I missed this year’s 4th of July. I was here in America. I was awake. No red, white, and blue flew from my deck. I skipped the day’s whoop-de-doo. That’s a first in my autobiography.
Something was amiss. Was it me?
No. I’m just fine, other than my American genetics. These democracy-loving genes that flow from my direct ancestor who marched with George Washington were sick as a dog—a common dog, but an American pooch, nonetheless.
The good ol’ hound ails from a variety of infections.
My ancestors came in from England and Ireland, escaping tyranny. The Irish fellows were the English fellows’ indentured servants. By the next generation living in the Virginia colony, the English and Irish ancestors shed the servant business and married. Their descendants went on to stand with George Washington in the drum corps.
None of the ancestors was famous—though a few made local history books as pioneers—but they were all stewards of America. Some were Republican. Others sported donkey ears as Democrats. Some praised Jesus and others didn’t. These ancestors were farmers, explorers, carpenters, miners, politicians, developers, lawyers, judges, teachers, electricians, musicians, artists, and Realtors. A few were drunks. A few stood for Prohibition. Just regular folk. They ranged on both sides of middle class—just like me.
They built America. They shared in its dialogue. They followed their dreams. Some dreams came true. Some dreams fell short. But at least they could dream.
Greed, and possibly dreams that were bigger than reality by those in economic and political power for the moment, swiped away at the dreams the rest of us held. There is economic improvement over 2008. But I feel that real improvement has purposefully been thwarted. It’s repairable, but we have leaders with no interest in repair. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. They seem so unpatriotic in the true sense of the word patriotism. What I see is xenophobia and chauvinism—all wrapped up in show with Old Glory. America’s real people be damned.
From my window, America’s separation of state and religion ekes closer to nought, while America separates from itself. I can no longer have a rational conversation about the state of America with someone on the other side of the fence. When I try, the conversation grows in vitriol and name calling. It’s like a debate with my late, but very stubborn father who lived on his My-Way Street, and the rest could just take the highway. So I took to the highway shoulder when it came to any serious discussion with him. I like keeping the peace. And I’m also open to others’ opinions and thoughts because I’m not so over-confident to believe that I, and only I, have the right answer to a dilemma.
America is like high school: full of cliques. Was it always this way? My vision is an independent and free-thinking America, not factions of “I’m more patriotic than you because ________ (fill in the blank).” One would think that at 236 years, we’d be more grown up and less sophomoric.
Sophomoric. Why? This big world is smaller and more entwined than ever before. America gave us the good life with all the resources and beauty this land offers. No limitations. We were in this together: rich, poor, and the in-between. But limitations began to show themselves. Things changed. “My-Way Street” became the only street, and if you didn’t live on or like it there, you could take the highway to nowhere. The My-Way Street clique took charge.
Some kids in high school did whatever it took for status in the dominant clique. Some Americans follow suit because, because, well, I don’t know the because. (I failed clique at 16. I still fail clique at 60-something.)
This 2012 presidential race will further divide, I fear. My $100 political donation is a drop in a dirty bowl of water for the pooch. Plus, I accept responsibility and acknowledge my drop in the water bowl. Meanwhile, the main source for the proverbial dirty water can hide behind the dog house’s walls.
You won’t see me dressed in colonial attire this year, nor will you see me standing on the street and waving a religious holy book. I won’t carry a sign with a percentage symbol on it, nor will I quote hate mongers as authority.
But you will find me wiping away tears while sadly gazing at the American flag that hangs in my office.
Charmaine Coimbra lives in Cambria. Send comments to the executive editor at email@example.com.