This election has ruined me. I don’t even desire to knit. So instead, I’ll just post something I wrote last night in the raw aftermath of disbelief.
I’m reminded of 10th grade history class, many years ago.
We were watching the news on a monitor in the corner of the room – Tanks were rolling across the desert, as a reporter spoke breathlessly into his mic. We were on the verge of invasion, as a country, with the president’s will, with the uneasy rage of millions. There was Iraq. Our place to conquer. To enact our revenge on a place that we were so sure deserved it.
It felt distinctly wrong to me, for the first time. This was not a righteous act. It was a thirst for blood, for those who had been lost. Make no mistake. Underneath the rationalization of WMDs and the threat of Saddam Hussein was a throbbing pain that “we” had to unleash. We were entering into this war because of two towers that had been toppled … by? Were they related? Afghanistan? Iraq? Iran? Who knew the difference, at that point?
“How could this be?” I asked the teacher. “How can we do this? I don’t want us to start a war.”
“Because,” he responded. “That is what the American people want.”
This is the refrain, for us:
America is a good country. Indeed, the best country. The most wholly pure representative of democracy. Our legacy is Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy. All other countries wish they were us. (Don’t they?) We are a land of equality, a land where everyone can be free, the only country that understands the weight of the global hegemony that has been bestowed upon us. We are an experiment that was always destined to succeed. Manifest destiny. It all happens for a reason. The nuclear bombs couldn’t be helped. We are power, we are technology, we are holy, we are light.
America is a horrible country. Indeed, the defining power in a planet of the despicable, the despots, the uninterested and the powerless. We were founded with the theft of vast swaths of land. We built our wealth with the blood and tears and sweat of the enslaved. We turned our heads away from the murder of ten million Jews, justified the devastation of two Japanese cities. We built monstrous roads and infrastructure that spew the CO2 that will be the death of our planet. We freely kill those of different colors, religions, genders, orientations, all those that represent the “other”. We ignore the genocides that don’t affect our oil supply, selfishly grab for power that we don’t know what to do with. We have fucked over everyone and anyone, our countrymen and our fellow humans. We are the representative of mankind’s worst impulses, intoxicated in our selfishness, our thirst for power.
Horrible awesome regrettable irreversible power
What is America? What is it, really? How could we be so wrong? How could we be so right?
And try, hard as I might, I cannot forget. I cannot forget that little girl who believed with her whole heart that America was the best country in the world.
America is a bastion of hope. America is an illusion. America is a fucking mess.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”
We are not the guardians of freedom and liberty. We are but confused humans, grasping for the light, inching blindly forward on the razor’s edge of history.