Thursday, December 17, 2015

making America great already

God, I miss New York. And I feel like a defunct adult because I possibly could have romanticized parts of the middle class New York experience such as "eating bagels for every meal" and "never owning a home", if it weren't for the fact that my family is here and the people I loved in New York, the ones who neither fathered my children nor actually are my children, almost always had someone better they could be hanging out with, something better to do. The person I believed I'd grow up to be would have fit right in there, but the person I actually became could never quite compete. New York was out of my league -- but it never had the time to disinvite me, and when I daydream about her, she and I are always friends.

It is inopportune that we moved to rural Pennsylvania when we did. Here, we are welcomed on the one hand -- I had the babies, I pay my bills, I have a real job that doesn't entail writing antagonistic essays about the inherently oppressive nature of discourse -- and, on the other, I do a lot of keeping my mouth shut. 

I miss living in a place in which most people took for granted that children should always get to eat and women should have control over their bodies and education is for everyone. There are people who believe that here, but it's also disconcertingly acceptable to believe that no, some kids should have thought of that before being born to poor parents, or, we came into the country the right way (by being born into the Trump family? by being born white?) and it is hurting us if we allow political refugees to stay here and take out (minimum wage, unfilled) jobs.  

We want the job to go to the best person, the most deserving person -- provided that that person is white. We'll extend a Supreme Court hearing to a white girl whose GPA couldn't get her a seat in law school because somewhere there might be a black student with a lower one who got in, but we have nothing to say to someone who, by virtue of her birth, gets to choose between watching her babies get shot and watching her babies drown. We'll celebrate the courage of a woman who forgoes cancer treatment because of her fetus --at least, we'll "like" her on Facebook -- but we want a wall to keep out the mothers who will risk their lives to smuggle their children across the border so they can live. We complain about the flagging work ethic of "the millennials", but we cheered as Trump used our fear of one group of brown skinned people to promote a wall to keep out an entirely different group whose members ubiquitously do all the jobs white hands are loath to set their iPhones down in order to do. 

I wish I had the courage of your average illegal immigrant. I wish I had that kind of love. I am glad, of course, that my circumstance doesn't call for it. But I like to think that, if what stood between my children and life were something as abstract as laws, they'd be pulling me off that boat and out of the water. 

We don't actually need to make America great again. America is great. If Donald Trump knew the Americans I know -- the teachers and nurses and shelter directors and volunteers and parents and friends and citizens -- he would know that. 

I'm a selfish, mentally ill, flawed person; but three nights a week I make myself as useful as I can to people who are sick and need care. But I do my best to love my kids in such a way that they will be better than me. But I try to recognize where the privileges I have actually come at the expense of others, and to look for opportunities to do the right thing, the fair thing, the kind thing. And I am like the lowest common denominator of people. Almost everyone I know is doing greatness better than me. 

That's what actually makes a country great. It's what makes anyone great. If Donald Trump had picked up a g-d book at some point in his life, he'd know this. Calling names, threatening people, pitting the "strong" (that is, those of us bowing with bumpers on from the time we apply to college to the time we retire) against the "weak" (those for who "no one helped me" isn't overlooking one's college educated parents, consistently-visited pediatrician, and adequately funded school) -- these things don't make anyone great. 

In the last few weeks, I've been focused, first, on cutting back to a single job with consistent hours, and, second, on cleaning out the discouraging amount of space my eating disorder continues to occupy in my mind and life. The better, I hope, to spend 2016 doubling down on Trump's project of "making America great", on continuing to make America great, on making America greater. It's just that I think that looks like fewer old people sitting in feces and developing non-ventilator acquired pneumonia, like more kids reading, like fewer of us looking the other way as black children and adults are shot and unfairly imprisoned, like the incredible and beautiful people that make up our country getting what they need to flourish. It doesn't look like a wall, it doesn't look like a sneer,  and it doesn't look like the mean girl's table in your average junior high school. 

We can do better than a president who "says what he thinks". Blame it on the raging sinus infection, but I am sure that any day now we will realize that. 

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