This has been one hell of a week, hasn’t it.
We’ve got a rising body count of young black men who were shot dead by cops for existing, we’ve got a town in Missouri that has been turned into a war zone by law enforcement, we’ve got one in four military families on food assistance (for fuck’s sake, Congress, you can’t even feed people? Go home, you’re drunk. Oh, right, you’re already home because somehow you deserve a vacation), we’ve got chaos and despair running rampant, and on top of all that, my dog finally died on Friday. (For those of you playing along at home, that was the third mention of her to date. And probably the last. Because she’s dead. Are you happy now?)
Sometime in my child-to-tweenhood, I read a book called No More Dead Dogs, about a group of students who adapted an Old Yeller-type book into a play and refused to keep the original ending. Rather that entrails strewn across the foliage (or was that Where the Red Fern Grows?), the dog came back to life and everyone was happy. And a girl kept writing fan letters to Julia Roberts for some reason. It was not a great book, but it passed the time, and it fulfilled the feeling I’ve had for a long time time that not everyone loves dead dog books. Unhappy endings are not the sole way to write a good story. Happy endings work, too. Then this last week happens and I’m left wondering what the fuck happened to the American people that we are satisfied with what’s happening and here and all over the world. We are killing kids. We are killing them–we are killing us–through undereducation, food deserts, the School-to-Prison pipeline, the School-to-Military pipeline, (two is too many pipelines–have you ever known a pipeline of a good thing? Oil doesn’t count), the restrictions on reproductive rights that strip from women in poverty (once again, disproportionately women of color) their bodily autonomy, the lack of healthcare coverage that keeps people sick, the lack of labor rights the keep them sick at work, or working months in row, dealing with physical and mental stress that leads to health conditions and earlier deaths…I could go on and on. (And have. And will continue to.)
If you’re still telling yourself that the US is the greatest country in the world (and since you’re my friend, you probably aren’t, but let’s pretend that maybe that is what you believe and also that the Department of Homeland Security didn’t just mark me as a dissident), you’re dead wrong. The greatest country in the world is probably Finland or something, except I hear that they’re pretty racist, too. Because that’s what we are and that’s what this country is. We don’t value people of color. We are content to underpay just about everyone who is not white and complain when there’s a poverty epidemic. We’re content to acquit man after man who shoots black teenage boys, and we suffer the fools who try to defend those men in silence. How dare we. Who the fuck do we think we are, to be so arrogant, so cruel, and so stupid. (We might be Steve Jobs, but with more racism.)
We are surprised when there is a revolution in the streets of Ferguson, when there is a protest in LA, when there are, scattered across the internet like stars in the galaxy, angry essays on the hard truth that is America. We are surprised when people of color, how good they were or not, are mourned by their friends and loved ones. And yet we read and write thousands of words on the white young men who perpetuate violence, we say it’s complicated. It’s not complicated. We are in the early days of revolution because we have spent 400 years encouraging a system that is fatal for people of color. We are steeped in injustice. (The revolution never ends well for we, the oppressors. We are the them who end up in line for the guillotine of public opinion or… the guillotine.) Our country was founded on the idea that we have a responsibility to dismantle the system that is no longer serving us. (It was also founded on slavery, because everything is terrible.) We are supposed to take down a government that does not work. It is not hard to realize that our government only works for white people, and although Obama is president, we are not a goddamn post-racial society.
Have some shame. Do better. Sit down and listen to your fellow Americans, who live in the same geography but a different country. Listen and learn and be uncomfortable.
Listen to these people: