My Once Great America 




I grew up being told that I lived in a Great America.  A land with amber waves of grain and possibility for all as far as the eye could see.

There were purple mountains majesty and we were taught to be kind and brave. To stand up for the little guy and to open doors for others out of respect. We were taught that racism is wrong and that we could all find a way to get along. We were taught that our country was created from our lessons learned and this made America great. We made America great.

I don’t believe that anymore. Not like I once did.

Because now, the grain is toxic and you are quite possibly intolerant to it anyway. And a bright and shining future without poverty is only an 80k mountain of student loans away.

Most of the people that I know will talk about football for days at a time and give you stats and figures to prove how well versed they are. They will post recipes for blueberry pancakes and videos of dressed up kittens jumping into swimming pools, and all sorts of things in-between. And this is a good thing, because life is about balance.

The problem comes when we flat out refuse to talk about the important things. Like how politics is just as taboo of a subject as masturbation. No one wants to talk about that. Plus, everyone is just plain too busy because there aren’t enough hours in the day. We toil away, convinced that someone must not be working hard enough, which would explain why this great American ship appears to be sinking.

In the midst of all this, we’ve all collectively and silently decided that it is not polite nor appropriate to share our views, especially on social media.

But isn’t the internet where we are? Sitting on Facebook or scrolling through Twitter while we sit with aching backs in uncomfortable bleachers, waiting for our kids’ never-ending practices to end so we can go home and make dinner at 9pm. You know, the American Dream, which keeps us so busy that we don’t have time to talk politics.

The Kardashians. Well, we can name all of them. And there are 90 hours of time allotted for our DVR box and we use every single minute of it and we STILL can’t keep up with our favorite TV shows.

But the future of our country? The decisions about clean water (ever heard of Flint, Michigan?) and the deciding factors on who gets the job of The American Powers that Be for the next 4 years? Well, you know…

“There is plenty of time to decide.”

“My life is TOO crazy right now.”

“I don’t vote because it doesn’t even matter.”

This is what most of my friends will say about politics. Or, they will say that it is too chaotic and messy and they simply don’t want to make waves or take a stand.

“I don’t like to get involved with the drama,” I hear often.

As if the future of this country won’t affect them at all. Which makes me automatically think of two words: privileged and entitled.

And what I really want to say about all of this is What the fuck is wrong with all of you? This planet is in crisis. Our species is in crisis and you are talking to me about Lands’ End Mules and I don’t even know what those are and I DON’T CARE! I care about how there are people running for president who think that we should have concentration camps in our country for our own citizens, and in some strange form of new reality, this is not just accepted, but followed. As an added bonus, the people with morals and ethics stay silent, apparently out of respect for the niceties of social media.

I’m trying to be nice here (and not cuss) and to start a real conversation with grace and politeness. But it’s getting really hard to sit still and be quiet because I want to know what the flying hell happened to that once Great America. The one with the Purple Mountain Majesty and all the hope and promise. The one where old people could afford their meds and could live and die with dignity. The America where kids who lived in poverty weren’t to blame for their own demise. A time when we didn’t belittle our school teachers but respected them for the part they play in raising our future. A time when we were taught (and believed) that the police were there to protect us only. The time when our schools weren’t full of hazards and our roads weren’t literally crumbling apart. What the hell happened to that America?

Because I know you remember it too.

What happened to those great American leaders that I saw as a kid? They had varying opinions and policy, but they still made you feel not only safe but proud to be an American, because it was a nation of great advances and great people with great men running it. Men who were educated and knowledgeable, men who were well-spoken and walked honorably through situations of diversity and trying. Men with class.

We have lost this along the way. Sadly, we’ve been so brainwashed and dumbed down by the flashing images on all the screens that we watch all day and night long that we wouldn’t know genuine or real or even hope if it came through and kissed us like it meant it.

But we’d better start figuring it out.

Because I don’t mean any offense here, but the vast majority of you, dear friends, are silent. Silent as our country falls apart. Sleeping while the media spoon feeds us its own versions of reality and calls it truth. (Not unlike the grocery store full of boxes of food-like products that we can’t pronounce, disguised as food. “Food” that, shockingly, other first world countries won’t allow to dock at its shores because of the risk it poses to human health.)

I realize that most of us are staying silent out of the hope that it will keep us safe. So we stand in our own corners, too afraid to speak or take a stand. The internet backlash is real and unfriendly. I get it.

But then we should probably stop saying that we are the home of the free and the brave. Because no offense to all my wonderful friends, but when was the last time you stood up for what’s right? When was the last time that you were brave enough to use your words and help the greater good even when you knew you’d get lashed for it?

Most of us were taught to NOT speak out. We were taught not to make waves or say anything inappropriate. All societies need to have norms and ways to behave. But I keep thinking that the things that we are avoiding are exactly the things we are supposed to be talking about.

Friends, we are doing it WRONG.

This separation and division is going to take us all down, one way or another. If there are conversations happening, they are mostly throwing virtual rocks at each other on Facebook and Twitter over other people’s imaginary abortions. Meanwhile the big guys with the big money and the really big guns are poisoning our water and watching us bicker over where the money went while they count it, waiting for a chance to push The Button.

And can we all at least agree that we need to be sort of careful in choosing who answers the 3AM emergency Great American phone call and has access to The Button?

I sound like a conspiracy theorist. So be it. But I’m not. I’m someone with a degree in journalism and I’m very good at research and finding what the mainstream media isn’t talking about. These problems are real and we are all in danger here. ACTUAL danger. Toxic-food, brown-leaded water, melting-ice-caps, openly-racist-presidential-candidate-danger. And we are so blindly following, out of ignorance and fear, that we are being led right into our own demise. We didn’t notice because The Bachelor was on.

We need to start educating ourselves. More than 92% of our media is bought and paid for. They are telling you what they want you to hear and it isn’t news or accurate. This isn’t disputable. To make matters worse, it is the bad guys that are getting all the air time.

But what if we all stood up and talked back? What if we stood up and got counted as the ones who don’t tolerate the hate?

We need to start speaking up. On Facebook. At the school gym. On the street and with our friends. We need to have real conversations with each other (you know, actual people) about how we can fix this mess we’re in. Together, as the human species that we are. Before we become extinct like dinosaurs who didn’t know how to fix it before it was too late.

No matter what label we give ourselves or what “side” we think we’re on, we can probably ALL agree that our society here in this Great America is in danger of fracture. This is not the amber waves of grain from my childhood, which swelled pride in my heart for growing up in the land of the free where I could be anyone that I wanted to be.

I am an eternal optimist, but I find it hard to feel that about our great nation anymore.

What I do know is that electing a guy who brings hate as a house guest everywhere he goes is not the answer. I know that elections that are bought and paid for and candidates who are bought and paid for have no place in this government of the people and for the people. We are seeing what we have allowed with our silence and it isn’t pretty.

I wish I had more answers but I only have the ones I found myself. For me, the answer is to vote in a public servant who truly represents the people, because he is one himself. Not an empire or a millionaire, but a person.

The other is to create and engage in open conversations about the state of this country.

Conversations, not fights. You know the difference.

It’s exactly what we were taught when we were young, and it’s the lessons that we are constantly trying to instill in our own children.

Use your words. No backtalk or name-calling. Give others a turn. Don’t judge based on looks or first assumptions. Think critically and make educated decisions. Don’t believe everything you hear. Open a door. Be a nice person.

I would really like to go back to being proud of my country again. A Great America with amber waves of grain and hope and possibility.

But I can’t do that alone. We’re all going to have to take a stand for what is right together.