave sacred in our hearts. And even if the free Republic were to fall, we’d go on, fighting and working to see it recreated and resurgent, a shining city upon the hill, a beacon and reproach to other nations, and the last, greatest, best hope of mankind.

So, go forth. Have dinner. Watch fireworks. Tell children the stories of our heroes. And hold on tight to the scrap of flag, the symbol of America. Hold it in your heart.