March 2, 2016

Led Astray

I don’t live in America and it is most likely that I never will again. I don’t pay taxes there. I don’t own property there, and to be honest I don’t really have any connection to the place other than my passport and twenty-five years of cultural manipulation- a childhood of watching its TV, listening to its music and reading its books. Having said that, I love the place. I love the idea of it. The brashness of it. The audacity of it. And yes, even the reality of it.

It is clear, however, that we are in a big fat mess right now. A little over two hundred years in and the place is heading toward disaster. I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. Like I said, I have not lived there for twelve years, so I don’t know how employment works, or if I could make a living as a teacher and raise a family there. But, from what I remember living in NYC as a single guy, I am pretty sure that it would be pretty hard to make ends meet. I have no idea what people pay in taxes and what that gets them, or what kind of health care people get. I read stories, but I have no real stories. I see many of you making it, so it must be possible, but I am clueless as to how you are able to live in America.

I might not have real life or current experiences, but I know my history, and I know my economic theory and I know about corporations and greed and oligarchy and how Fascism is born and I know racism and the frightening power of the under-educated poor. I know about The American Dream and the desperation of an inner-city and a crumbling promise in the rural south. I know about fear and loathing and thinking you are a champion, when you are not even playing the right game.

I might not have lived these traumas first hand, but I am attuned to the literature and media of our nation. I know the history of struggle and revolution and mass incarnation, of riots and looting and police shootings and labor wars won and lost. I might not live there, but I can see that we are in a place of hurt and fear and pain and anger and the results of these traumas are not good for our future. The American people are waking up to the reality of the false dream we were promised and we are not equipped to build a new one.

It is embarrassing being an American ex-pat. My friends are always asking how is this happening? They might be talking about some shooting or the latest never ending war or these days they are usually asking about our election process and the rise of Trump.

It is hard to explain how afraid America is of its own demise and poverty. It is hard to explain to my friends the true nature of America- the one that lurks one layer beneath the glitz and glamour. These non-American friends may not have driven through the rural south or a strip mall in Idaho or seen the vast expanse of mediocrity that many Americans often mask with bluster and jingoism. Most Americans actually believe that God has blessed America. As if somehow, we are different and that in the evolution of societies and nations, we have miraculously come out on top.

Our media lies to us. Our education system teachers us to worship the wealthy and praise capitalistic gain as the only true measure of success. American’s believe in being number one and being rich and powerful and in control, even when we are clearly very far from all those things. Anyone who questions these false values is labeled as an American-hater, a communist and the scum of the earth. Being a winner is embedded in our national psyche, but there are few winners in America these days, and so Trump becomes the symbol of the decaying dream. He is shallow and vapid and empty and the prefect vessel for people who see themselves as winners, but clearly people who are not, to pour themselves into.

Americans on average do not travel They rarely read. They are not involved in the political processes. They have been taught for decades to mistrust the government and the process of governance. They are too busy working and surviving. Another problem is that most Americans don’t have a firm understanding of the world outside of their immediate circles. Everything beyond the county line, whether it be a different religion or country or series of ideas, is a scary foggy no-man’s land, most Americans have no interest in investigating the real world, they just want to dominate the one they see on TV.

But like I said, what do I know? America has become a stranger to me. A distant relative I only see through the lens of the internet, and I know that this warped view is not an accurate representation. I want her to be well. I want to help and send cards for her birthday, but I don’t know how to relate anymore. I hope that our trip “home” this summer will help me reconnected. I hope it reminds me that America is a land of diversity and excitement.

I sometimes think about moving back home. Trying to buy a house somewhere in Oregon and maybe running for public office. Really getting my hands dirty with the process. Find a way to dig my way through the layers of filth that are clogging up every system in the land. But in the meantime, I will sit on the sidelines and judge everyone and everything like a self-righteous, pretentious asshole, the very stereotype of the privileged liberal.

I hope my American friends living in the US are okay and living worthwhile lives and that the political systems that are in place are not, and will not, get in the way of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hope you are not offended by this post. It is messy and sloppy and not very clear. It needed to be raw and written more for me than anyone else.

Closing note, I know there are thousands, millions of educated, kind, compassionate, dedicated Americans who are working tirelessly to make America function as a democracy- and I tip my hat to you all. Teachers, organizers, labor leaders, cops, and more. This post was the first of many that I will write to try and make sense of how the country that I love is being led astray by such ignorant and dark forces.

I’m sure I’ll write more on Trump as times get darker and scarier but in the meantime, I can’t help but think of this clip as I watch Trump rallies. Get them up against the wall!

1 comment:

  1. I live in Americs and I don't think I can characterize it in one sweep and definitely not via the distorted eyepiece is "news" or social media. I spent 8 months traveling around it in 2011 trying to find "it" and that was not enough time to take it in.

    This is not to dismiss the picture you paint; there is a lot of ugliness, unfairness, offensiveness now- but how wide do you paint that? The life I have, the community I live in, much of this I do not see. Am I in unfair privilege land? Is it not America? Yes many Americans are Un weirdly, insular, unread, but I am not read to spread that generalization.

    Judging quality/Cody of life by comparing to New York City may not be the best yardstick. There are plaenty of affordable living areas. My costs for mortgage, utilities, food are less than half of what people pay for rent in nyc or San Francisco. Healthcare? Nothing I would cheer about; it costs me 2o% of what I earn.

    But the extremes in wealth are wide. And one sees lavish lifestyles that are outlandish.

    I spent the last month in Puerto Rico, a place nobody in America probably gives a passing thought, the government is bankrupt, and just walking around you see a lot of abandoned buildings, crumbling architecture, it can feel like pre-apocalypse. This is the bottom end of the economic barrel? Yet elsewhere you see shiny modern hones, stores, malls, new cars, and so even in a place you think of as have nots, you see it's own spectrum of wide distribution of wealth.

    And so I get a bit of an experience of being an outsider, a minority, but yet my white American skin still makes it not the same experience as a Puerto Rican person in the US. The converse is not quite equal polarity.

    So I ant say your summarization of America is true or not, just that, for me, I cannot say for sure how much is rule and how much exception. And that's not as important as recognizing and calling out what is wrong and unjust here. I am not ready to say America is or isn't.