Today is a sad day for half the Americans who voted, and it is a great day for the other half. And for everyone who could have voted and didn’t, you can just shut up and sit back.
I am in the sad group.
I had certain hopes and dreams about my country, and the Present elect and his voters don’t hold those same values dear.
I have spent the majority of my adult life in other countries, and hands down, America is the best. Not the best in a jingoistic sense — we could definitely take some pointers from public transportation in Asia — but best in all the ways that home is best. I love being American. Nothing gets my goat like having my American-ness questioned or called into doubt. I’m proud to be an American.
But this election has really called into the question why I love being American, or if my vision of America is right or true.
I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
We sang Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” at my middle school graduation.
If tomorrow all the things were gone I’ve worked for all my life and I had to start again with just my family by my side, I’d thank my lucky stars to be living here today where the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away.
But another song that I sang — yes, I was an eighth grade choir nerd — was that parody of “This Land is Our Land.” I kid you not. When the teacher left us unattended or left us with a hapless sub, some kid would hop on the piano and we would sing raucously and probably out of tune. And in addition to Blink 182’s All the Small Things, one of the songs we delighted in was this parody of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”
This Land is my land
This land ain’t your land
I got a shotgun
and you ain’t got one
this land is private property.
Waking up this morning, double checking that the election results weren’t a dream, it’s made me feel like I’ve had a rug pulled out from under me or that I’ve been robbed or wronged. I feel terrible.
How could this happen? How did we go from this rousing ode to freedom to a mean little ditty?
And then that annoying history student in my brain sits up and starts listing the rather sordid biography of America.
- The genocide of the indigenous peoples — and yes, a history teacher did argue quite convincingly even the term genocide was coined much later that we can retroactively define the systematic mass killing as genocide.
- that time they made that ship carrying Jewish passengers turn around and most of them died in concentration camps
- Japanese Internment
America has never been that golden dream that one sees in bourbon commercials and travel brochures, not for anyone but a select few. And yet, I want to believe in this American Dream of financial success and freedom, even though it has been historically untrue for people of the wrong color, gender, orientation, class, and religion.
And now suddenly, I’m wondering that in a year’s time or two or three, will I have freedom over my own body? Will people that I believe deserve the right to live and work in America be forced out? Am I even allowed to complain from my place of privilege?
I feel like I’ve lost my home. It’s easy to dehumanize Trump and his supporters. I listened to the NPR Politics podcast this morning and my initial reaction to the reporter’s hopeful response to Trump’s conciliatory victory speech was anger. You know who else was once conciliatory? Hitler. You know where complacency once led? The rise of the Nazis. And I wonder if all the late night show mockery was a fatal self-deception.
And I wonder if this was the shock and awe that a large subset of America felt in 2008 and 2012? What the fuck happened to my America?!? This American Life had a story about St. Cloud in Minnesota and the popularity of a Muslim ban in response to an influx of Somali refugees.
What awful terrible people, I thought. How could anyone see these refugees and not be filled with compassion and charity?
And as the story goes, I talked to someone I knew and in my conversation, I gained new insight. Except I didn’t. Not really. She described new Muslim immigrants at a school as “a drop of red ink can ruin the bag of rice.” They were disruptive and demanding and not at all grateful to be in this country. I asked if the “bad” Muslim kids were any worse than the “bad” American kids, and she said they were because they weren’t “American.” And that since they were new, they should be obedient. And the fact that weren’t showed that they came from bad families. And she was never like this when she moved from another country.
So in conclusion, it’s easy to stop seeing children as children — nasty little monsters that they are — and see them as resource sucking leeches. And it’s easy to resent people for just existing. Anyone who has siblings can attest to that. And it’s easy to see Trump and his supporters as bigots, which is a fatal simplification.
And what if that is what we are? Republicans. Democrats, Independents. That in times of stress, we regress to being children in their ugliest forms. Like Lord of the Flies ugly.
Is my America — the school house rock version, An American Tail version — is it a fairytale? There is a G K Chesterton quote I love. I feel like it’s also in a Sandman comic, “The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”
And if God Bless the USA is the fairytale, what is the dragon?