Dear America, You Disappoint Me

Two recent headlines this week have made me hopeful that the future of the world is not full of spite and hatred. The University of New South Wales decided to change the terminology of their history books to recognize British colonialism as an invasion, rather than a discovery. This small change displays a brave ability to revisit a dark past. It is also a reminder of the power of language.  On the other side of the planet, Francois Holland scrapped plans that would have stripped convicted terrorists of their French citizenship. For a country rocked by two horrific attacks in the same year, this is a strong move in a forgiving direction.

What do I see when I look at my own country? I see guns. I see segregation. I see paranoia. I see the two top contenders for the Republican nomination smearing one another with how slutty or ugly their wives are. And then accusing the other one of “starting it.” I see states trying to pass “religious freedom” laws so some of its citizens don’t ever have to rub shoulders with gay people.

Statistician Nate Silver has been compiling years of census data on every major American city. His graphs show clear cut divides across cities, north and south, east and west. Black and white. Some of these lines were the same ones drawn in the Civil War. It seems one of the biggest melting pots, doesn’t really melt at all.

You groomed me from a young age to believe in your greatness. You were #1.

I put my hand to my heart every morning before school for 12 years and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. I got goosebumps when I heard the National Anthem.

My classmates and I used to shout, “It’s a free country” as a win-all end-all arguments tactic. It seems now that the only thing we are free to do is shoot each other.

I believed without a doubt that everything we did was for the betterment of mankind. My 5th grade history teacher told me we were the policemen of the world. We had to go in there with our guns, and our democracy, and help them be like us-Free.

With this superior attitude came a huge amount of paranoia. The world hates us because we’re great. They’re jealous. Life is a teen horror movie, and we’re the popular girl.

My journey to adulthood came with an overwhelming amount of disillusionment. Why had no one told me about all the mistakes we made, all the wars we caused, all the lives we took?

You have likely heard the statistic that only a third of Americans have a passport. What about that 73% had no idea when the Cold War was fought? When I was home last, two different people didn’t know where Ireland was. This is more than about traveling, it is about the ability to live in a bubble that begins and ends at the four corners of the country. When you’re inside it, the vastness of the US dwarfs the rest of the world.

And so I look at the examples in Australia and France and I wonder when America will start making some mature decisions. Give the 5th graders of today a chance to see our flaws. They will respect our nation more for it when they get to be my age because, guess what…no one cares who was popular in high school anymore. 

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