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, forced birth, 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 and threatens to take all those rights away again. It’s demoralizing. I’m wrought with anxiety and rage.
America & the Cycle of Abuse
But I keep holding out hope that things can change. There are reasons to have hope. In the recent past, there have been moments like the wave of optimism that came 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 have been elected into office in the past handful of years than I have seen in my lifetime. I felt sure that after that the America I love would shift the direction of its growth back towards heading toward freedom and equality for all.
But, every time I begin to sleep easy again, I find myself waking the next day to mass shootings in elementary schools and women being stripped of their rights over their own bodies. If I’m lucky I get one day. One solid day of feeling like things might turn around before America, like an abusive partner, bitch-slaps me back into anxiety and fear. So now when there are moments of hope, it’s always an uneasy hope, because I’ve been conditioned to fear a backlash.
Why I Don’t Just Leave?
Sure I could leave America 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.
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 from 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