Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Taking Our Country Back! or are we?

"We're gonna take our country back." I've heard this phrase from several friends, colleagues and crazies in the last few months.  I know America is in election mode and among "fellow travelers" this phrase provides some kind of comfort, that after the election we'll return to that safe familiar dream of our country as we would have our fantasies. 

June had a sharp look....rock the pearls!
While I understand that the idea behind the phrase is about winning, but to me it's about so much more, and not in a good way.  It's presumptuous and assumes that the side that's not in control of the House, Senate or White House is a loser and that this country has been "taken back" from them.   While I may disagree wholeheartedly with many of the policies of the opposition, they are supported by my co-workers, friends, family and neighbors.  Those opinions help them organize their lives and worldview, and in there are wishes for a simpler, easier time. This conservative idea to "take back" America to some wistful fantasy that only existed in Leave It To Beaver. Do we want to go back to the man in the gray flannel suit? Although I admit, June Cleaver could rock those pearls and cashmere. 

Take America back to this?
For Liberals it may have been the late 70's, when the sexual revolution was at it's peak and women and minorities were breaking out of traditional roles and escaping stereotypes. They were building on the foundations of the civil rights movement that had occurred a little more than decade before. But really, does anyone really want to go back to bad 70's fashions?

When you ask about "taking back" America for yourself  what does it mean? To me there are these ideals of America that we learned in citizenship class in 1st or 2nd grade: fairness, opportunity, strength, equality. Then  the personal America: Personal success, optimism, family, love, national pride, achievement through hard work.   

Yet despite these great ideals there is the my ambivalent or cynical view of America: guilt about homelessness, world hunger, poverty, violence, drug use, racial inequality, gender inequality, wealth inequality. A sense perhaps that my second grade ideals don't match up with the reality and promise of America and that I'm not doing my part to make my country a "more perfect union".

So no, I don't want to "take America back". I'm thinking that I want to take America forward. Work on things my friends, neighbors, colleagues, can agree on. Perhaps reduce homelessness or hunger? Figure out real solutions to end poverty, like keeping kids in schools. Maybe just trying harder to be a better neighbor and pick up after my dog more. I don't know, but I know it must start on a small scale.....and then maybe we can take America forward.....together.