America: Navigating Our Emotionally Abusive Relationship
November 14, 2018
America is emotionally abusive. But I can’t leave her.
I’m in an emotionally abusive relationship with my country. This is how I feel today. America plays on my fears and insecurities, making me mistrust my fellow citizens. She lifts me up with memories of melting pots and refugees and then she gut-punches me with police brutality and kids in cages. She gives me marriage equality and LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws, and then she puts a xenophobic sexual predator in the White House. It’s demoralizing. I’m wrought with anxiety and rage.
But I keep holding out hope that things can change. And on Tuesday—mid-term Tuesday—I saw a ray of hope. A wave of optimism in the shape of a historic number of women elected into public office. Women of color, Muslim, Lesbian, and Native women. Openly gay men, straight white men proudly raised by lesbian mothers. More people that actually reflect the Americans I know were elected into office that day than I have ever seen in my lifetime.
I went to bed Tuesday night feeling hopeful. It was an uneasy hope, though, because I’ve been conditioned to fear a backlash.
And then Wednesday morning I woke up to the news of another mass shooting. 12 dead in a bar in southern California. One day. I got one day of feeling like things might turn around before America, like an abusive partner, bitch-slapped me back into anxiety and fear.
Sure I could leave but where would I go? I have a family here. All my stuff is here. I can’t just leave; run off to Canada. Oh, Canada. This growing crush I have on my gentle but ruggedly sexy neighbor might be getting out of control. I mean, I know Canada also has a long history of racism, colonialism, and genocide, but, clearly, that’s not a deal-breaker.
photo: Stephen Leonard
No, my place is here, with my country, trying to make things better. America’s an addict and she needs my help. She’s addicted to violence, and institutionalized racism and sexism. My commitment to helping her heal doesn’t stem a fear of starting over somewhere else. It comes from love and anger. I am angry at the terrible effects her addictions have on the people I love. The people who, for better or worse, love her. I’m angry at how she murders her black citizens, silences her daughters and allows her children to be massacred in their schools.
I’m filled with anger, sadness, and frustration. But we don’t have to continue living this way, and it is our anger and our love that will carve us a better future. Anger is powerful. You can get blinded by it, crippled by it, or you can focus it and use it to fight for what you love.
So I’m packing my campervan and heading to the mountain this weekend. I’m going to listen to angry feminist podcasts (Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace is my current favorite), bring a good book (Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper) and recharge in the forest. I’m going to use all that clean mountain air and open space to stoke the fire in my belly. America and I, we’ve got some work to do. I’m not ready to call it quits just yet.
Good Feminist Reads
Here’s what I’m reading and listening to. What are you using to fan your flame?
Good and Angry by Becca Traister
Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly
Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper