As June draws to a close and the sharp cracks of fireworks start echoing through the neighborhood, I think this is a good time for myself and my Colonists to reflect on what it means to be an American.
I don’t know how closely you follow the news (you should…I know it can get irritating and repetitive. Believe me, there was a point if I heard one more word about Hillary’s emails I wanted to put my foot through my flat-screen. We still need to stay informed and curious about the world around us.) But in case you haven’t noticed, Washington is a mess right now. Since when aren’t cameras allowed in press briefings? Did Spicer eat too many doughnuts in the situation room and is worried the camera really will add 10 pounds? I’m sure there are people with betting pools going on how long until Congress starts impeachment proceedings, because the only thing more quintessentially American than Democracy is illegal gambling.
The more I learn about how our government actually works, the more disgusted I become with our leaders. We weren’t taught about lobbyists, the Contras, or Saudi Arabian arms deals in school. It can be easy to feel like powerless victims of a corporate oligarchy, busy yourselves with your day-to-day lives, and ignore the talking heads on cable news networks. I can’t hate on you for your willful ignorance; if you’re going to stress over something make sure it’s something within your capacity to change for the better. However, sticking your head in the sand out of convenience is not a smart idea.
The (mostly) nonviolent Occupy movement has been replaced with protests that have turned into all-out riots, Baltimore for example. Our police look more like soldiers fresh off the battlefield sporting their Kevlar armor, a far cry from the friendly men and women in blue from the Andy Griffith days. I, a white American, find myself occasionally fearful when around law enforcement; not “safe and protected.” I recently attended a summer festival a few cities over and the entire force was out doing security. While it is wonderful there are cautious eyes looking out for the safety of the general public in light of recent terror attacks, I found it impossible to relax and enjoy myself even though I wasn’t doing anything illegal. I can’t imagine what it would be like growing up in a minority community. I don’t know if cops are “racists;” I think that’s too broad of a statement. Cops are people, too, and if you get a large enough group of people together, statistically speaking, the odds are some of them are going to be assholes. I call this phenomena the “asshole quotient,” and you’re welcome to add that to your own vernacular. You will find a small percentage of assholes in any group of people if its large enough, and generally that asshole quotient ruins everyone’s fun. Not all protesters are violent. but the ones throwing rocks through the windows at a Starbucks get more news coverage than the ones marching and singing in the streets while wearing bathrobes and passing out water bottles to the people in Flint, Michigan ( https://wchbnewsdetroit.com/3109911/big-march-and-rally-today-in-detroit-to-protest-water-shutoffs/ ). Since the media primarily covers the violent ones, the public at large gets the impression that most protesters are whiny babies throwing a tantrum and destroying things, when most people who participate in direct action are just normal Americans learning how to use their first amendment rights to get their elected official’s attention. Similarly, you won’t hear on CNN about the police officer that helped an autistic boy having a panic attack and calmed him down ( https://www.littlethings.com/cop-teaches-autistic-boy-pushups/ ) ; you will hear about incidents like Freddy Grey and Michael Brown until their names are firmly ingrained in the public collective consciousness.
America is a pressure cooker right now. Emotionally charged issues such as immigration and healthcare are at the forefront of our consciousness. War rages on in the middle east. People shoot up nightclubs now, but over interpretation of an ancient book instead of the usual heroin deals. Last week, senators were shot in broad daylight at a baseball game! There is some kind of dramatic change whispering on the winds; this country is changing and I think (KNOW) we haven’t seen the end of the birthing pains.
Being an American used to mean, to me anyways, that I lived in the greatest country on Earth. I could buy a house, vote, and work in any profession I chose. My neighbors are a different color and they speak and strange tongue, but they make awesome food. They’re not much different than my great grandparents, who fled pre-great war Europe for a better life in the land of hot dogs and apple pie. They too spoke a funny language and cooked exotic, delicious food. I was proud to be part of this country, this grand American experiment.
Now, I don’t know if I can be proud of my country with the knowledge that we have military bases in 168 countries and the majority of the world hates us. We know the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were about Opium and weapons profiteering (for real though…do some research. You can start here: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-top-9-biggest-defense-contractors-in-america-2016-5 ) , not spreading democracy. The phrase “American Imperialism” keeps being thrown around Internet message boards. I don’t know if I can be proud of a country that violated Geneva; we’re supposed to be the good guys, we don’t torture, but Abu Grahib and Guantanamo Bay are now household names. As much as I try to empathize with people, I honestly don’t understand all the new genders or why having single stall unisex restrooms is such a huge deal to conservatives; old straight white men like pooping in private too, right? (PS. I’ve never met a transgender person or someone who doesn’t identify as male or female and is part of the new “third gender.” I would genuinely LOVE to hear your stories and try to get some perspective and understanding. Email me!) Try as I may, I’m still trying to figure out how Trump actually became president. I didn’t vote for him and I don’t like him as a person, but I have friends and family members who did and I struggle to understand why they seriously thought he was a good choice for a leader, regardless of their personal feelings for Hilary; Gary Johnson and Jill Stien were also legitimate candidates.
I think we’ve strayed very far from the America we learned about in school, that diverse, inclusive land where anything is possible. It’s difficult to be proud to be American after viewing pictures of “collateral damage” in the middle east ( http://www.boredpanda.com/armed-forces-refugees-photos-kainoa-little-islamic-state/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=naturalcures ), reading about an old guy who got arrested for feeding the homeless in Florida ( http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/04/justice/florida-feeding-homeless-charges/index.html ), or having to take out a DBA license for a cottage-industry ( http://blogs.findlaw.com/law_and_life/2013/08/5-legal-issues-with-your-kids-lemonade-stand.html ).
I am an optimist. I’m not sure exactly where America got so far off track (probably had to do with some company greasing the right legislator’s palm) but I remain faithful that it’s still possible to get back on track, hopefully without Molotov cocktails being thrown at our elected officials.
Happy Independence Day, colonists!
PS. You are not a firework; don’t drive lit! DUIs are expensive, and a friend of mine was recently hit by a drunk driver on his motorcycle and passed away from his injuries. RIP Ryan. Please be safe and fun out there, Colonists! ❤
Money burning a hole in your wallet? You can always give me some of it to say “thank you” for informing or making you smile today: https://www.paypal.me/planethaley . Your donations also will be assisting with paying for my college education, since student loans suck ass and my parents are broke. (I work two part times jobs like a good little citizen, and I’m trying to invest that money into some other exciting opportunities you’ll be reading about here on Planet Haley.) Help a sista out and when I’m a lawyer I’ll represent you pro Bono! (Unless you’re a neo-nazi or a war dog, because fuck those guys.)