You don’t have to work particularly hard to make a case against America and it’s policies. Like all major countries, our government says one thing and does another, carries out horrors in our name and by and large we don’t even know what’s happening. We try, we do. The mentally hilarious way we cling to our flag and what we consider to be American Values TM is sincere, if you can believe it. We’re a sort of credulous lot, when you get right down to it, but we mean well.
The last forty years has been a little weird. Surely you’ve noticed – in no sane country would George W. Bush get reelected after what happened in his first term. In no sane country would Ronald Reagan be put on a pedestal, would Donald Trump get a major party nomination. In no sane country would a shining example of good conduct be Bill Clinton, of all people.
Still, elections are elections, and if Brexit has taught us anything it’s that people don’t always vote in a way that makes sense or matches their own values and beliefs. Nothing’s that simple and the people of this country can’t really be painted with as broad a brush as that.
Regardless of whether or not we’re overly patriotic simpletons (and we are, at least mostly), what bothers me isn’t the outcome of the last election. Sure, that freaked me out when it happened. The very idea that over half the country was at least comfortable with the level of racism, sexism and misogyny of the Trump campaign was terrifying and it messed me up for a fair few days after. It wasn’t until the reports started coming in about how much of the popular vote he really lost that I started to pick my head up. And seeing all the push back to what Trump and his literal goons are doing, well that’s helped reinvigorate me, politically.
I got off on a tangent – sorry about that. Back to the point!
What does bother me is how many people were willing to throw everyone under the bus for just one or two little campaign promises they liked. And how, no matter what the Trump guys do, there are still supporters of his who will lie right to your face and say it doesn’t bother them. Or pull a Conway and ramble away from the subject so that they can’t be held responsible for their own vote.
America is going through an identity crisis.
When the travel ban happened (it’s a Muslim ban, you can say it), many of the people in the town I live in were obviously shaken by it, including my own stepfather. They were pale, they were shaky, they were appalled… but they were also loud supporters of Donald Trump during the campaign and can’t admit they were wrong. Watching them scramble to justify something they knew was wrong was, for lack of a better word, ‘gross‘.
See, they wanted jobs, I get that. I’m a freelance writer and I want a damn job, too, but I don’t want one so much I’m willing to sell out my fellow Americans for just a promise.
For all the bible-thumping, flag waving, chest beating nonsense. For all the claims of who we are, as Americans? We’re going against all of it. We pretend to care about each other, and then vote to cut programs that would help the poor and needy. We pretend to be civilized but does this look civilized to you? We call ourselves the land of the free and home of the brave, but freedom means freedom for all and bravery means having the guts to demand that freedom for people who don’t look like you, don’t think like you, don’t pray like you, don’t love like you.
Now we’re talking about turning people away at the gates, people who went through the insanely long vetting processes to be here and followed all the rules. We can’t act like America’s the country in our folk tales unless we’re willing to do the work. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable and we might never get there but if we aren’t America, who are we?
With the fire lit under ordinary citizens, coming out in droves to push back against the government when they lead us astray? I’m feeling pretty good about who we are for the first time in a long time.