Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Liberty and Justice

I think of myself as a good American.



I say the pledge of allegiance every Wednesday morning at the Los Angeles Breakfast Club. I always said it in school, though I'd assert that no one should have to or be forced to say it.



I sing along to the national anthem at every baseball game and public assembly...



...including this morning's Fourth of July parade in the LA community of Westchester, near LAX.



I wore my stars today.



But celebrating Independence Day today as though it were just like any other year feels wrong.



These are not the stars and stripes I've always saluted.



And while I'm still a fan of Americana, those American foods and pastimes and movies and memories that we all share...



...I no longer recognize the "America" that I live in.



Our states are not united.



This sweet land of liberty is going sour.



This land may have been made for you and me...



...but this land is no longer yours nor mine.



The Constitution is in peril.



And to wave our flags and toast our beers and cheer on the ol' red, white, and blue without acknowledging that...



...is to perpetuate the fantasy that everything's OK.



Maybe everything's going to be all right, but things aren't all right.



Are we still the land of the free?



Are we the home of the brave?



I feel like a hypocrite singing patriotic songs today.



So many of the things that make me proud to be an American—the protection of our federal lands, the enforcement of our civil liberties, the separation of church and state, the system of checks and balances—are being threatened.



This land that I love is being drilled to bits.



Our government is becoming a police state that breaks the law more egregiously than its constituents do.



Our animals are being hunted.



And we're turning against each other.



It makes it hard to have faith.



When I was a kid, I tried to take some control over my mother's out-of-control behavior when she was wielding a wooden spoon or coming at me with an open palm or a closed fist.



My first instinct was to fight. So, I brazenly faced her and let her hit me as hard as she could, trying not to react at all. Of course, that only made her angrier—because what she wanted out of me was a reaction, obedience, remorse, admission of guilt, capitulation.



When that didn't work, I switched my tactics and started giving her what she wanted—only my responses were so exaggerated (cowering in fear, begging her to stop, running away in terror, bawling my eyes out) that it only inflamed her even more.



I thought maybe I'd appeal to her human side and tap into some emotional connection or reserve of empathy; but instead, I ended up opening the door to her mocking me with a sense of false pity. In her eyes, I was either overdramatic or pathetic. And one was just as bad as the other.



So, eventually I stopped trying to change her or convince her of anything. I treated her with kindness, taking her shopping when she needed something to wear other than a housedress. I rubbed her tight shoulders when she asked, though my own back was ravaged with muscle spasms in my early days of fibromyalgia. And I waited; I played nice until it was time for me to get out.



I could never make my mother understand neither reason nor logic. If I gave her facts, she said I was being a "pseudo-intellectual." If I tried to articulate what I understood to be her feelings, I was giving her "psycho-babble."

When in doubt, she always resorted to name-calling.

And she blamed me for everything and took responsibility for nothing, ever the victim, even when no crime had been committed.

In my family, I had no Constitution to point to, no judicial arm or independent counsel. Each argument took us in circles, and, by design, I lost every time—regardless if I was actually right or wrong.

I managed to dampen her vitriol by physically separating myself from her—going away to college and finding somewhere else to sleep on holidays and over the summer—but she'd always find a way to attack, even from afar.

And so, the only way I could save myself and be finally free was to renounce all my familial ties and end things—for good.

That was 10 years ago, after 32 years of failing to be the daughter they wanted.

Given my proven resilience in that situation, I think I can survive the next four—or eight—years. But what I can't do is pretend that this land is the same one I've been such a patriot of in the past.

Not until there is both liberty and justice for all.

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