FEBRUARY, 2016: WHILE TRAVELING
I feel like a pissed off parent or child. I love you, America, but I don’t have to like you right now.
I’m tired of having to apologize for my country when I travel. Of having to defend our character as a nation.
Because I refuse to be ashamed. Our country is comparatively still young, and anything young has a certain degree of attitude and arrogance, thinking that they know everything when there’s so much to learn. I should know, I was a particularly know-it-all teenager. However, youth has energy and idealism too. Youth has a real ability to be impactful.
I am proud of Midwestern and southern hospitality that would never let one of their own go hungry. I’m proud of a persistent spirituality held by many, in many forms. I’m proud of our diversity, and the fact that everyone has some kind of heritage story. I’m proud of the fact that it’s impossible to accurately describe a “typical” American because we can be any size, shape, or shade. I’m proud of our natural beauty and a drive for excellence. I’m proud of our massive role in the world’s agriculture, and the men and women who take pride in that hard work. I’m proud of our universities and our idealism. I’m proud of our reputation for hard work (even if sometimes we work too hard). I’m proud that when visiting exchange students at my university were asked to draw a typical American, they all drew huge smiles because of our reputation for friendliness. And even though it may be a bit excessive sometimes (no country is the best in the world), I am proud of our patriotism.
Even when I later learned that our founding fathers were not perfect, and that our involvement in the world has not always been as the hero in the story, I still learned something in America from a very young age: the ideals of freedom, hard work, and acceptance that are written into our constitution. Freedom from oppression, the right to work hard for your dreams, acceptance of all those in the world who are hurting and want those freedoms and rights as well.
Other countries have these things too. I know that. But that doesn’t make me any less proud of the fact that I am a citizen of one of them.
But these ideals. We have not been showing them.
I’m not proud that our history lessons never tell the story of minorities. Or worse, downplay their struggle to insignificance. I’m not proud that those same visiting students who drew a smiling face also drew a cheeseburger in both hands of an extremely overweight person. I’m not proud of the fact that my European friends poke fun about the fact that we must go into debt for life to be educated or hospitalized. I’m not proud that racism and intolerance and bigotry are becoming more of an American stereotype in the world than the hardworking friendly American. I’m not proud that not only are we known for having a lot of guns, but for being loosely cavalier about the distribution of a machine with a purpose to kill. I’m not proud of our candidates for our highest leadership position. This has been a huge and morbid joke to the rest of the world, you better believe it. I’m not proud that so many Americans are more willing to go and shoot ISIS/Hussein/Laden/Kim Jong-Un/Assad than to accept people seeking refuge from their tyranny.
I’m not proud that American politics are so bureaucratic as to be inaccessible, and so corrupt as to be determined by the highest bidder. I want to believe the best about people in general, especially those chosen to lead. My own youthful idealism is waning though. More and more, I not only mistrust our political system and those involved in it, it frankly pisses me off.
I’m not proud that I did not learn about apartheid, Mao Zedong’s deadly campaigns, or even my own modern history in school. I learned about the American Revolution and our civil war over and over, but even then lessons were always seen through a certain “America is always the winner and rightfully so” lens. We never learn about our own dirty laundry, or other world events and countries’ histories. We’re told Rosa Parks was just tired so she sat where she shouldn’t, instead of giving credit to the intelligent organization of that planned civil rights protest. This is all laughable. Except I’m not laughing.
I’m not proud of these things, nor the fact that I keep having to discuss them. Especially when traveling in other countries.
Any fellow American who may be reading this and at this point want to say to me, “If you don’t like it get out,” you misunderstand me. I love my country and what it can be. But we must work on cultivating the best of ourselves, not letting the worst of us be louder than everyone else. We cannot let the worst of what is America control the world’s perception of our country and our people. Because right now, that is what’s happening.
Donald Trump isn’t the leader we need right now. But maybe he’s the one we deserve.
We can’t even have conversations about solutions to our biggest issues like gun violence because everyone is so intent on believing the other side is wrong, stupid, or evil. Guess what. Not all “conservatives” or “republicans” are racist or religious. Not all “liberals” or “democrats” are free loading godless hippies. Come on. We should be better than this. Everyone – let me say it again – EVERYONE – has legitimate reasons for why they think the way they do. No one is trying to damn the country. So let’s stop fighting within. Find the middle ground.
But I guess that’s too much to ask for.
One thing that really makes my blood boil is people who participate loudly in nuanced and sensitive issues with very strong opinions that are UNINFORMED. If you form your opinions solely from information on Facebook, or buddies at work, or a single biased news source – you are not qualified to comment. Stop. Please. You’re making things worse. Arguing loudly for one side of an issue without ever considering the other side means you are adding to the problems, not helping to solve them. Stop.
What hope do we have when genuinely good and decent people think Trump is our best option?
Hillary isn’t much better, for that matter. We were stuck choosing between a career politician who is shady and bought, or a businessman who thinks his money entitles him to spread hate.
I am sad. I am sad, and though I am still so young, I am tired. Tired of watching the political game hinder the purpose of government. I can only imagine how older Americans feel. How does your soul survive this every four years?
Is it too much to ask for presidential candidates that are reasonably qualified for the job and generally decent people? Apparently. Apparently that’s way too f**king much.
NOVEMBER 10, 2016
As a Christian, my heart is so heavy. For so many reasons. The hate. The false associations of the things Trump has said with the church. With Christians. Therefore with me. The increased isolation and anger driving people away from spiritual connection. Jesus as a man – whether or not one believes in him as a deity – does not deserve to be associated with so much hate. He was for the poor. The oppressed. He didn’t speak English, he wasn’t white. And he was the most inclusive human I have yet to hear or read about.
As someone working in an 8th grade classroom in the Boston Public School system this year, my heart is broken. I have been asked if their families will be deported. I have been asked how this could happen. I have been told they and their families may soon leave. I have been asked who I voted for with fear behind the question. An election should not make children feel this way.
In the past 48 hours I’ve been enraged, I’ve cried, and I’ve overall felt nauseous. But I overhead a conversation today that made me check myself: We are privileged if we are just NOW outraged. Racism, misogyny, bigotry…such things were always there. Some people are not reacting strongly because this just means a continuation of the kind of battles that have already been being fought.
“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – Theodore Parker/Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you are not worried right now, that is a privilege. You are in no danger of having rights taken away. I am in no real danger. You have no threat of having your life altered. I have no real threat either. That is privilege.
Those that spent 8 years disrespecting Obama that are now asking people to respect Trump…that may be a bit much to ask for right now.
Those calling Trump supporters ignorant and hateful…that’s not the best way to spread inclusivity and acceptance. If you can’t respect Trump, follow the example of politicians you can. Remember Michelle Obama? Do that. Be better.
“When they go low, we go high.” – Michelle Obama
People who support Trump, can’t you understand why others may be so upset? He has said hateful things about multiple people groups, and now it appears as if many people in our country agree with those things. Or perhaps worse, don’t care that he said them.
People who hate Trump, can’t you see why someone would have voted for him? The false image of the “American Dream” has been changing, and is increasingly less achievable for the specific demographic it was ever achievable for. Rural areas are ignored. The Midwest is considered a “flyover” area. Factories that sustained these areas economically have long left. People are worried, people are scared, and people have not been included in conversations about the beauty that is this country’s diversity because they have been labeled “ignorant”. So they lashed out. They fought back. And here we are. This is the price we pay for ignoring the fears and concerns of so many for so long.
I haven’t been alive for many elections. But this one seemed particularly divisive. And that’s not okay. We should all be working for a better country. Because that is the job description that comes with the title of citizen. At least now it should be clear to EVERYONE: we’ve got a lot of work to do. And it’s not going to get done without effort, compassion, and compromise.
I’m not happy right now. I’m downright sickened. But I’m also activated. It’s time to stop biting my tongue for the sake of politeness. We don’t have time for that. We never did. And it’s the job of those of us who can pull it together enough to constructively dialogue with ALL groups to step up from the sidelines and become the voices that matter in a country so divided.
Help me as I try to educate myself from as many perspectives as possible. As I actively try to learn how to be a better ally for marginalized and oppressed groups. As I work against false stereotypes.
Our inclusive democracy is really only about 60 years in the making (I’m referring to the Civil Rights movement and desegregation in the 1950s). We are still a developing nation in this regard. There will be bumps as we work out how to re-distribute power and resources so everyone is served in the best possible way. This bump may feel like more of a pothole to the groups of people our system was not built to serve (we were founded by white, Christian, slave owning men). But the ideals we should all be striving for remain the same. Freedom, liberty, and justice for all. And that transcends politics. It transcends individuals. And it is worth working towards. Together.