I think “Make America Great Again” is a short-sighted, narrow-minded, insular, and selfish mindset. The America First attitude implies that our greatness can only come at the expense of others. It implies that we want to make this country greater than others, and to hell with everyone else.
People who buy into that type of rhetoric tend to view this as a dog eat dog world. They think that the only way to rise up is by climbing over the top of others, and the more extreme adherents prefer to wear cleats while doing so. Much better traction that way.
I don’t want to live in such a world.
I sincerely believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. We are all in this together. Having traveled internationally, I tend to have a more global worldview.
For example, I think if we want to reduce the number of people who seek asylum in this country, we need to help our neighbors fix the problems that are causing their countrymen to seek refuge with us in the first place.
I also think that if we don’t join our fellow earthlings in trying to reduce carbon emissions, we’re not going to have anything left to make great.
I don’t think giving everyone equal rights will somehow reduce my own.
I don’t think giving everyone a living wage would reduce my own, either.
I think our pollution becomes their pollution. I think our greed becomes their deprivation.
I believe with all my heart that war benefits no one when all is said and done, and that no profits are worth the death of even one human being. If we sunk as much time, money, and effort into promoting peace as we do in propping up war, this would be an amazing big blue marble, indeed.
Watch out for whose neck you’re stepping on, folks, because yours is right there under your noggin, just waiting to be squashed, too.
Such a simple, elegant phrase. Such a kind and decent concept. I don’t know why so many people struggle with it.
There are so many out there who make it a point to say just the opposite. You’re not welcome. You shouldn’t be able to come here. You can’t buy my cake. You should sit at the back of the bus. You shouldn’t be allowed to marry the person that you love. You are not welcome to be a part of our club. You shouldn’t have the right to vote. You can’t rent my apartment. You don’t belong here. America used to be great when we didn’t have to treat you with respect. How dare you speak up? We get to control what you do with your body. You must be walled off. You must be silenced.
We see it everywhere. In the red MAGA hats, in the “lock her up!” chants, in the attacks on innocent people on the streets. We see it in the hatred that oozes from the mouth of the very man who is supposed to lead this country. You’re not welcome. You are an enemy of the people.
Hate makes you look ugly. It reveals the disease in your very soul. It makes us all so much less than what we could be.
When you hate, when you marginalize people, when you try to prevent people from having the same rights that you do, you cause suffering in this world. Why would anyone want to do that? I will never understand it as long as I live.
When you find yourself in a place of inclusion, where people are welcoming and accepting and embracing of your unique qualities, it’s such a freeing experience. I’d rather be wrapped in a rainbow than beaten by a tiki torch any day of the week. That should be obvious. Why isn’t it obvious?
I’m feeling very ineloquent about this whole subject compared to the conversation Ellen Page had with Stephen Colbert recently. Check out the video here. It’s really worth watching.
Thanks, Lee (and Ellen Page) for inspiring this post!
When I was little, I was taught that I lived in the greatest country in the entire world. I thought we set the best example, and that based on that example, other countries would aspire to be better, and someday the whole world would be just as wonderful as we were.
Everyone would be free. There would be no war. Every individual would have equal opportunities. The world would be one big safe, happy, teddy bear of a place. I was so proud. I felt so lucky to be an American.
To me, America meant generosity, compassion, justice, safety, equality, freedom, dedication, love, and integrity.
If you had told me back then that I’d become increasingly ashamed over time, I’d have been pretty darned disappointed. Disgusted is the word, actually. And even horrified every once in a while. (Simply because I can’t work up the energy to maintain horror for long periods.)
How must the rest of the planet view us when we say things like domestic and gang violence are no longer valid reasons for asylum? What happened to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”?
And when did we become okay with children being yanked away from their parents? Do we think those traumatized children will grow up admiring us for that? Do we think those children deserve punishment? Guilt by association?
We were supposed to be the poster child for human rights. Are we? When our president shakes hands with Kim Jong-Un, the worst human rights abuser currently alive, and says he’ll “probably have a very good relationship” with him, it doesn’t do much for that image.
I also thought we’d be the saviors of the world. But we are one of its worst polluters, biggest consumers, and we live in a culture of selfishness and waste. We can’t even hold on to our national parks, which is an embarrassment, because we were the first country to even conceive of them. The planet cries out for us to take climate change seriously, even as some of them are sinking into the sea, and instead of setting an example, we back out of the Paris Accord.
Apparently we value the profits of gun manufacturers more than the lives of our children. We allow the very worst of our law enforcement officers to become murderers without any real consequences. We step over our homeless veterans in the streets. And we don’t seem to think anyone has a right to health care.
We elected a man who brags about grabbing pussies, thinks that white supremacy is acceptable, and uses Twitter to lie without remorse. We take great strides to make it difficult to vote, but that’s probably a waste of energy when no one can seem to be bothered to do so anyway. We spend more time keeping up with the Kardashians than we do with the real current events that actually impact our day to day lives.
We have become fat and bloated by our laziness and greed. We flaunt our hate. We exaggerate our fear. We demonize education and journalism. We are not who we said we would be.
I once told a cousin that America is an experiment. You’d think I had peed in his Post Toasties. How dare I say that?
Well, Cuz, do you still think we are solid as a rock, unchanging, and will last forever? Do you really think that this thing we have become has staying power, above all other regimes that have come and gone throughout history? Are we a shining example of the best of humanity? Have we reached some bright pinnacle? Should everyone want to be just like us?
I wish I could be that little girl again, with the star spangled banner eyes. I wish I was full of optimism and hope for this country’s future. I wish I still thought I was one of the good guys.
But I have to ask: Are we becoming our best selves? Because if we can’t do better than this, if we don’t want to do better than this, then there’s really no hope. And that scares me.
I’ve seen two things recently that have made my hair stand on end because they seem to be so prescient. We are living in terrifying times. And they’re all the more terrifying because these things have happened before.
The first thing I’m referring to is the Hulu series, the Handmaid’s Tale, which is based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. Here are some of the events that have taken place in the first 4 episodes. These things either sound very familiar at the moment or very possible:
Propaganda and catch phrases.
News is regulated.
People who protest are shot at.
People are forced to don particular clothing to identify their role in society.
Special rewards for the rich.
An atmosphere of divide and conquer.
Doctors, professors, and homosexuals being executed by hanging them on a wall.
People encouraged to do violence by the ruling party.
Calling women sluts and whores.
Martial law in response to terrorism, real or imagined.
Women’s credit card and bank accounts suspended.
Women fired from jobs.
Women’s rights over their own bodies prevented.
Rape by men in positions of power with no consequence.
Women being blamed for all of the above.
Chilling, isn’t it? Even more disturbing is a website that lists the events that occurred in the first 100 days of Fascist Germany. I read every single day. I actually learned quite a bit that makes me even more worried about our future. Here are some of the things that went on:
Attacks on the press.
Widespread belief in unsubstantiated conspiracies.
Prohibition of protests.
Public urged to report foreigners who are causing conflict.
Communists rounded up.
A big effort to crush resistance.
Politicians overstate successes.
Jew bashing doesn’t start until Day 40. (That surprised me.)
Hitler wants to arm all the people.
There as much more resistance than I thought. People were going into exile.
Artists and writers and homosexuals attacked.
Gay bars closed down.
Trade Unions banned.
Jews begin to be fired.
The first concentration camp, Dachau, is open by day 49 and starts receiving political prisoners by day 51.
The press warns that its freedoms are being diminished, and stresses the importance of relying on multiple sources to confirm the validity of information.
On Day 55 Goring states that persecution of a person based on ethnicity will not be tolerated. The next day the Nazi Party orders a nationwide boycott of Jewish merchants.
Hitler says the press are issuing “slanderous propaganda” about Germany. The Nazi party claims that the press is run by “international Jewry”.
Civil service workers who do not agree with the Nazis are dismissed.
Anti-semitic signs begin to appear everywhere.
The government begins identifying all non-Aryans, using early IBM computers.
Day 74, an opinion piece appears saying that actual Christian values are nothing like the values of the conservative Christians who have aligned themselves with the Nazi party.
Here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) I was raised to be a good girl. My default position is to respect authority. Be cooperative. Don’t make waves. Accommodate others. And above all, always, always be polite.
Well, you know what? Fuck that. All those values are great if everyone is playing by the golden rule. But it’s been my experience that most people do not. As a result, I’ve been bullied and taken advantage of my entire life.
I’ve had it up to here. (No, not there. Much higher than that. Here.)
I’m over it. I’m done. I will not be pushed around anymore. Not by strangers, not by loved ones, and definitely not by politicians. I am establishing the sharp boundaries that I’ve always allowed to remain fuzzy at best. This far, and no further.
I’m not planning to become a bully. I’m not going to be gratuitously rude or selfish. But I won’t be passively stepped on. I am learning to stick up for myself. I’m learning that I have a right to say no. It’s frustrating that it’s taken me so long to figure this stuff out.
We need to teach our children to be respectful, yes, but also not to take any crap. Because as the world becomes more crowded, there will be plenty of crap to go around. And then some.
It is possible to be kind and strong at the same time. It’s okay, and very necessary, to stand in your power. It may take practice to reach that acceptable balance. But it can be done.
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about sanctuary cities. He happens to fall on the opposite end of the political bell curve, so debates with him can be interesting. And yet we never get hostile with each other, and still manage to be respectful. Why is that such a dying art?
Anyway, he thinks Seattle, and all other cities that declare themselves to be sanctuaries, are stupid, because they’re potentially depriving themselves of a lot of federal funding, and that will put a lot more pressure on the local taxpayers and reduce services to residents.
I, on the other hand, suggested that perhaps it is Trump who is the stupid one. (Yeah, I know. Hard to believe.) If he withdraws funding, he is further ostracizing the people who live in these sanctuary cities, who won’t simply fall into line because of his bullying tactics. He’ll also be harming certain economies, and that will have a negative impact on the overall economy. Bad business. His travel ban has already cost our tourism industry more than 7 billion dollars. That’s billion, with a b. So I shudder to think what a sanctuary city ban would do. How is this making America great again?
And although many of us seem to conveniently forget this, the United States of America was founded on the basic principle that it is a nation that will provide sanctuary. The precedent was set long, long ago. Freedom of religion. Freedom of the press. Give us your tired, your poor…
Yeah, I know that those concepts seem to be under attack these days, but it’s holding out this fantasy that makes me most proud. Even as our rights are eroded, I like to cling to the belief that somewhere within our beleaguered national soul, we still have the potential for being a bastion of freedom. Why on earth would someone attack cities for doing the very thing that makes us a country?
It boggles the mind.
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Recently, Norma McCorvey, who was “Roe” in Roe v. Wade, passed away. Even though she became pro-life at the end of her life, what she did for women’s rights in this country was phenomenal. So she is one of my Sheroes (as opposed to heroes) despite her change of heart.
I have a lot of Sheroes, to be honest. Malala Yousafzai looms large in my life. She’s only 19, but she has done so much for education for girls the world over. She nearly died for it. She’s amazing.
Women and girls need to be inspired by females. We need to take ownership of our abilities. We need to see how strong we are.
What follows are other sheroes, in no particular order and despite controversy. Please add even more in the comments section!
Aung Sang Suu Kyi
Susan B. Anthony
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Catherine The Great
Billie Jean King
Joan of Arc
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