I recently got into a fight with someone on the Internet about how great America is in the Summer of 2018. I did this because I love to be punished by strangers in front of other strangers for having an opinion that I'm willing to express in a somewhat sensible manner. According to them, pointing out that what our President is doing every day is practicing fascism, to them meant that I didn't support protecting our borders and that I was therefore, “The stupidest son of a bitch,” as a result.
Here is my actual response, in two parts:
Singling an amorphous group of people out and then pointing under-educated working class citizens to that group and repeating over and over again that they are the reason for the anger you feel, the sleights that have been given to you in your life, the ones stealing your future; they are to blame for the reason you feel empty inside...and I’m going to get them for you. Yeah, that’s fascism and it’s worked on ignorant human beings for a very long time, just like it’s brainwashed so many Baby Boomers and poor and middle class white people into thinking a billionaire criminal is going to do anything for them. But didn’t insulting a stranger on the Internet make you feel better than the truth? Just imagine if I was an immigrant with brown skin. That feeling? That’s fascism and it might be growing in your heart.
The good news is that Americans are at the core people with good hearts and I do not believe that fascism is going to stand the tide when it meets the collective spirit of this country. America can be great again, but it begins by opening our arms to embrace the best of what’s inside of us before the worst consumes us all.
I believe this. And so should you. America, at its best, is a concept that any human being with a desire to create a life of peace and relative safety for their family can come to this country and invest in themselves, while seeking investment by others, to create value for other human beings that will fund their future happiness and prosperity. That is America at its best, when it's been dolled up with all its makeup on and a push-up bra with a stock stuffed in its jeans. That's America, riding in a Corvette on a sunny Summer day while Don Henley plays through high end speakers on the Sirius satellite radio.
But America, from the early 1500s when Christopher Columbus terrorized and mass murdered the Arawak Indians, America was born from genocide, fueled by religious hubris and ungated greed, the same unstable fuel that destroyed the Roman Empire and powered the expansion of Western Civilization day by bloody day for centuries now. That too, is America. In fact, because that little investment of Columbus's didn't turn out much gold (except for what they stole from dead Native West Indians), he had to turn to another source of secured revenue, human capital. Slaves.
And thus another great sin of America was born and thrived for hundreds of years, while another kind of awakening was starting to take shape. It was called The Great Awakening and nothing like it had happened before that point in our history as an American People. Common people, whose spirits were being remade in the fires of a new idea of what human freedom could be was merging and morphing with a deep, emotional understanding of what our sacred duty is to each other in this waking world of human society that we create by the second with one another, as we move through time together on this precious little rock of ours.
And during this time of slavery and injustice, ideas started to spread, while colonial citizens began educating each other about what this new world could be, inciting and exciting each other and eventually, a decision was made to break with Empire and tradition, to reach for that Golden Fleece that could have easily been just a mirage.
During this time were written the most perfect three sentences ever composed and placed next to one another by a human being, or a deity created by one:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
That, to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
That, whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
These sentences speak to our souls as human beings, before we don the attributes that divide us, be they our skin color, the orientation of our physical affections, or the beliefs that kick around our head trying to convince us they have substance in the real world. Before any of those things can become chants at a political rally, there are quiet moments where only observation exists, where the thing we see is the very motion of our being as it is moves in real time and this is where true sacred silence is born and where the real security of humanity lies. This space between thoughts is where America is great again, at the level of the soul. No wall can protect it and no Lock Them Up chant can reach its ears.
I believe that we as a species are on the precipice of another Great Awakening, one that goes beyond the idea of country and war and even the petty gods with their long books that we love to argue endlessly about. Try waking up tomorrow and opening your arms to the day and to the fellow human beings you meet on and offline. Speak to the soul and the soul will begin speaking back. And this is how we make humanity great again.
I've taken to calling certain behaviors "Un-American" lately. It's an interesting way to start a conversation, because it automatically puts anyone undertaking the behavior on the defensive; this is exactly why what Joseph McCarthy did in the 1950s was so effective. But really, the best thing that could happen is that someone responds with the question, "Well, what is American?"
To this, it's nice to quote Ronald Reagan's goodbye letter to America, if you can believe that:
"The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the "shining city upon a hill." The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.
I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still."
America is open arms on a wall with a door and America is a hard look into the eyes of the person knocking on the door, asking to be let in. This American Stare demands either trust or action, while the collective will of the American People is ready for either situation to jump off.