To all who are predicting the imminent doom of our country:
(An open letter.)
You are right. America is done. It would be easy to argue with you, maybe try to calm you in a tender moment of bipartisanship and assure you that the United States of America, as you know it, is safe and sound in the hands of President Obama. But it would also be a lie.
You see, these past four years have been endemic of an America dying and last night’s election was a nail in its coffin. I’ll tell you a damning secret: I fought tooth and nail to kill that America–so reassuring you wouldn’t just be a lie, it would be terribly disingenuous.
The America that treated anybody other than white men as ‘minorities’ and ‘special interest groups’ is dying. The America that systematically disenfranchised communities to make sure power stayed in the hands of those who already had it is dying. The America that told my friends and family that they didn’t deserve a life with just as many chances and opportunities and rights because of their sexual orientation is dying. The America that treated women who wanted to control their own bodies as sluts and whores is dying. The America that treated the woman who raised me as a dangerous criminal simply because she came to this country to give her children a better shot is dying. The America that looked at her as ‘illegal’ and a ‘leech on our society’ long after she earned US citizenship is dying. The America that pigeonholed her because she is Mexican is dying. The America that let its people die because they had fallen on hard times and couldn’t afford health care in their hour of need is dying. The America that assumed anybody on welfare was a lazy, drug addict is dying. The America that was fundamentally mistrusting and judgmental of any religion other than Christianity is dying. The America that used the word ‘muslim’ as synonymous with ‘terrorist’ is dying. The America that assumed a single mother working two jobs that was still unable to make ends meet meant that she had made poor choices or that she needed to work harder is dying. The America that says giving individuals a fair shot will make them lazy or despondent or dependent is dying. The America that thought young people who weren’t born into wealth should be forced to skip college or else go into crippling debt because of it is dying.
My dear adept doom predictor, you also like to say that our Founding Fathers would be disappointed if they saw our country today and if they saw our election last night. But given that many of those Founding Fathers were slave owners, I contend that they would mostly be confused.
I don’t know what a handful of 300-year-old white men would say or feel about the state of our country (and frankly, neither do you). They did acknowledge that it was not a perfect union when it was founded and I openly acknowledge that it is not a perfect union today.
But I do know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the men (and women) who built our young country called the United States of America ‘the great experiment’ as it was audacious to found a country while openly acknowledging that it would never be finished building and evolving and changing. I know that the men and women who built our young country built it to be a place where patriotism meant the constant and fearless pursuit of a MORE perfect union.
And pursuing that more perfect union requires constantly doing away with the things that make us less than.
The America that allowed slaves DIED. The America that said a woman’s vote wasn’t as relevant and important and useful as a mans DIED. The America that legislated that two people of different races falling in love was an offensive abomination DIED.
So today, another version of America is dying. The America we knew is terminal. It is not dead yet but the tides of change cannot be quelled or quieted or filibustered or bullied away. America is changing–just as it always has, just as it was meant to.
I will not fault you for mourning for your America–loss is hard and change is scary. I will not try and convince you that you are wrong about your America dying because you are right and it’s so nice to agree with each other for once.
I will however say goodbye because I am wandering forward towards the new America, I am walking and fighting towards a more perfect union.
I truly hope one day I will see you there.
Carina Kolodny, United States of America, November 7, 2012