I like to think that if I'd been alive in the 1860s, I would've done something to get involved in the abolitionist movement. I most definitely wouldn't have "owned" slaves...right? I say now, from a 21st century perspective, that I never would've participated in such a ghastly practice, but would I have? If all my friends did? Or maybe I would've just sat back and made noises about how slavery is wrong the way they do it in the DEEP south but had at my disposal a dozen excuses for why it was okay for me because I was kinder and more humane. Or maybe I would've not held any slaves due to my location or position, but would've thought it was perfectly normal and acceptable. Or maybe I would've been anti-slavery, but in talking points at parties only - you know, the sort that agrees that slavery is a bad thing, but wouldn't dream of actually doing anything about it because of the risks associated with such a movement.
I tell myself that if I'd come of age during the Civil Rights Movement, I would've sat at lunch counters with black friends in protest of laws that said they were equal but not. I would've marched on Washington...surely I would've. Right? Or would I have been too into free love and drugs and rock'n'roll to notice that I didn't have any black friends because we were kept apart in all ways?
There are some things going down right now in this great nation of ours that strike me as being nearly as turning-point, monumental, huge as those two things were. It feels like we're standing on an edge, and I'm scared to see which way we're going to fall.
Here are some things I was taught to believe about why America is the greatest nation in the world:
1. Freedom. Just in general, freedom. Here, everyone is free to do as they please, provided they're not hurting someone else in the process. This lesson was taught with a hint that, anywhere else in the world, you'd get arrested for small infractions like talking without raising your hand.
2. Prosperity. Here, everyone has enough and there is plenty for everyone. We're the richest nation in the world! There are hungry people out there, but they're not here.
3. Freedom of religion - believe whatever you want! It's why the Pilgrims came here, after all.
4. Opportunity - you can be whomever or whatever you wish, if you're willing to work hard enough.
5. Separation of Church and State, Separation of Government Powers, Checks and Balances, Justice is Blind.
Part of me, the child who loved fireworks and singing The Star Spangled Banner and saying the Pledge of Allegiance each morning and raising the school's stars and stripes, part of me still can feel the pride swell up the way it did when I used to believe in those things. Once upon a time, I knew those things to be truths the way I knew my name was Natalie. That childhood/adolescent patriotism has been replaced by cynicism and doubt and mistrust in a system I thought was designed to protect the least of those among us. What happened to the American Dream? Is it just growing up that takes away all the shiny and replaces it with stark reality? Or have things really gotten that bad?
Our elected officials lie to us about pictures they send on the internet, and we think they're going to tell us the truth about where our tax dollars are going? The corporations that threw the world's economy into a tailspin get billions in government bailouts, but we're told pensions for firefighters and policemen and teachers are bankrupting us? Our politicians are fucking us six ways to Sunday while they whisper sweet nothings in our ears, like how Planned Parenthood is the devil because they provide abortions and pap smears and condoms to women without medical insurance. Oh my God, and whatever you do, don't let gay people get married because it'll be the end of the world as we know it - there will be donkey shows on Main Street at 3:00 and 4:30 every afternoon, your husband will suddenly need 2 more wives, and little Johnny will start humping the family dog.
What the fuck, America? Are we that lazy and dumb that we're just going to sit here and watch while stupid takes over our nation?
I've got to do something. I don't know what, but I'm going to figure something out. I'll write a letter or hold a sign or get sprayed by a firehose or something - I just can't take sitting here and watching this country I grew up loving go all to shit.
Why is the American public suffering while Wall Street laughs all the way to the bank? Why are we allowing our elected officials to attack the ones who are supposed to educate and protect us? Why are we trying to strip medical access from the poor? Why are we treating people like they're second class citizens because of who they want to fuck? (Hello, Congress, I'm talking to you, you scandalous cretins - you should be the first ones on the "don't judge me for my sexual behaviors" bandwagon.)
I just can't take the hypocrisy. I can't stand the dumb. How do I fix it? Where do I start?
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Please don't make me cry.