Who gets to be American?
Not who gets to come to America. Not who get’s to become American.
Who gets to be American?
I guess I’m liberal, progressive, whatever. I’m more liberal than some, less liberal than others. One of my least favorite aspects of modern American Liberalism is an almost default prevalence of shame to be American. Sure there are examples a plenty of Americans being embarrassing and ugly (not an exclusively American problem) and there exists an impulse to remove one’s self from being associated with ignorant bullshit. I get that. I’ve felt it. But what does that accomplish in the big picture?
Let me be clear: I don’t mean to say people who disagree with me are ugly. And I certainly don’t suggest conservatives are ignorant. Not for a second. I happen to love it when people disagree, many intelligent, reasonable people do. What I’m saying is the ignorant ugly bullshit is very clearly ignorant ugly bullshit, and it has been allowed to almost exclusively wrap itself in the American flag and stake its unchallenged claim to the identity of being a proud American.
What. The. Hell?
At this point in time, with events being what they are, I think of my kids, my friends, my family, and I know I’ve had it with ceding the American identity to its ugliest, most small minded representatives. Why the hell should we? Why the hell should we look at abject ignorance and small mindedness and give it the exclusive right to claim all that is good, all that is beautiful, all that is righteous, while we find hollow succor in giving over our own national identity as if that absolves us of representational responsibility? What does that serve? Why should the default about our own national identity be negative, with brief recognized periods of reprieve, only to slide back to the default negativity, greased by the easy momentum of confirmation bias? Are we not American? Do we not represent Americans in our actions and positions? Have we not helped to define the trajectory of the country, have we not worked for that opportunity? Do we somehow have less claim to defining what it means to be American? Do we have less interest in defining what it means to be American?
For months, Trump rally goers get almost all the media attention, yet more people have at this point voted for Hillary Clinton than Trump, with Bernie Sanders riding a powerful wave of enthusiastic supporters, and a majority of Republicans backing someone other than Donald Trump, many committed to abandoning the party if he’s its nominee. Yet, through the all powerful repetitive lens of media, to the world, and to ourselves even, Trump voters somehow get to singularly define “what’s happening in America”. Really? Maybe for people who stink at math.
Of course, that media plays a very large and morally vacant role in amplifying the message that sells the most. Then we take it and run with it, bouncing it off the impenetrable walls of our social media echo chambers, confirming to that morally vacant media just what we hunger for, just what we’ll share voraciously, just what we’ll comment on, just what we’ll click, just what they know we can’t resist. And it’s all we hear and it’s all we see and it bleeds into all we believe is going on in America. So we highlight what we’re against, and we highlight what we’re against, until all we are is…against.
Excuse me, but fuck that. Hey reasonable people, good people, and, yes, I’m looking at you too committed liberals, don’t reject being American, define it. Don’t say “That’s America, I’m ashamed, I’m out” while not really being out. Show what you’re about and what this country, through you, is about. To your children. To your community. To your environment. To the vulnerable. To your fellow person. To the world. You have every right to represent this country, it is yours. Don’t hand it to someone else, don’t fight for election victories only to reject the very identity that is your goddamned right, and that it is your responsibility to represent to the world.
You are America.
Own that. Own the positivity of that powerful message. You are defining what your country stands for and what the concept of American is.
It is not that. It is THIS.