Look at what we’ve become.
I spent a part of a recent afternoon, like many shocked and concerned Americans, watching a brave young woman testify before Congress. Cassidy Hutchinson, with the courage few have cared to show or the ability to muster, revealed one stunning moment after another about President Trump and others on January 6th, 2021, including her knowledge of Trump lunging at a member of his security detail who had refused to drive him to the Capitol to stand with those who were attacking it. Some have refuted the alleged assault on the service officer, but there is no doubt that the former president wanted to march beside the insurrectionists, one he knew were armed. For Cassidy Hutchinson, I might wave the flag. For the House Special Committee, I might wave the flag. For the spirit of John Dean, I might wave the flag. But for little else. Not today. Not this Fourth of July.
How sad is that?
In recent weeks I have had real and serious conversations with acquaintances and friends who have openly explored moving out of the United States. In one instance, a friend of friend posted to a Facebook thread from his new home in Ireland, saying he moved when Trump was elected and never looked back. He invited me to join him.
There was a brief time after the Trump election when my wife and I looked at the possibilities. Spain, an island near Nova Scotia that was offering its charms, Ireland, Western Canada, they all came into play for a short time. But how could we ever really move? Leave for good? How do you make that work? Family is here. This is my country. Isn’t it?
I’m not so sure I can honestly answer that last question anymore.
America has fast become irrevocably polarized. Name a subject—race, religion, abortion, LGBTQ rights, masks or no masks, police violence, guns and guns and guns. We are more divided now than during the height of the Vietnam War. And I would argue, maybe most importantly, we are a country that has lost its mercy. We are a ME country, a narcissistic country, one that justifies all of its mercilessness with the misguided glory of what has come to be known as the freedom of the individual. ONE is bigger and better and more worthy than ALL. This, beyond everything else, is what has malignantly morphed into the American Way, a highly misguided, twisted misinterpretation of what the Founders believed.
Like so many, I grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with my hand over my heart, believing, like every other American that this was a honored ritual, symbolizing the dreams of so many around the world. I want some of that back. My fear is that this is no longer possible.
And also like so many others, when I see an American flag displayed these days, I no longer have a sense of pride or patriotism (whatever that really means). The flag has come to symbolize something far different for me. It represents far right hypocrisy, Trump supporters, intolerance, ignorance, religious zeal, even hatred. My country’s flag has been hijacked.
The other morning on a walk with the dog, I turned onto a road where several small businesses reside—a tool shop, a hardware store, an excavation company. Near a lot where trucks had been parked, stood a tall flagpole, and on it was one of the biggest American flags I had seen in a long time. The wind forced it out across the blue sky, loud snaps of the cloth as the breeze blew. I wanted to smile. I wanted to be lost in the magnificence of it. But there was no chance. What was once a unifying symbol now felt like the flag of alienation. It evoked sadness, even anger. My country no longer felt “indivisible.”
This Fourth of July, I want to consider what America should be, could be, what we dream it might be, and not what it is in 2022. I want to hold on to some kind of hope. But that is a very, very tough task these days.
Photo: Andrea Piacquadio
Yes. So sad. Bill Clinton said recently he thought we’d get back but it probably would take a decade. I don’t have that many decades left & it’s going to be a tough haul.
During college, some friends gave me a ride home for Thanksgiving. We’d all spent the semester protesting the Vietnam war. We turned the corner & gasped. My American Legion father had installed a full sized flagpole on our front lawn. It was a message to me. My friends dropped me on the corner.
The house I walked into then didn’t feel like home. The country didn’t feel like mine. Sigh.
I get you 100%. Something about the total alignment of your thoughts with mine makes me feel better. If we feel this way, loads of other people must too, right? I read this morning in one of my writing prompts something along the lines of, "Hope is usually unrealistic but our only proven strategy." I liked that. Also, I have been thinking a lot about an article by Gerard Baker, a columnist for the WSJ, in which he talked about the UK being just as divided as us, but in the Queen's recent 70th anniversary celebrations showed they are still one nation. He said that we Americans do not have this. We used to have the flag but that has been hijacked by the right. That really pisses me off, BTW. Anyway, I keep asking people what symbol could unite us as a nation again? My husband said the Statue of Liberty. My friend Deb said the natural beauty, "Sea to shining sea" of our geography. I'm still wondering. Gerard Baker suggested Dolly Parton. That IS probably the one person most of us could agree on. What do you think?
The other thing I reflect on is that there have to be loads of smart people working all of our terrible problems. I still believe there are more good people than bad. This must be true. I don't know. I hope so! Thanks for writing! Peace.
Maggie Nerz Iribarne, Syracuse, NY