I wrote this two years ago:
4 July 2018
It feels off to celebrate today. I am lucky enough to have been born here — to be born a white male here — plenty of my closest friends and relatives have had to immigrate here and work even harder to get to where they are now. But the warm embrace of opportunity available here seems to be getting colder. While the United States has always had a dark side to its bright light, it seems the shadow is moving by its own accord now. I can’t say that I believe in things such as “American Values”. Not only do they seem arbitrary and prideful, so many of them are values that the majority of people inherently seem to care about — regardless of nationality. I have been lucky enough to live between some of the wealthiest and busiest cities in the world, many here in the United States. When I look at the forsaken, the homeless, the hungry, the segregated, the recipients of violence, and those who’s socio-economic status is so low that resorting to crime is not a choice so much as a logical solution, I am reminded that the “American Values” that created the opportunity that fuels my life also created the vacuum of despair that affects those people. Somehow, our society has become dictated by zero-sum rules: if we are to succeed, someone else must fail. Zero sum ideals will only feel successful until there is no one left to blame, and those who have already paid the price will likely not be helped back.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a happy end to this monologue. There isn’t a call to action, a “keep your chin up”, a “the resistance will rise with persistence”. I am afraid for where we are headed, and it doesn’t give me very much hope. I am finding it harder and harder to say “I am American” because I don’t recognize the United States of America anymore. We are casting out the sick, the weary, and the tired. We are administering vigilante “justice” without due process in the name of safety and our brown and black brothers and sisters are largely the ones who are paying the price for it. We are demanding our children mortgage their future for an “education” now, making them debtors for the rest of their lives. We’ve sacrificed our moral compass and pride in our work for the bottom line and shareholder dividends. We set aside civility for entertainment, and became enraged when the aftermath began to affect our lives. We demand higher wages and job security but happily buy the products that took those from us in the first place.
We succumb to the lowest common denominator in nearly every aspect of our lives without so much as a pause to think why. And now the chickens seem to coming home to roost. We have allowed greedy, evil, and very calculated men and women to take power and are surprised when they abuse it. Except this time, it feels as though their abuse of power will go unchecked. I am scared for the future. I am beginning to wonder when those of us who object to the direction the country is heading in will have to start fleeing to other nations. I am beginning to wonder not if the end to this will be violent, but when the violence will begin.
If I had a hard time recognizing the United States of America then, I am looking at an utter stranger today. There is no celebration today. While the country is in dire straits grappling with a second wave of COVID-19, we cannot forget the things we are doing now sight unseen. Immigrant children are still being separated from their families. (1) Police are still killing our black and brown brothers and sisters. Police departments are still funded. Universities are still forcing students into debt — and now refusing to give back tuitions after classes were canceled. Drug companies still get to dictate the price of American lives. (2) While we are seeing our daily lives change in radical ways, the fundamental issues facing the country have not had their reckoning.
I said above, “I am looking at an utter stranger today”. I suppose that is not entirely accurate. I have an idea of what I want America to stand for. I know many share these ideals: equal opportunity, universal civil rights and liberties, entrepreneurial spirit, altruism, fellowship, and more. More succinctly put, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” as the French national motto goes. (3) I would like to think we as Americans — as a whole — are capable of that. I believe that we are, and I believe that a vast number of Americans would agree with me. The trouble with the “silent majority” is, there’s no way of knowing how big it is (or isn’t), because it is “silent”. The America that I believe is possible is being undercut by two sides digging in their heels, one-upping themselves and each other to maintain dominance. I am not looking at an utter stranger, I am looking at the painfully predictable result of five decades of increasingly toxic partisanship. This America is an utter stranger to what I believe we can be. It is sadly, not a stranger to what I know we are capable of.
- Vinson, L. (2020, June 18). Family separation policy continues two years after Trump administration claims it ended. Southern Poverty Law Center. https://www.splcenter.org/news/2020/06/18/family-separation-policy-continues-two-years-after-trump-administration-claims-it-ended
- Walker, J. (2020, June 29). Covid-19 Drug Remdesivir to Cost $3,120 for Typical Patient. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-drug-remdesivir-to-cost-3-120-for-typical-patient-11593428402
- Liberté, égalité, fraternité. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 4, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberté,_égalité,_fraternité