Tag Archives: Government

America is Growing Up

28 Jun
The New Super Hero

The New Super Hero

In the wake of the Confederate Flag episode, the one wherein Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole and removed that sucker – I keep thinking about the analogy of a dysfunctional family and how desperately the South needs a therapist. I’m serious. We need to talk this all out and acknowledge some past hurts. A recent NY Times documentary shows us that there is no pill for what ails us, we need regular talk sessions. The South that blossomed post-Andrew Jackson’s land grab was a rebellious teen-ager that tried to shake off its parents. The South went to war to declare its own independence, but in the end, was dragged back home and forced to remain part of the family. This insurrection was the most bloody war ever fight on our soil – brother against brother.

Call it what you will, before the war, black-skinned people were property, dehumanized, tortured, raped, and killed at the whim of white supremacist. After the war, that was supposed to stop. It did not stop. Thank you inter webs and the slow march of time, we are starting to get a more clear picture of how that actually went. America is finally looking like a multi-racial nation but there is still a co-dependency of abuse and compliance happening among us.

In order to cope post Civil War, too many compromises were made. The Union was tired, distracted and so happy to be a family again, they gave the rebellious upstart South way too much leeway way too soon. So during that time, like so many Southern families, stories were born to ease the pain and the shame of the reality. “No, your sister didn’t have an illegitimate baby, she got an intestinal blockage and then went to recover at Aunt Lucy’s for seven months.”

No, the Civil war was not about holding people in bondage and denying them any scrap of human dignity so that all the bounty of an economy could be concentrated in the domineering group, The War of Northern Aggression  was about State’s Rights. Secrets and lies can remain in the closet for a long time, but eventually, for any number of reasons, the truth comes out. You suddenly get a letter from a stranger who is actually your nephew, or worse, the anger and hatred brews up into a massacre – like so many that solidified the brutal terror of Jim Crow. A family steeped in lies becomes dysfunctional in so many different and disturbing ways – just as the South has.

What started as a distorted  story, invented around Southern pride and heritage to hide the awful, embarrassing truth grew into laws and customs of brutality that caused and continue to cause more pain. The Civil Rights Movement that dared to illuminate the injustices of segregation brought out the worst in Southerners. What is recorded in picture, word, and memory of the those who risked everything to be free is nothing short of awe-inspritring. What was recorded in history books and newspapers owned by rich and powerful whites regarding such things as the Wilmington 10, or the Charlotte, 7, or countless others – well, to the victors go the spoils of controlling history.

But, imagine if a different story had emerged, one of love, remorse, and healing. Not one based in embarrassment, or pity but one based in empowerment. What if our forefathers had attempted to pay all those forced to work back wages, had formed large networks to reunite families, gave Freedmen part of the property they had been enslaved on, or any other ounce of human kindness? What might have happened instead? What if Reconstruction had been truly rooted in truth and reconciliation and the whole nation had committed to equality in 1865? Well, no one was ready for that! Not the North, nor the South.  Like most abusers, we continued to find new ways to denigrate, marginalize, abuse and terrorize while repeating the mantra that it was their won fault. Abuse is not pretty. It takes a whole lot of courage for the victim of abuse and injustice to step out the fear and be free.

Just imagine if those in power had chosen love. America would be in a much different place today. But that is not how prejudice works. Denial is effective. Fear is powerful. Fear continues to be wielded as a weapon – over and over. It is pretty frightening for angry white man to have a gun and a rebel flag. So, the South chose to perpetuate the lie, to allow the hate to fester, and now I think what we really need is a therapist.

We need a therapist to talk us through understanding how our parents, grandparents  and great-parents could have participated in a system so horrific that they either didn’t talk about it, or they made up lies about it. How their highest aspiration for us attending desegregated schools was to come home alive every day – not get to know each other. We need a therapist to help us understand ourselves and how we, the privileged white people were told as children, “Hey we might be poor, but at least we ain’t black.”  How we have stayed quiet and ignored the pain of others. We need a therapist to help us all form a new identify -one that recognizes that race is not scientifically based – it is a cultural construct. Many companies are making a lot of money trying to clarify for folks just how “pure” their blood is – xenophobia and eugenics go hand in hand for America’s desperate search for identity. In that identity, we all need a way to frame our history that is based on facts. The time for anger, defensiveness, blame and hate are over.

We must emerge with love in our hearts so that we can heal, focus, and move forward toward a more perfect union. America, we need to talk.

These Colors Don’t Run

14 May

IMG_4043If traveling abroad causes one to reflect on one’s nationality and it’s influence on personal identity, then living abroad calls for a full psycho-analysis of the effect. At least if you are me, it does. My analytical nature will not allow anything to just be. I pick it apart and examine all the pieces until I can thoroughly make sense of them within a context that is familiar and logical.

So, what does it feel like to be American and live in Britain? Watching the portrayal of America and Americans on television in Britain and the locals’ reactions, comments, and questions to me, I have a pretty good sense of the image Americans and America portray. Sometimes I am sickened by the accuracy of the impression of our Great Nation. We are selfish and self-indulged, over-confident and all too comfortable with the super-power role and status, even though that appears to be dissipating. We don’t know nearly as much about others as they know about us. When I share stories about people I know who are struggling to pay for or don’t even have health insurance, there is disbelief that our country could allow such things to happen. The basic services in Britain that provide for healthcare, education, affordable housing, public works, and many other government programs are not dragging down the society in taxes, but rather lifting them up in a communal shared concerned for their fellowman. I know I am over-simplifying the issue, but this society does, to me, seem more evolved and farther along in the realization that everyone benefits if everyone is taken care of at the most basic level.

Then there is gun-control. I am a staunch supporter of gun-control. Statistics show that arming yourself for defense leads to more crime and violence in our society. The police here in Britain are armed with clubs and pepper spray. At home, the officers patrolling elementary schools carry high powered hand guns, because of the fact that children can and do bring guns into schools. It’s outrageous. I will never own a gun and hope one day Americans see the light about gun ownership and what accessibility does to the American psyche. Gun control in Britain has allowed a relatively low incidence of violent crime. Yes, knife violence is a problem, but killing multiple innocent people in an instant with a knife is just not possible.

A few weeks ago, however, I had an experience that reminded me that I am American through and through. My socialization and upbringing in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave came out like an animal instinct. I was walking along a busy street talking with a friend while my husband walked several paces ahead of us talking with the wife of our friend. I saw coming towards us, a woman who appeared to be a bit disheveled and watched her bump into the woman my husband was walking with. She regained her composure and looked ahead at me. She came straight for me. Without a moment of thought, I planted my feet as she barreled into my shoulder, obviously drunk and looking for trouble. She seemed surprised by her solid hit, and my commanding voice, “What are you doing?” I think she expected me to move out of the way and apologize, which I did not. In fact, I turned around and watched to see if she carried on walking or was daring enough to come back. In my mind, I was ready for a physical confrontation if necessary to stand my ground. And there it is. Don’t mess with me. I am polite and courteous and considerate with everyone I meet on the street and in life generally. I am affable. But don’t mess with me. I will fight you. How stupid!

My reaction surprised my friend — he kept asking, “Are you alright?” Yes, at the moment, I was alright, riding a bit of an adrenaline induced high. Then of course, I was not alright. What made me react so differently from my British friends? I felt brutish in my over-reaction. History has shown over and again the fortitude, strength and bravery of the British people. World War II happened on their soil; they endured the German air raids and rallied against their invasion. We Americans have enjoyed generations of peace on our soil — yes, I know about Pearl Harbor, but that was not on our mainland, and did not include bombing our civilian population. Yet, Americans cling to our “right to bear arms” when really the only enemies we fight with handguns are our own family members, ex-lovers, innocent boys on the street and others we perceive as threats. Couple this absurd bravery with a semi-automatic and there you have it — American cowboys on urban streets.

Lots to think about in terms of what will it take for our society to become more safe, more cultured, more concerned for each other. For this American, I will again start with “the man in the mirror.”