If people kneeling on a piece of fabric to protest against police officers murdering people with virtual impunity pisses you off to your core, but police officers murdering people with virtual impunity doesn't - which we all know is a pretty safe assumption to make about the kind of people sharing this kind of meme - you need to take a really, really long, hard look at your priorities. Because they're wrong.
Look, I personally would never disrespect an American flag like this, but it is a symbol, and a symbol is not more important than human lives, and enough is enough. Again, my apologies to the world for taking longer to get pissed off to my core about systemic racism and police brutality, but I'm young and naive and millions of others have no such excuse. This should have been addressed long before now a lot more than it has been. People have been protesting for a very long time and people like the kind of people who shared this meme have been ignoring them for about as long, except to sometimes complain about how they're protesting the wrong way, and why can't they be nice and gentle like Rosa Parks, even though she actually broke the law and thus according to your arguments elsewhere the police would have been justified in killing her on the spot. If pissing you off to your core is the only way to get you to acknowledge them, I'm not going to pretend I have a major problem with it.
I never wanted to become one of those evil liberals who hates America. But on this Independence Day, I can't help but think we don't deserve to celebrate and it's just as well the you-know-what has ruined the larger events. It's not that I don't recognize how blessed I am to live in this country. I do. It's just that I don't feel I have a right to just sit here and be grateful for that fact while millions of others in the same country are not so blessed. The United States has always been great for some people... and terrible for many others. And we recognize that. We acknowledge how various demographics who aren't straight white rich neurotypical Protestant males have been treated through the years and we say "That was wrong, but we fixed it, and we're not perfect but this is still a great country." But all those people for whom it wasn't and isn't a great country are more than caveats or footnotes of history. They were and are living, breathing human beings with hopes, dreams and fears as real as mine.
Was the United States of America a great country when it was built on stolen land by the horrific oppression and abuse of black people? For some people, yes. Was the United States of America a great country when black people were segregated, discriminated against at every turn, and regularly lynched? For some people, yes. Is the United States of America a great country now when black people daily experience the systemic racism embedded in its very fabric, and are disproportionately incarcerated for non-violent crimes and murdered by police officers? For some people, yes. And those people have the luxury of pretending these problems aren't relevant to anything anymore, and getting annoyed when others complain about them. I have that luxury but I'm choosing not to use it. (Make no mistake, things are hardly perfect for me either, but I think my white male privilege usually outweighs my asexual autistic non-privilege. Un-privilege? Anti-privilege?)
And for another thing, the astonishing level of narcissism from those who purport to love this country the most has absolutely floored me in the last few months. I mean, if you know me at all you know I don't have very high expectations for humanity to begin with, but I've just been shocked. And this is almost exclusively an American problem. I refer of course to the people throwing temper tantrums about having to wear masks in public spaces because they think they have a God-given constitutional right to not give a damn about anyone but themselves. They make me sick. Voluntary natural selection is one thing but when your self-worship is an active danger to this entire country and especially its most vulnerable, I have a problem with you. Look, I'd rather just catch the thrice-damned virus and get it over with too, but I'd like to avoid giving it to anyone else if I can help it because, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I'm not a sociopath. I also have this radical belief that people over sixty and people with compromised immune systems matter. Kind of like you would if you actually meant it when you say "All Lives Matter", instead of just saying it to dismiss and invalidate the grievances of black people.
And for another thing, this country's fundamentally broken healthcare system is an international embarrassment and a crime against humanity. I don't doubt there are spots reserved in hell for many of the people running it who place their love of money above human lives. People who make insulin impossible for diabetics to afford (just as one example) are every bit as much murderers as the cops who killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Stephon Clark, Ronnell Foster, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and many others. American healthcare is not a minor shortcoming, it's an abysmal, inexcusable failure that ruins and cuts short thousands of lives. I hear sometimes from Americans that the universal healthcare systems in other developed nations are worse, but mostly what I hear from the actual people in those nations is how grateful they are not to live in a country where an ambulance ride costs thousands of dollars and GoFundMe is an insurance provider.
And for another thing, this country has a chronic mass shooting problem that other countries don't share. Now because I acknowledged that fact, some will jump to the conclusion that I want to ban all guns everywhere even though I said nothing of the sort. I merely pointed out that this country has a chronic mass shooting problem that other countries don't share. Many Americans insist on pretending that this is just a price we have to pay for freedom, that the children and other civilians murdered or scarred for life are acceptable collateral damage of the Second Amendment, that there's just no way to prevent this problem that other countries aren't having. So in the wake of every mass shooting they fall over themselves to blame mental illness, violent video games, atheism, and other factors that also exist in other countries where mass shootings are almost nonexistent, and doing whatever they can to ensure that nothing changes and mass shootings continue to happen. Granted, closing elementary schools and prohibiting large public gatherings seems to have drastically reduced the problem in recent months. This conveniently allows us to focus more on police murdering black people instead.
And for another thing, the laughable political system and voters of this country chose a vulgar, narcissistic, misogynistic, rabidly xenophobic, pathologically dishonest, senile toddler as its public face and dictator, I mean president. I don't share the belief of some that his being given an office for which he is in no way deserving or qualified suddenly makes him entitled to respect he's done nothing to earn and has never shown anyone else. On the contrary, his being given an office for which he is in no way deserving or qualified makes the office itself as much of a sick joke as he is. It's an entirely artificial, manmade office. It was never sacred and now it's not even admirable. Of course, the polarization and rhetoric of American politics, the deep-rooted fears and prejudices that he exploited to obtain that office, and the decades-long erosion of constitutional checks and balances that leave him with almost unlimited power are much broader problems of which Mr. Trump is only a symptom. The kind of symptom that makes one think, "I should really, really see a doctor about this but I can't afford to because I live in the United States and my insurance won't cover it."
Of course I realize virtually all parts of the world have historically sucked and many are still worse than this one. People just suck. The Founding Fathers had a pretty low bar to step over. The cognitive dissonance I'm experiencing now is a taste of what I've long imagined Germans must feel, living as they do in one of the best countries in the world that, within the lifetimes of some still living, did some of the worst things imaginable. (Of course, eugenics was invented in the United States, not Germany, and remained alive and well here long after Hitler blew his brains out, but never mind that.) Last year Rammstein released a song titled "Deutschland" that grapples with this cognitive dissonance beautifully, and though its simple lyrics mention no specifics one can probably guess what they're referring to even without the video that I decided against embedding in this post because of its graphic but probably justified artistic choices. One recurring perfect line summarizes everything: "Will ich lieben und verdammen" - "I want to love [you] and damn [you]." Couldn't have said it better myself.
I guess the love I have for this country is like the love you have for a family member that you know perfectly well doesn't deserve your love but you have to give it anyway because DNA. I was born and raised here and I'll be here for the foreseeable future and that's that. But if I really love this country I must want it to be the best it can be. It may have spectacularly failed to live up to its founding ideals of equality and justice for two hundred forty-four years - okay, there's no "may have", it has, period, but those of us who live here should never give up on trying to make the reality match those ideals. That - not deifying a piece of fabric - is true patriotism in my book. It means using our God-given constitutional rights to vote, speak out, and yes, protest. If it also means kneeling on a flag now and then, I'm not going to condone that as such but I'm not going to pretend it pisses me off to my core either. Besides:
Now, to lighten the mood and give this country some credit for at least trying, I'd like to share for at least the third time another Rammstein song, this one far less ambivalent in its approach to issues of national concern. "Amerika", as the name suggests, is a love song from Germany to the United States, a heartfelt tribute to the global proliferation of the rich tapestry of American culture and beneficence that is in no way snarky or satirical at all. You all know that snark and satire piss me off to my core.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.