An Open Letter to America
We need to talk. Actually, I need to talk. And I’d like you to show me how great you already are by sitting down, resisting the urge to interrupt and listening – I mean really listening. Listen like your life depends on it. Because even if you think it doesn’t, mine does — and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
I already know you may not like everything I have to say. And that’s ok. In fact, by the time I’m done you may not even like me. And that’s ok too. Of course, what I’d really like is if we could keep being friends … because I love you — always have, always will.
Yet as much as I love you — as much as I’m committed to patience and compassion and forgiveness, as much as I’m always going to be willing to give you another chance, I can also no longer sit and silently suffer at your hands, whether you ever intended to hurt me or not.
There was a time, not so long ago in fact, when you were the envy of the world. You were relentlessly upbeat and charismatic and sexy and, well, hopeful. You were tolerant, and generous, and open. And unabashedly brilliant! You modernized and systematized public education, institutionalised human sovereignty and celebrated and protected the individual. You made music that made me feel — jazz, blues and rock and roll. You gave me automobiles and aeroplanes and submarines … And the Hubble Telescope so that I could see the universe, and rockets and satellites and spacestations so that I could explore it! You united humanity with the telephone, and television and the internet.
America! I once breathed. Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. And you were.
So I brought you my tired, my poor, my ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free’, because I knew that with you, if nowhere else, my dreams might come true. I knew that no matter what cruelty had afflicted me, my family would be safe here, my children would have a future, and so I came. Because, for so long, you were a beacon, illuminating the possibility of a better world. Not just for me, but for everyone.
But somewhere between then and now, you changed. You became mean. You became a bully. You became a narcissistic sociopath more interested in taking than in giving, more interested in talking, than in listening, more interested in controlling than empowering.
You lost your way — and, inevitably, you lost my respect along with it.
We are bound, you and I, forever. But you’re bigger than me, and louder, and richer, and much, much stronger. And while I know that, most of the time, you seem to have mostly good intentions, they don’t always play out so well, do they? And because you are so ‘big’, because you take up so much more space in the room than me, you sometimes suck out all the oxygen. So that even when you have mocked or appropriated my culture, villifed my religion, murdered my people (or armed those who do), hijacked my economy, manipulated my government, stolen my natural resources, poisoned my water and polluted my sky, even if you were willing to hear me, you can’t. Because I can’t breathe, let alone speak. ‘In space (you told me), nobody can hear you scream’.
And it’s true. Either that, or you’ve heard me, and you just don’t care.
I know, I know — it’s all about your ‘freedom’, right? Freedom and The Benjamins. I’m just not sure we entirely agree on what Freedom means (nor on what wealth means, come to think of it).
So I’m going to tell you what it means for me.
It means I have sovereignty. It means I have agency. It means I get to make my own way in the world, in whatever way brings me the most joy and fulfilment as long as it doesn’t infringe upon the wellbeing of others.
Notice I said ‘wellbeing’ and not ‘freedom’? That’s because while you’ve sanctified ‘freedom’ above faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, prudence and temperance, you’ve done so at the expense of wellbeing — mine and yours.
How do I know?
Because I turn on the television. Because I turn on the radio. Because I read the newspaper. Because I jump online. Because I see how you’ve deified, packaged and exported the religion of personal freedom to almost every country on earth, and along the way have robbed us of our willingness to free the entire human race from the shackles of slavery.
And while there’s so much you’ve done to make the world better, millions of us, billions even, are engaged in the greatest social, cultural, political, economic and environmental crisis management exercise of all time. It’s so big that we don’t even really know if its solvable. Do you get that? And while it’s unfair to blame it all on you, it would be intellectually dishonest to suggest that you, the most influential nation on earth, don’t have a significant amount of responsibility for it.
Frankly, I’m tired of cleaning up after you. Get your act together. Stop behaving like a two year old. Stop stamping your feet like a petulant child thinking that you should always be able to have what you want. You can’t. Grow up. It’s not all about you.
There are 7 billion more of us who share the world with you, and while we’re grateful for all you have done for us over the years, right now, we’re a little tired of your crap.
Right now, you are in the middle of deciding who you will vote for as your next President. And right now it appears as if the choice is between a shameless liar, misogynist, racist and xenophobe — one who exhibits at least six of the seven deadly sins (if you believe in such things), and a career politician who has not only been on the wrong side of almost every major policy decision enacted during her time in office, but has made gender a cornerstone of her campaign, turning back the clock on feminism about fifty years in the process. Yes. That’s right. I’m a man calling bullshit on proto-feminism and it’s seeming legion of adherents. There’s something truly nauseating about ‘I’m With Her’ — as if Obama’s 2012 campaign slogan should have been ‘Once You’ve Had Black, You Can’t Go Back!’
And should these two tribes go to war in November, the polls are pointing to the distinct possibility that you’ll have a demagogue as your next President.
And that, more than any other lunacy you have foisted upon the world since you gifted us with the miracle of nuclear war, terrifies us. And frankly, I don’t understand why it doesn’t terrify you also. Or if it does, why you’re not doing more to prevent it.
So what do we do? I don’t in believe bringing a problem without a solution. I don’t think it’s fair. And it certainly isn’t loving to tell you that we’re family, and to abandon you to your fate. This really is about ‘we’ — not ‘you’, not ‘me’. Our fates are inextricably bound, as I said. And just as you have offered support for me in my time of greatest need, so now I’m offering mine.
The time is past for posturing, proselytising and partisanship. It’s time for pragmatism.
It’s time to make some hard decisions. It’s time to grow up already, to engage that three pound logic engine between your ears and stop treating this presidential nominee process like it’s a goddamn turkey raffle. It’s not.
It’s time to deconstruct the myth of the warrior king and recognise that, while your President is your Commander in Chief, they do not govern alone. Of course, if you are voting on the basis of what might happen in those rare and truly awful moments when ultimate power rests with an individual, what do you think is likely to happen if your Commander in Chief is either a latent sociopath, or a hawkish former secretary of state who’s supported every interventionist regime-change war your country has become embroiled in of late?
It’s pretty simple — somewhere in the world, some of those 7 billion people you speak of as your brothers and sisters are going to be manipulated, maimed or murdered. And if that happens, it will be your fault. And at that point, your prayers and platitudes and prurient proliferation of pennies isn’t going to change anything.
Effective change isn’t about fixing things once they’re broken, it’s about ensuring they never break in the first place.
Whatever else you might believe, whatever economic or political theories you hold, whatever color you have a slavish devotion to — blue, red or purple — there are certain attributes we’re sure you believe should be present in a President — Integrity, Compassion, Wisdom, Servant-Leadership, Truthfulness.
- Surely a Good President thinks, speaks and acts in terms of ‘we’, not ‘I’?
- Surely a Good President is willing and able to acknowledge, listen to, and respond intelligently and compassionately to personal and national criticism without either taking it personally or ignoring it?
- Surely a Good President has a history of public service, and consistency in thought and action over decades that you can point to?
- Surely a Good President is trustworthy?
- Surely a Good President reminds you that the price of personal freedom is personal responsibility, and that blame is a game played by two year olds, not by adults of the (apparently) most intelligent and self-aware species on the planet?
Surely a Good President inspires you to rise above your fear, your grief, your greed, your rage and demand you be your very best?
I’ve spoken with thousands of people around the globe, and you might be surprised to hear that we also 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.
So let’s be honest, America. If you really believe the words of your own Declaration of Independence, you need to get up off your knees and fight. You need to take a stand. You need to stop clicking while Rome burns and get yourself and everybody you know out to vote. Now. And in every election from here on out.
Voting isn’t a right, it’s a goddamn privilege, and if you’re not going to engage with the democratic process, as flawed as it may be (Electoral College? Are you KIDDING ME!!!!), then you have no business complaining about it.
This is serious business, and whether you’re voting for a democrat or a republican, or a christian or a jew, or a penis or a vagina, your priorities are so messed up you should be denied your license to think. Because clearly you’re not. I’m not going to spew forth a torrent of statistics or links to support you in thinking this through. Why not sit down with your favorite uncle and ask him a few questions for an hour or two. Don’t go looking for support for what you already believe. Find out if what you believe about Trump, or Cruz, or Clinton or Bernie is actually true. Uncle Google is good for that. He doesn’t have an opinion, just an arsenal of facts.
You know. Facts. Those pesky things that have a habit of destroying superstition.
I’ve gone on long enough, I know. I could have said this more succinctly, no doubt. Perhaps I could have sworn a little less. Perhaps I could have told you how awesome you are a whole lot more. Perhaps I could have done something more purposeful with my time, like taking care of the list of very real challenges I have to face in my own life right now, and just let this whole process slide along without commenting.
But that doesn’t seem right to me. When you see somebody you love hurting themselves and everybody around them it’s not right to just turn your back and walk away. Because while doing so might look like freedom, I know it doesn’t feel like Love.
And that’s where I want to end this. By saying it’s not me, it’s not you, it’s us. We did this. Together. Together we took the once-beautiful twins of democracy and capitalism and pushed them as far as they could possibly go, and then further than they were ever meant to. Together we created an unquenchable demand for masculine-myths, modernity, and money, and together we grew fat as you fed our addiction for this proto-puritan pornographic propaganda. Together we ignored the very real plight of billions of people while tweeting and snapchatting and instagramming and facebooking our way into a coma, making your narrative the only narrative that seemed to matter.
We did this together. And if we’re going to fix it, we need to do so together.
So while I, along with 7 billion people from 195 countries can’t vote on this matter, we’re right here with you. Please think of us as an army of angels, fierce angels, ready to fight for what’s right. We’d rather do it with you, but if we’ve learned nothing else from you, it’s this — if you’re not for us, you’re against us.
Because at the end of the day, our right to live lovingly, peacefully and joyously far outweighs your right to be stupid and selfish and sleep-walk your way through the greatest opportunity you have to make the world better right now.
Because, as Rumi said:
Love comes with a knife, not some shy question, and not with fears for its reputation!