The Day America Died

door-1781593_960_720

By international standards, despite our 240 years, we are still a young nation. European and Asian countries measure their existence in millennia. Our early development launched as a country of malcontents and criminals; our national identity has continued to evolve as newer waves of immigration sought the hope of refuge on our shores. The one thing that set us apart, as opposed to the national identities of other nations, the single tenet that transcended the consolidation of multiple cultures and races was the understanding that the rights of the individual were to be accepted and safeguarded against persecution. As a nation, we struggled and continue to struggle for wider acceptance of all, especially those of other religions and nationalities and those with alternative sexual orientations. It seemed we were making significant strides to live up to the American mandate, however painfully slow it appeared. That all changed on January 20, 2017. It is the day America died. We might as well strip the Emma Lazarus plaque from the Statue of Liberty. Good luck to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free; you’ve been Trumped right along with women, the people within the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and non-whites.

Perhaps the vision of America we took pride in projecting was nothing more than a myth. The mass of people who wriggled from the rotting foundation of our country to vote for Trump have in all likelihood always harbored the racial bias, the intolerance, and the hatred that now stands fully exposed. People say we need to give this president a chance. Even if we do, the country that was America before the inauguration no longer exists. Whatever happens going forward, it will be a new America, a lesser America, no longer the country that was once the envy of the world. Or perhaps it’s simply that the truth of what we have always been has caught up to the rhetoric. Perhaps the other half of us just believed in the myth. It’s gloomy to consider.

When I was twenty-seven and living in the Middle East, I was tasked with the delivery of a proposal to the Brazilian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Walking through the diplomatic quarter in Jeddah, I turned a corner and saw the American flag flying above our consulate. It had been several months since I’d been home, and the sight of the stars and stripes quite literally brought tears to my eyes. I was young, and I believed in what we stood for, what the American flag represented. If a country can be loved for its natural environment, I will confess to harboring a love for having been born here. On the other hand, if a country is measured by the content of its people, then that love has been tarnished like a piece of badly oxidized silver. I have lost respect for at least half of my fellow Americans; it has been replaced by disdain for those who carry the ignorant notion that men like Trump and Pence can move our country along a path toward the ideals that made us stand apart. Watching the news footage of the moving trucks laden with President Obama’s possessions, a phrase, one emblematic of another time in our history that signified horrific disunity, came to mind. America as we knew it has gone with the wind.

The Declaration of Independence: Our Mandate for Change

Declaration_of_Independence_draft_(detail_with_changes_by_Franklin)

Three days ago, as a nation, we celebrated the 240th anniversary of the declaration of our independence. To reread the words committed to by the General Congress of the United States of America is to re-imagine a revolution. Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of our precious document, convincingly and eloquently established just how right it was for the colonies to “institute new government” and to absolve themselves from allegiance to the mastery of Great Britain.

As we approach the quadrennial fiasco of electing a new president (with special focus on the absurd candidacies of the two parties), the polarized congress, the Electoral College which virtually renders the vote of the American people inert, plus a myriad bullet list of the failures of our government to protect and foster our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we should consider anew Mr. Jefferson’s second paragraph:

“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it? It was the conclusion of the representatives of the thirteen colonies that the time had come not to suffer the evils any longer.

declaration-of-independence-9-638

Thomas Jefferson, in fact all of the founding fathers, would wither in shame at how we have allowed our government to evolve into a monstrous and misshapen facsimile of the original leadership that came together to throw off the bonds of Great Britain, by pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Special interest groups and the greed of manipulative, unprincipled business leaders have warped the vision of those brave souls who stood against impossible odds to create this country. Yes, we as a people in concert with a nascent government allowed unspeakable atrocities: the decimation and annihilation of the Native American peoples and African slavery for hundreds of years, it is part of our national historical disgrace. We cannot change our past, but we must affect our future. We must consider that the time has come to echo the words of Jefferson, that it is our right to dismantle the current and ineffective system of government.

A decade after the declaration, Jefferson’s declaration was reverberated by the words he used in a letter. He wrote:

“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion [reference is made here to Shay’s Rebellion over economic policy, aggressive tax and debt collection, and political corruption]. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

I cannot think of a time more worthy of a call to action based on those words than now.

How do you feel?

Be

 

Four words, a construct of social interplay designed to initiate an exchange between two people. It’s up there with Good morning, How’s it going, and Hey there. It’s a question asked and a question answered with equally uninformative phrases like: Doing good, not bad, or I’m okay. Many add the required: how about you, for which round two concludes in the same innocuous manner.

Such lackluster exchanges point to a deficiency in emphasis and genuineness. As a whole, we’re good at the former and not so much the latter. How do you feel? If you stop to consider the question, it’s not a greeting, but an invitation. If you apply emphasis on the last word, how do you FEEL, the asker is being genuine, as if they really want to know. It’s then incumbent on the askee to be honest. That’s usually where the bond crumbles. How often do you pose the question, just to break the ice in greeting, really hoping that you get one of the standard answers from the list? After all, who wants to be the recipient of someone capable of grabbing your ear for an hour on the subject? How often do you avoid the answer because you simply believe the other person is just being polite, or you don’t feel comfortable bearing your soul, or you simply haven’t taken inventory of the real answers? You could ask yourself the question to step away from being two-dimensional, but let’s face it; we’re not really adept at being honest with ourselves either.

There’s a reason therapists belabor their patients with this question. Feelings, something that humans try to usurp as being one of the hallmarks that set our species apart (a blatant fallacy) are what drive us. A feeling is the steering wheel that turns us in the direction of action. I suspect many of our actions derive from a superficial sense of feelings we haven’t adequately analyzed, for if we did, would we truly be racist, or homophobic, or hateful? How can we expect the world to behave better if we individually act from a perspective of inattentiveness to our own feelings? Feeling is the one tool that drives empathy, and empathy breeds tolerance and acceptance. To ignore feeling opens a channel to destruction and hate. If Omar Mateen had stopped to consider the intrinsic value of seeing two men kissing, that the simple expression of love was of far more worth than hate and murder, he would have been able to override the nonsensical and bombastic canon all religions foist on their followers and seen the truth of that moment. He would never have pulled the trigger.

We’ve become too used to spouting words devoid of genuineness. The other morning, watching news coverage on the Pulse Nightclub shootings, the anchor opened the stage to a local journalist on the scene. As the line of communications opened, the journalist began by saying, “Good Morning”. My only thought was, no, it’s really not. The journalist wasn’t trying to be insensitive; he was using a salutation that was simply polite, even though it was horribly inappropriate to the moment. It speaks to the notion that we do so many things by rote.

The element of global danger is escalating at the speed of sound. Many hear the nauseating rhetoric of Donald Trump (the man who would set our society firmly on a path to the dark ages) and react to his hateful invective because on the surface he offers a solution to the issues that strike at the heart of what angers us. He garners support on the principal of mob mentality. The polls suggest an uncomfortably titanic number of people are stupid enough to fall for it. News reports of death and devastation abound everywhere; the United States is not the only target and is frequently the aggressor of the same destruction we rally against. We emphasize our thoughts and reactions from the standpoint of anger and hatred, but fail to infuse our thinking with intelligence. We employ the inelegant methods of a club-wielding troll. We do need to act. We do need to consider how best to dial back the ability of those who seek to do harm. We do need to change the way the country operates. Politicians are, for the most part, useless individuals at best, malcontent enablers at worst. They refuse to act on issues based on truth, honesty, and necessity; instead, they tout party lines, willfully ignorant – to our detriment. Most frightening to consider is that our elected officials lack the essential aptitude needed to deepen the quality of our country. They stand in positions to serve with bought and paid-for elections and by the grace of great campaign managers. So, they serve the masters of finance and corporate greed selling out the American people like the good puppets they are. We stand by and let it happen, time and again. Vote they say. That’s all well and good, but when the offerings are as useless as deciding what flavor of yogurt to have for breakfast, there is little opportunity for any significant change. Never has there been a time when it was more important to close the distance between what we feel and how we act. Not six months or a year from now, but RIGHT NOW.

Dig in, ask your friends, your family, people you work with: how do you FEEL. When someone asks you the same question, think hard on it. Tunnel down and figure it out, then tell them. Your challenge is to find the best method of delivery to effect a change. I’m a writer, the only tool in my arsenal is written expression. You must find your own way; don’t shirk on this responsibility. The only rule of the game is to consider all sides. Test yourself by asking if what you feel really makes sense. There was a common theme of apathy in movies and media in the 1970s; it clearly lingers in the 2000s. Don’t fall prey to that. I don’t care, nor is it important who originally coined the axiom, but it bears repeating: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. I’ve said it before, there is no cure for what ails us as a whole; there is a rising tide of terminally evil people. Sprinkling your dose of honesty and well-considered feelings on an expanding web of well-thinking and well-meaning people might abate the disease long enough that cooler heads prevail as we search for the elusive, and likely unattainable goal of peace and understanding.

So, how do you feel?