I write about change, which I do not find easy nor do most. We resist before we act, hoping not to have to change our lives. It always means some kind of loss but the longer we avert our eyes, the greater the effect.
Many other sentient beings are dying off (or being killed outright), unable to adapt to our immense presence. We are creating our own date stamp. That’s the global effect.
In America, it is our constitutional republic under siege. We are quite fond of that term, as if we understood its layers of complexity, its nature, by attaching to a label.
Currently, I’m reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. One of the characters remarks that America is the only country that is in constant search of its identity. Who or what is America?
It is an ongoing question, and that’s a good thing. A constitutional republic is vibrant as long as its citizens are vigilant. We cannot look away, although we have.
If you have read any Hamilton, Madison, or The Federalist Papers you know whereof I speak. Lots of questions about this new republic and for what it might stand. And there are years of writing, beyond the 18thcentury, about what a remarkable experiment we are.
History reveals some really cool stuff about being American. It’s some of my favorite writing. We can be and have been something good, not exceptional but good. It’s just that we have averted our eyes, and without vigilance, freedom dies.
In less than 250 years this great experiment in democracy is in shreds. Without one country, indivisible, there is no republic. We need to take a knee in defiance to the one who would rule us all, if for no other reason than to defy decree in democracy.
There are no saviors on the horizon. That is fantasy. We can no longer merely man the lighthouses. We are the saviors we seek, such as we are. It gives us pause but we know it is ours to do.
There have been and still are remarkable human beings whose lights are brilliant and whose hearts are so compassionate that all of humanity benefits. These beings have always walked this earth and that they still do is a tribute to the human spirit.
We have many in America, right now, but they are not faces we readily recognize. Too often, we avert our eyes still. Old habits, ours, are dying very hard. We are at our tipping point.
There is “nothing more exhilarating than saving yourself by the simple act of waking” (Junot Díaz). Fine words but what to do? We do know. Awareness is basic to human nature.
It’s not difficult to discern the right thing to do. It means do no harm, and in response, our hearts open in ways that amaze us. And before our eyes the world is different because we are. It’s the little stuff, every day, that changes the world. It always has.
We want swift change, with a certain outcome, but that is the wand the illusionist waves, diverting our attention from what we are, a constitutional republic, a unique experiment with layers of checks and balances. The web we weave is catching he who practices to deceive.
No trick lasts for any illusionist, demagogue, or oligarch. That is the story of human history. Life bends back around, like a boomerang, in ways beyond hope. Every. Single. Time.
We cannot be caught wanting. The simple act of waking, being aware, means taking a stand, accepting that it comes at a cost. We take ourselves out of our wants and act for the need of all. Every. Single. Day.
That’s the compassionate response and its ripple effects form the future. Our way of life as a constitutional republic is revolutionary and always has been. That is America. Are we Americans?
5 thoughts on “Are We Americans?”
This current moment in America makes my heart ache. We are being led by a man with as little self control as a preschooler, and he is just as likely to knock everything down when he feels slighted or he doesn’t get his way.
Craig Reeder and I (Hot Tamale) wrote and recorded a song about this time in America. Click this link: http://hottamale.weebly.com/videos.html and scroll down to “We Used To Be America.”
Karen is right. We need to raise our voices and protest. We can’t walk zombie-like into this dark, self-made hell of a future.
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Excellent piece. I could go on at length on this topic as I think many could. As both a student and teacher I have seen education deteriorate ove my lifetime and I found it poor even when I was in grade school. How does this relate to the topic? I believe much of our divisiveness comes from fear. We fear what we don’t know. The only way to know something is to learn about it. We don’t learn economics until university, for example, and how many people vote based on their perception of economic factors? I went all the way through high school and we never got as far as WWI in history. I learned about the wars and the depression from relatives who experienced them. Waking up in part means recognizing what you are missing and we are missing knowledge.
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The nursery rhyme, “and when she was good, she was very very good; but when she was bad …” My Country has accomplished spectacularly good deeds. She has been a beacon of hope for immigrants, refugees, and whomever wanted to start anew. She rebuilt Europe after WWII. She gave the world the Peace Corps. In my lifetime, I’ve been proud to be an American. No longer.
I now understand her greatness came by stepping on the backs of too many others. We have been the bully in the world’s schoolyard. American exceptionalism? One nation under God? All myths. We are a country of Me Firsts, of My Rights before yours, of My Way or the Highway. Our system of checks and balances has fallen flat. Greed is our new god. I’m heartsick.
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It is amazing that the Russians have perceived so clearly our weak spot, running fake adds before and after the election designed to inflame emotions on BOTH sides of our divisive issues. Here’s an illuminating quote from an article in today’s paper: “Their objective was not to see Trump elected president, but to see the United States undermined by its own political inconsistencies and divisions. The Russians don’t want a happy Trump presidency. They are not Trump’s friends. They want the American system to fail.”
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