Thursday, July 3, 2014

Independence Day in the Land of the "I'm Free, You Are Not." (In the Category of Be Where You Are.)

Ah, Independence Day! This July 4th the United States of America celebrates 238 years as a sovereign nation founded by plucky immigrants looking for opportunities to get rich (they called themselves colonists back then) and Puritans who sought a new world in which their dogmatic, strict religious beliefs could be practiced without retribution from the Church of England, which allowed more pomp and fornication than they deemed prudent. The promise of freedom, tolerance, opportunity, and wealth attracted people from all over the world, and America became a "great melting pot" of diversity. 

"Melting pot" is a terrible way to describe this country. Heaven knows, we didn't all deliquesce into one homogeneous blob -- had we done so, the problems that embroil us today would not exist. I like the salad bowl metaphor myself. But I digress.

Our founding fathers came to America from whatever place they left, for whatever reason they left, and set out to create "a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Given that the founding fathers were all privileged white men, one should not be surprised at the current state of our union, but the self-evident ideals of equality, liberty and justice for all still tantalize. At some level we believe our nation embodies these ideals as a fervent champion of human rights, but we are delusional. Let's take stock of a few recent events.

1) This week, the current Supreme Court went out of its way to remind women of all races and nationalities that we are second class citizens with lesser standing than men. (Because after all, only men are created equal.) While male forms of birth control remain legally protected medical procedures paid in full by most insurance companies, female forms of birth control have been ruled slutty, murderous aberrations to society that must be purged. Paying for a woman's birth control would signal permissiveness, and then we sexually active women who don't want to get pregnant at the moment, would run amok. Unacceptable! Should a woman choose to end an unwanted pregnancy (even if a rapist is the baby-daddy), she must now run a gauntlet of hateful pseudo-Christians (thank the Puritans) attacking her verbally or physically. Some may even go so far as to murder her (because, pro-life). That, of course, assumes she is able to find a medical facility to perform the procedure. So much for protection from the highest court in our land. 

2) At our Western border, the offspring of long-ago immigrants now stand with recent legal immigrants to block the entrance into their towns of children fleeing horrific violence in their own countries. These "patriotic Americans" hold hateful signage (in addition to Old Glory), hurl epithets at innocents, and consider themselves good people for the deed. Rather than helping these children -- or even trying to empathize -- they block the roads to the "[golden door" that harbors] the homeless, tempest-tost", screaming curses and insults, and demonstrating first hand just how bigoted many of We the People have become. You'd have to be a crazy fool to want to live with a bunch of mean assholes like us, but these children have nowhere else to go. And this is how we greet them.

3) Privileged white men still consider themselves entitled to run the country, even after a majority vote put the first ever man of color in the highest office of the land. In their horror that a diverse, progressive, majority voted for change, the Gents of Privilege (or GOP as they are more commonly known) made a pinky swear to vote against any and all Obama initiatives, no matter the cost to the country. Goaded by a faction of zealots known as the Tea Party, who came to Washington D.C not to fix it but to burn it down, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. All at the expense of middle class America. They have engineered a costly government shutdown, ended unemployment insurance for those still affected by the previous (white male) administration's disastrous economic recession, demonstrated fiscal mismanagement that caused S&P to downgrade the USA's credit rating, denied equal pay to women for equal work, and filibustered gun control (which failed anyway due to bipartisan efforts, because the NRA has deep pockets -- many more will die.) I could go on, but I've made my point. In short, they've acted like a petulant child who didn't get the cookie they wanted, so they smashed the whole cookie jar to the floor.

The land of the free and the home of the brave has become the land of "I'll get richer, you stay poor" and a nation full of cowards too scared of the "other" to show compassion to the gender that birthed them, show tolerance to their neighbors, visualize a mile in the torn sneakers of the children knocking at their door.

I love this country, always have, always will. I'd never leave -- otherwise, how could I be a voice for positive change? But I hate the tone of intolerance and bigotry that dominates our national dialog. The rest of the world has noticed, and we have lost our moral high ground -- mostly in the name of morality.

Were I not convinced that the powerful storms of human-manufactured climate change are about to wipe us all out, I'd worry for this nation.

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