Someone posted a meme on Facebook showing pictures of people being rescued from the horrible flooding due to Hurricane Harvey. The caption read: “America is not what happened in Charlottesville. America is what’s happening in Houston.”
America is both.
America is Joel Osteen not opening up his megachurch to Harvey refugees just as much as it’s a preacher going through floodwaters to search cars for people who might be trapped.
America is a Nazi running down Heather Heyer just as much as it’s two young people rescuing folks with a kayak.
America is the people price gouging water and food during a disaster while people share and donate to aid charities.
America is a president screaming that CNN is fake news while those same reporters are rescuing folks trapped in their houses.
America is “17 year old male found fatally shot in the backseat of a police cruiser in Akron, OH” while SWAT team members in Houston, TX are carrying children to safety through floodwaters at the same time.
America is ICE leaving immigrant women and children stranded at a bus station and a community group swooping in to save them.
America is the richest citizens criticizing those who didn’t leave Houston while a 60 year old woman wades through waist deep water to get to her $10 an hour job.
America is the $700 billion military unable to assist in a major disaster while the Cajun Navy is deployed.
America is Texas politicians asking for financial help for Hurricane Harvey after denying help for Hurricane Sandy.
America is a place that experienced Hurricane Katrina, but learned very little from it.
America is all of these things.
America is a brutal. It was conquered by genocide and built over their graves by the bodies of slaves. It’s racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic. It’s prejudice and oppressive to the poor in favor of the rich. A person’s worth is determined by their job and their bank account. Right now, the voices of hate are being emboldened by those in power as they demand walls and pardon men who violate the Constitution. You know. That sacred piece of paper with all of those amendment and the Bill of Rights, though it seems that most folks are only keen on the first two.
But America is also human. There’s a lot of love and kindness confined in these arbitrary borders. There’s hope, too. There’s resilience and courage. And you see that when you watch a woman rescue bats from underneath a bridge so they don’t drown. You see that with the teenagers rescuing people from Hurricane Harvey in their boat. You see that in the small group of young people who stood holding up a sign denouncing white supremacy while they were encircled by Nazis bearing torches and throwing salutes. You see that at every Pride parade. You see that when 15,000 people turn up to shout down hate.
It’s all America. All of it. It’s a tightly woven tapestry of horrible and terrific. You cannot untangle one thread from another.
When you say “this isn’t America”, you’re discounting the experiences of others, you’re disregarding history (if you even bothered to learn it outside of those standardized tests in high school), and you’re turning a willful blind eye to the injustices and suffering around you so you can focus on an ideal that doesn’t even exist.
America is not great. America has never been great. But, America could get better.
The first step is admitting it.
This is America.