I’ve recently begun to realize that I do not, and may never have, lived in the USA. That is to say, not in the USA I had drummed into my head for oh so many years in social studies class.
That USA is about individualism, and freedom, and responsibility, and getting out of life exactly what you put into it. When some person or persons try to subvert those rights, they are an aberration, something to be rooted out so that our country can go back to the way things should be, not just something we have to live with. Looking back, I realize that that USA was an ideal, perhaps always more of a guideline than an actual state of being.
I sat behind a truck at a traffic light this morning that bore both a “God Bless America” sticker and a confederate flag. At first I barely noticed it, because both are so common, but then it occurred to me that even the combination is one I have seen many times before, and that stood out in my mind.
“Who are these idiots?” I asked myself. The confederate flag represents a spirit of rebellion against the very nation God is being ordered to bless. It is a powerful reminder of a dark time that nearly destroyed America. How could anyone ever possibly think these two stickers belonged anywhere near each other?
I pondered this dichotomy for a while, and I finally saw the light. This person’s America and my America are two different Americas. His is an America that stands for a muddled mixture of machismo, pride and self-congratuatory superiority, none of which is inconsistent with either of his stickers.
All of which led me to a much more disturbing thought. How many different Americas are there? Is there one for every American who’s ever lived? Did even the founding fathers really agree on what “America” was to stand for? After all, the politics of today certainly don’t jibe with most of the founding fathers’ stated beliefs. So-called liberals have half-built an America that gives a free ride to anyone who has a really good reason why life hasn’t been fair to them, a concept that would have been anathema to our forebears. So-called conservatives have half-built a corporate police state where it’s OK for the government to monitor our communications, reading materials, and financial data without even a cursory attempt at finding a good reason to do so, again things that must have Jefferson and Franklin rolling over in their graves.
Both sides regularly create rules and regulations that DIRECTLY contradict parts of the constitution and bill of rights, simply by finding the right judge to “interpret” what the original intent was. I’m pretty sure that if the intent of something like “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed…” was actually “…only people who work for the government may bear arms…”, they would have written it that way! For all their horse-drawn-carriage and sailing-ship ‘primitiveness’, they were generally pretty good communicators. I’m also fairly certain that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” was never intended to mean “unless the president REALLY thinks it’s OK”, or “Warrants? We don’t need no stinkin’ warrants!”.
I’ve finally come to realize that despite the fact that I’ve always considered myself an agnostic, I let one faith slip through into my subconsious. I have always really truly and whole-heartedly believed in an America that turns out to be a complete fallacy! Certainly, my America is probably no more a fantasy than anyone else’s, but it’s not less, either. So now I begin what promises to be a long and painful process of re-examining America, and figuring out where I really live.
God bless America? Whose?