Thursday, April 18, 2013

Patriotism for the Disillusioned

Days like today - weeks like this week - I find it difficult to identify with my own country.

And this is very distressing to me.

You see, I was raised to be proud of where I am from. To think America is the best damned place on earth and, as a "one up," that the South represented the best of the best.

You've heard "American by birth, Southerner by the grace of God"?


That's THIS girl.

But this week someone bombed the Boston Marathon.

As people lay mutilated, body parts strewn on the ground, I had to write up the carnage for the nearly 70,000 people who subscribe to my magazine.

My support system reminded me to look to the heroes during this tragedy.

It helped.

But something about it - something other than the obvious - continued to claw at me.

Today, a fertilizer plant in Texas exploded, killing - hell, I don't know how many people.

Likewise today, the representatives of our national government voted down a mandate for background checks for gun purchases.


I always felt safe in this country.

Even after narrowly escaping a kidnapping as a four-year old.

Even after 9/11.

Like a child, I had this naive and innocent belief that living in the best damned place on earth would always protect me.

That nothing bad could happen to me.

That I could sleep well at night.

I think that feeling - that clawing feeling that's come over me this week - may be a loss of that innocence.

Because for perhaps the first time, I feel like my nation as a whole has failed me.


I know the U.S. didn't plant the explosives at the finish line. I know we didn't set fire to the fertilizer. I know citizens stand behind protection legislation.

But I can't help feeling that some underlying current of how we are living is somehow lending itself to these disasters.

Don't get me wrong - I haven't joined the Westboro Baptist Church, and I don't think our benevolent Father is punishing us for anything - but I do think that we are clinging to ideals and practices which are of detriment to us as a people. And I think some of these tragedies are repercussions.

Critics will say I am victim blaming, but I think this is an incorrect or limited view.

Rather I am saying that we, as a people, are clinging desperately to volcanoes, claiming "This is where we're from, This is our heritage, and we're sticking put." But then we're somehow outraged when we get burned.

Rather than blame the people - or the volcano - I am simply suggesting we let go, and come down from the mountain. Because that ticking time bomb may have been what we were born into and raised with, but that doesn't make it good for us.

Generally speaking, we wait for a disasters to force our hand, preferring instead to remain inactive until it's too late and lives are lost.

It's why we should have repaired the failing levies before Katrina. It's why we should have had an emergency plan in place before Sandy ever touched down.

It's why I no longer feel safe in a place I know I'd fight for, if the situation called for it.

And I really hate feeling like this.

I hate feeling like the solution to terrorism is every citizen carrying a handgun just to get groceries at Publix.

I hate that I cannot walk down the street in my beloved city without worrying that some random somebody with a history of mental illness is also walking Euclid with a gun on his person.

Is this really what I have to do to get along in this country?

Because every place I've ever seen - either in person or on the news - where folks have to carry a gun for their own personal safety, is a place Americans are typically warned not to visit.


I hear a lot of hemming and hawing about the loss of our freedoms. About how regulation will lead to elimination. About how the government is out to rob us of the ideals we hold dear.

And much of it is coming from people who supported The Patriot Act.


Look, I don't know what the answer is, but I do know this:

My rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Include my ability to walk down the street - without a gun - and not have to be terrified for my safety. They involve me knowing preventative measures are being taken - without regard to cost and difficulty level- so that maybe I have a good chance of making it through the day unharmed.

My rights consist of peace of mind. Of certainty of safety, like I had when I was little. Like I had until this past week.


Life isn't perfect.

It's hard, and there are bad people in the world.

But - given these facts - I still refuse to see the world as "not good." As "scary" and "evil" and any other terms you'd see in a banal write up of a slasher film.

I refuse these things, because I was brought up to believe I live in the best damned place on earth.

And I still believe America - its citizens - have the capacity to prove me right.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently someone else feels the same...