Sunday, November 13, 2016

Proud to be an American

Am I proud to be an American?

When I was a child I was asked what makes me proud to live in America. I am certain I had some generic answer such as, " freedom," which I didn't fully understand at the time. Ask any child in America to talk about freedom and their answers might lead you down the path of stories that seem unfathomable to the child telling you the tale, almost as if they were reciting an allegory of legends from long ago. To fully understand what freedom is, I believe you have to not only have to fight for it, but you have to respect it.

As I grew and accepted my life as a homosexual man, something the soon to be VP thinks is something I can "fix" or "change with shock therapy," I started realizing that I was not a fully free citizen. You see the constitution guarantees me the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But yet as a teen in the 90's, I saw a flawed system in which certain states would be allowed to discriminate against me legally because I am gay and I was certainly denied 1100 federal rights of marriage that my heterosexual neighbors were afforded. I saw a lot of older straight people saying things like "gay marriage affects the sanctity of my own marriage." I could never wrap my brain around someone who doesn't know me thinking that if I were to get married they'd be diminished in some way. And I also heard people say things like "the next thing you know people will want to marry animals," something heard during the civil rights movement when international relationships wanted to be sealed by the ties of matrimony. These people troubles me as I saw them as the majority and rarely felt that there would ever be a place for me in this world.

I contemplated my options. 1. Suicide. It seemed so hopeless but something in my gut told me I had more to accomplish in this world. 2. Move to Canada, but that felt like running away. 3. Somehow turn to politics to voice my opinion but I felt discouraged that no one would ever elect an openly gay man. And 4. Continue living my life as if I were free.

I chose option 4.

I live how I choose. I live how I want. I live how I love. And no one will stop me. No one is allowed to throw anything in my way of living my life, liberty and my pursuit of happiness.

I grew and my idea of what made me proud to live in America changed. I started seeing the world through open eyes that not everyone is accepting or tolerant. The ideals I was taught as a child to treat each other as you would like to be treated is a myth for adults. Adults are evil. Adults are petty and adults will act worse than petulant children to get their way in life.

And now there has been a shift in America.A man is about to be sworn into the highest office that used hateful speech in his campaigning that has invoked a sense from some people that violence against minorities is acceptable. They feel that this land is just for themselves. It's the spirit that because the incoming leader says it so it must be ok. Well let me assure you it is not.

I spent this week watching news reports of children chanting "build that wall" to minority students at school. I've heard friends in NYC talk about their mother's car being spray painted with a swastika and the words "go back to Mexico immigrant." I've also heard my friend saying that they've been told to go back to china( even though they're Korean) and usually things are followed up with a sensible "this is trump's America now!" I've heard of women being threatened by groups of men shouting "grab her by the pussy." And in my own life someone screamed "get out of my country you fucking faggot, trump America now" and threw things at me. Rest assured I am physically fine and have reported the incident.

However, this event shook me deeply. There is a problem going on that the media is missing. Trump and Obama are missing it, too. People are hurting and people are afraid for their lives. We are scared that we might not actually see tomorrow. There is a tone to the world right now that is difficult to explain.

It would be easy for conservatives to just cast it off as overdramatized liberal whining of losing the election. This is different. I've been through elections that my side lost, it was fine. I live through 8 years of a bush administration and a republican house and felt a million times more safe than I do right now. I'm not afraid of losing my rights as a gay man, I lived almost 35 years without them, a minor set back isn't ideal. However, what I'm afraid of is losing my life to some crazy person who thinks killing me or violating me is acceptable.

And that's where it is.

I know many republicans who voted trump because they are anti Clinton and/or establishment. But I implore you to open your eyes to see what your vote has done. Yes, you will see your part of the world just fine for economics and fossil fuels and possibly or not possibly job creation. But what was the cost of your vote? The man elected inciting violence and intolerance with hateful remarks towards many groups of people. People you are related to and people you are friends with. You know, people you love and hopefully respect. Open your eyes. No you are not bigoted or racist or intolerant, you were just mad. I'm mad too. I hear you. But hear me now.

Make us believe you.This is your time to put your money where your mouth is. If you see injustice, stand up to it. If someone you know is in pain, help them. If a friend needs to talk to you about their fears, listen. Most important that you take them seriously. This is deeper than not getting the fairy dust, unicorns and rainbows that Clinton promised us. This is our safety and our livelihood at stake. That is the reason for the protesting. That's why we are sad and crying. It's why we seem hopeless and afraid. Because some of us don't know how we will find tomorrow alive.

Make sure that you don't stand idly by watching your loved ones be attacked by crazy people who now assume it's their right to be a despicable human being. Because the second someone dies in the name of trump, I promise you will be asking yourself why? Maybe not when it's a forgettable name in the media, but when it's your friend, your co worker or your son, you will question everything about your choices. You will wonder "did I do enough?"

If someone dies, the answer will be a resounding, "no."

So I think again, am I proud to be an American?

Yes, I am. But as an adult it's much more complicated to answer. I respect the voting system. I respect people being able to have a different opinion than me. I urge everyone to respect the ideals they hold dear even if I don't share the same. Know that your ideology, religion and sentiments that vehemently differ from my own can coexist without detracting from either side. We can do this.

At the moment, I'm scared to live in America. I am proud to be here, but I am scared, words my 12 year old self never thought my adult self would admit. I dreamed of a time to just live my life openly and in peace. And I have done so until now. I remain cautiously optimistic for the future, but in the back of my brain I live in fear. I fear for the safety of human beings in this country. I fear for the future world we are leaving for our children. And I fear for the lives of those so fueled by hatred they can't do anything but intimidate, persecute, and kill.

So I ask you, are you proud of your America? Are you truly? Make me believe you. Because right now I don't. Right now the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is at stake.

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