This is running in the current Connect Savannah, but I’m reposting it here ’cause I pretty proud of it. Plus, I make a bar mitzvah reference, so it counts.
The Civil Society Column: America, the beautiful mess
Girl, we need to talk.
I know you’re hiding under the covers right now, refusing to do any work and basically shirking all of your responsibilities. I don’t blame you. If I had a bunch of old suits screaming all day long about what they think is best for me while ignoring what I actually have to say about it, I’d break some serious bad, too.
But listen. You’re pushing 238 and it’s time to grow the fuck up.
America, honey, you’re like a Disney Channel star who spent her childhood racking up one success after another: You dumped the shackles of British colonialism and built your own coast-to-coast empire.
You helped bring down Hitler. You were the first to send people to the freakin’ MOON!
Your rebellious years seemed fairly promising, too. You stood up to those meanie Commies and protested the Vietnam War. You shed Old World notions about sex and feminism. You demanded equal rights for minorities while rocking epic bell bottom jeans.
You also started to get kind of rich, which tends to make people a little crazy. Protecting your fortune and your ego became more important than preserving the dignity and well-being of your denizens, and frankly, well, you’ve kind of lost your shit.
While you’ve been taking cross-eyed selfies in the mirror of your collagen lips, corporations have plundered and pillaged almost every one of your natural resources, polluting the oceans and blowing the tops off of your purple mountains majesty. You’re still dicking around with putting cutesy labels on Monsanto’s GMO-tainted amber waves of grain while dozens of other governments have banned them as poison. You have more of your own citizens in jail than anyone, anywhere.
You’re the last in the developed world to provide some kind of guaranteed baseline health care to its citizens, and the latest freakout a certain congressional faction of petulant babies had over THAT has sent you AWOL. And if the suits don’t get it together next week, your credit problems could trigger the economic meltdown of the whole world.
The other countries are starting to notice that you’re unraveling. They really do care about you, but your erratic behavior is causing them to edge away, like Aww, bitch be cray, maybe we should go chill with Venezuela — she got mad oil, and I hear she’s way cooler now that her pimp Hugo is gone.
Your domestic civil discourse has devolved into an obscene game of third grade Telephone as evidenced on your default national news network Twitter, where an educated daughter of successful Indian Americans is derided as an “ugly Arab” and somehow the “real Miss America” could only be an AK47-toting bleach blonde with a giant tattoo on her rib cage. Not that your blondes and tattoos aren’t super hot; they’re just not the ONLY kind of hot. You used to be proud of your melting pot heritage; we’re just as colorful as we’ve always been, baby. What happened?
But, hey, even with your bad taste in TV and your nasty meth problem, I’m still pretty enamored of you.
I happened to be in Washington, DC a couple of weekends ago, right before those Congress dudes shut your whole thing down. We were actually in Maryland for a bar mitzvah, celebrating with a brood of cousins whose ancestors escaped hatred and oppression to forge successful businesses and happy families. It occurred to me that a ballroom full of brilliant and hopeful Jewish kids dancing the dougie is a pretty excellent example of the American dream.
I insisted that we drive our rental car down the wooded Beltway that afternoon so my kids could see in person the architecture of America’s inner workings, your elegant guts. The Washington Monument was cloaked in scaffolding, and we didn’t have time for the Smithsonians or a tour of the Capitol (if I had known I wouldn’t get another chance for a while I might have skipped the cocktail hour.) Our GPS led us straight to the Mall, where Providence somehow provided us a parking space next to the Lincoln Memorial.
In other countries, this magnificent monument would be considered a temple. But it’s not a religious beacon for the gods — it’s a testament to this revolutionary idea of civic life based on our inherent equality as humans, something so important your founding fathers put it in writing. America has never been about what God we pray to or whether we pray at all — your strength has always been in how We the People treat each other.
There’s a reason Lincoln’s legacy will always be part of your legend. Few have led with the same integrity, honesty and willingness to stand up for the rights of everyone. Everyone. All of us. Not just the richest. Or the prettiest. Or the whitest. Or the ones with the most guns.
As Mr. Lincoln gazed down on my small family, I pressed up on the cool marble columns and got all choked up because in spite of all your wrecking ball shenanigans, I am still so honored to call you home.
The following week, while you were holed up in your room catching up on HGTV, to climb the same steps became an act of rebellion. There at the Lincoln Monument, We the People remembered for a minute just who you really are. If my kids and I had been there then, we would have breached those barricades, too.
There are those of us still believe in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — as well as in a decent education, universal health care and dignity in our daily life. We understand that none of it comes free in this land of freedom, and we’re willing to pay a little more if it means everyone will have enough.
The ones hollering over lost jobs while they collect their fat paychecks, those who would rather asphyxiate you into chaos rather than help your poor and sick, they don’t get you. But we’ve got your back. We can do this. We’ll dry you out, get you some therapy, revive your spirit.
We can insist that the suits act like competent, compassionate adults or they’re fired — they work for us, remember?
We don’t have to eat the toxic swill or buy the cheap crap they’re shilling. We can grow a revolution in our gardens and in our neighborhoods and our minds. We can fend for ourselves and let the suits drown in their own misappropriated greed. We can unite as one nation, indivisible over the promise for liberty and justice for all.
Just wake up, sweetheart. It’s just time to wake up.