Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Do Better

Many years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, "Shame." Struggling with my bipolar disorder and my place in the world as a young woman with a mental illness, I typed out a few words on the nature of shame, the nature of being atypical in a world which, it seemed, valued conformity above all else.

I am no longer beholden to that shame, to the feeling that I don't fit in, to the misfiring neurons and the long nights of panic and mania and inspiration. I wrote, and I spoke, and I let that shame go. 

But we, as a country, as a stunted conglomeration of bigotry and beauty, of fear and faith, of hatred and hope, should be deeply ashamed today. We should mourn - mourn not only the results of our democratic process, but our very selves. 

It's difficult to take responsibility for actions and events we abhor, terribly hard to admit complicity when disgust wins. I wish I could deny any wrongdoing - after all, my politics are based on inclusion, on love, on justice, on peace - and simply hate those who step up and claim their ugliness with pride. I wish I could only be angry with that half of the country which elected a monster endorsed by modern Nazis and the Klansmen we all pretend don't exist. 

But to do so would lack honesty, because this is our country. This is the way we live. We created and venerated the smiling lies of freedom and blind patriotism, and we have benefited from them. 

Complacency, privilege, and fear won the day. This is America.

We are a country built metaphorically and literally on the graves of Native Americans, on the backs of slaves, on the continued disenfranchisement of minorities. We are built on an educational system which consistently benefits the privileged and fails the poor - and fails all of us as textbooks teach more smiling lies about the glorious American past. We are a country which allows so-called Christian evangelism in our classrooms, in our government, in our healthcare, and in our bedrooms. We are a country of dogmatic belief, a country of preachers and politicians who worship the dollar, worship power, more than they do any loving God. 

We attempt to balance our shameful history with the light of civilization and civility, and in some ways, we succeed. The world is better than it was. But the progress we have made - more women in government, more minority representatives, gay marriage, (supposed) access to healthcare and abortion services - seems hollow and insincere when confronted with the truth that half of Americans want to take all of that away. The progress is necessary, the progress is important, and too many Americans hate it. 

Today we witness the reaction of white America to a changing world. And if you, like me, have been given the gift of racial and economic privilege, you have been yet another cog in a capitalist, revisionist, and eternally hungry machine. Political pundits frame this election as a rejection of the status quo; the horrible truth is that this day of sorrow is a return to America's birth. Complacency, privilege, and fear. Freedom for white men and women at the expense of so many others.

I did not cause these things. You, my readers, did not bring these events forth. We are not entirely to blame. But any time we accepted an unjust death, when we changed the channel as protests occupied our streets, when we listened to an off-color joke, when we allowed our children to succeed while others failed, when we separated ourselves from those who suffer - we played into a long history of shameful atrocities and set the stage for today. 

This post is not an epitaph. My sentiments are grim - they are not final. I do have hope. This country must improve, and it will improve when all of us together stand up and say, enough. Enough of this legacy of slavery and genocide; enough of a system which allows widespread injustice and incarceration; enough murdered Black men and women, transwomen; enough bigotry and hate. Let us not allow one more moment of pain and stupidity and disgust. Let us rise up and say honestly, we want a better world.  

Let's not pretend for one more second that we don't see where we fail. We must look into our selves and do better. 

Today we grieve. Tomorrow, we change. We wake up and we say, this is not my America. 

My America is going to be better. 

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