Manifesto: Wanting to be a Good American

I have never in my life felt adrift in my country, the country I was born in, the way I do now.

As an American, I always felt pride. I have political opinions, of course. Don’t we all? And realistically, most of those political opinions formed at the proverbial knee of our parental figures.

Ah, here we go … this is where people get angry and jump to the comments without reading what I have to say. I can almost feel, “MY GRANDFATHER WAS A GRAND DRAGON OF THE KKK AND I DONATE TO PLANNED PARENTHOOD, SO YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!” or “MY UNCLE VINNY IS A FAG BUT WE STILL HAVE HIM OVER FOR THANKSGIVING!” or even, “CLEARLY YOU’RE A SNOWFLAKE!” (What does that even mean? I see it bandied around by both sides, and I’m lost)

This anger, this jumping to conclusions, this refusal to look at all sides of a picture because it might force you to admit that you were wrong, has become characteristic of Americans, I’m sad to say. Take this recent exchange on Facebook after I shared pictures of the New Hampshire monsoon I survived yesterday and got taken to task for being a stupid motorist and then for … I’m really not sure. See for yourself.

That level of nastiness on Facebook, for no reason other than to be nasty … blah. Is that what it means to be part of this country today? To be a jerk on social media?

Seriously, though, I am just trying to get a handle on what it means to be an American in 2018. Or maybe I need to be more specific. August of 2018. Early August of 2018. August 4, 2018.

I am a teacher. I do good things for children, such as educating them, teaching them manners, feeding them when their families don’t or can’t, and most importantly caring about them unconditionally (and making sure they know about said unconditional caring).

I do this as the cost of living increases each year and my salary in no way matches it. Instead of respecting my profession, people sneer about summers off (I work my derriere off during my “summer off”, and so do most of my teaching colleagues … still doesn’t match the cost of living increase). They cut positions and budgets to the point where some schools are not safe. Teachers are quite adept at making do with we’ve got, but it gets harder every year. Also, there are increasing elephants in the room of public education … and they are angry.

I am a mother of four amazing daughters, aged 23, 14, 4, and 3.

I try to live my life in a way that my daughters can respect. I strive to treat them with respect and let them know how very much I adore them, even when they are naughty and being punished. I do not hit my children, do not yell at them overmuch, but I am very strict in terms of expectations. If they do not meet their expectations, they receive a consequence–time out for the younger ones, loss of privilege such as iPhone or even wifi access for the elder two (although my 23-year-old is a college graduate living in a different country, so I guess any direct control I had over her is gone).

I see so many parents nowadays that want to be friends with their children. They want to buy them every toy, gadget, gaming system, and app, not to mention trips to Disney and even out of the country. They cave into their kids’ wants and whims, setting up advanced playrooms with XBox 4s instead of giving kids what they need, which is their attention.

I fear for this generation.

I am white, and I’ve come to learn that this gives me a degree of privilege. I only caught an occasional glimpse of this (this one incident at the pharmacy in 2015 was pretty eye-opening) until recent events have brought the term “white privilege” to the forefront, but it is a fact. That I am a white professional gives me even more; when I go to a gas station with a “No Public Restroom” sign in my work clothes and ask if I can possibly use a restroom because it is an emergency, the cashier almost always winks and smiles.

If I had brown skin or wore a burka, I somehow think the answer would be different.

I am a woman. I cannot grasp how any American woman can tolerate the trashing that Donald Trump has given us (marginalizing sexual assault, pussy-grabbing, trophy wife, et cetera). I say that, and yet I kind of have that, “Well, what can I do to change it?” I have lots of friends that have participated in women’s marches, and I think that’s great, but what are we really impacting?

I am a survivor of rape, and sometimes it feels like my experience is being allowed to happen over and over again. I can say, “Me too” until the cows come home, but it doesn’t change what happened to me (or, I presume, millions of others). I  naively wrote a couple of pieces, “Repercussions of Rape Part I” and the equally creatively titled “Repercussions of Rape Part II“, thinking they might help somebody, but that’s as far as I went.

I also lived through domestic violence. I believed my ex-husband was a kind and gentle man, but he slowly turned into an abusive monster through addiction, lies, and manipulation. I have tried, as is my nature, to let it go as I know in my heart that I did everything possible to help him. He does  not pay child support. He has saddled me with his student loans. He cannot hold a job and has currently figured out the loophole where he can “work” at a church for a stipend that cannot be garnished for either child support or student loans.

Those loopholes, man … maybe he knows what it means to be an American better than I do.

I have suffered PTSD as a result of his abuse (combined with harassment I was receiving at work and the rape). That all seems to be as American as apple pie today.

So here I am, a person that believes in free speech … but that does not believe you should not be held responsible for what you choose to say. That believes in the power of the press, but questions every day what is reliable and what is planted (I do not believe in Trump’s “fake news” garbage, but I used to teach Journalism earlier in my career, and things are certainly different today). I believe in the right to bear arms, but I think there has to be stricter oversight (and I myself would never own a gun).

I believe in the Constitution, but it was written 230ish years ago.

The world has changed. America has changed.

I find Donald Trump deplorable but, intentionally or not, he is making us look in the mirror and figure out what exactly it means to be an American.

He talks about making America great again, but I don’t understand this. Going backwards leads to an obvious backsliding in the progress that we’ve made. To make a relevant analogy, why go back to coal mining when a better future for all is in renewable energy sources?

I am struggling with this.

Am I the only one?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s