Two Weeks In

In a Facebook thread about whether Lady Gaga’s halftime performance made a political statement, a couple of high school classmates chimed in.  Scattered geographically and, it seems, politically, one woman wrote something along the lines of: “The way forward requires finding common ground.” I think she’s right. So, here it is: my ground--a description where I am standing today.

I am outraged. Hats off, boys: the depth of your bag of tricks designed to shock and the shallowness of your souls are truly a notable combination. So, yes, outrage. But I’m starting to (try to) back away from my fury and frustration because I think they stoke it, knowing that white hot anger is exhausting. Too much noise, and people tune out. Too much outrage, and people get exhausted. Either way leads to an acceptance of normal that which would have resulted in impeachment or prison or even righteous indignation just a few weeks prior. So, to borrow my friend Kelly’s phrase, I am trying to bear witness with less anger.  

I am scared. Not of Muslims. Irreparable damage to the earth, air and water, however, keeps me up at night. Corporations free to externalize their negative costs terrify. Crackdowns on freedom of speech and religion scare me. People who don’t read scare me. People who don’t follow the money scare me. Disaffected teens and bigots with semiautomatic weapons scare me. Valuing profits over people scares me. I’m scared, too, of state-sponsored violence on our soil. It seems clear that it is coming.

Mostly, though, I’m sad. I love my country. I am a believer in the ideals espoused in the Constitution. I stand up when veterans or the color guard march by in the Fourth of July parade and prod those around me to their feet, too. Admittedly, I grew up privileged, able to believe in America’s promises. That love of country stayed with me even as I learned more about the darker parts of our history, the violence, racism, sexism, and corporate influence. Despite knowing America often didn’t live up to her ideals, I still believed that most of us wanted her to.

I’m not sure any more. When I see the vulgarity that won (and the sexism and the racism, and the . . . ) when I see blatant lies met with shrugs and “what’re ya gonna do?” from both his supporters and from the people who were too principled to vote for him or for her, it seems that what I thought were American ideals have proven to be not so common after all. And that guts me.

Outrage’s outlet is humor and exercise. Fear motivates me to volunteer and to donate and to call. But I don’t know what to do with my homesickness for the country I thought I lived in, and I think that’s why I wrote all this.
What does your ground look like?

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