Our nation is broken. I do not recognize my own country, the place that I have lived my entire life. Everything has changed. And I don’t know what to do.
Mostly I want to scream. I want to scream at the television screen every time I watch another government official lie to me. I want to scream at the people who post bible verses on Facebook to defend their hate-filled hearts. I want to scream into a pillow and weep because my heart is breaking for the people of Aleppo, Flint, Juarez, and Puerto Rico. I want to scream at the guy who drives down my street in his jacked up pickup with the loud muffler and massive American flags trailing behind. I want to scream at everyone in my church congregation who voted for the monster that occupies the White House. I just want to scream.
But instead, I pray. I pray that God would have mercy on me for not doing something. Anything. I’m so weak and helpless. I comfort myself with excuses like “what can I do? I’m just a regular guy.” I’m sure millions of Germans told themselves that very same lie while they watched as their friends, neighbors, employees, and co-workers were led into concentration camps and certain death. I pray that God gives me the strength to do something. If only I knew what.
I called my congressman and senator’s offices and talked to mildly sympathetic voices who assured me my leaders would do something. A bunch of them sent a letter. That made me feel…good. No, it made me feel hopeless. That’s what I meant to say.
I’m screaming in my head as I write this. It seems to be the most genuine emotion I have right now. And there’s this heaviness in my chest. It’s a heaviness that barely allowed me to plaster a fake smile on my face as my family celebrated Father’s Day. I couldn’t smile because I couldn’t stop thinking about the hundreds, maybe thousands, of fathers and mothers that are sitting in cells or cages trembling with rage and fear because they don’t know where their children are. If they are safe. Or if they will ever see them again. Just typing this makes my eyes fill with tears.
Surely this is just a temporary state of affairs. It will pass, like high gas prices, severe weather, or an annoying meme. This can’t last. I want it to pass out of my view. I don’t want to look at it anymore or think about it or talk about it. That screaming in my head won’t stop until it goes away; of that I am sure.
Maybe it’s all been an illusion, like the face of Jesus in a piece of toast. I sincerely wanted to see the face of compassion in my country, in my countrymen, in myself. But was it ever really there? We had slaves. We justified that. We had Jim Crow laws. That was fine. We murdered the Indians. No one even noticed. We systematically oppressed women until like yesterday, but it’s still just fine. We shoot black men for traffic violations. We shoot kids in school. We shoot people at concerts and in nightclubs and theaters and churches. But we have to have our guns. The Constitution after all.
The screaming in my head is just a stream of profanity at this moment. Am I going mad?
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who we are. The only thing I’m certain of is that the light is extinguished. We no longer embody the aspirations woven into the words of our anthems. Our time has passed, and we must now take our place among the pantheon of aborted dreams and promises made but left unfulfilled. A derelict lighthouse on the rocky shore of history.
The only thing I can do besides scream is to write. Maybe it will keep me sane. Is anyone even listening?
Oh, the screaming…