We live within the confines of our environment. Although there are dreamers amoung us, the majority of the human race just goes with the flow. This is why it is so hard to come up from our country’s racist past. Why is it so difficult to look at a situation and really see it for what it is? Mainly because it is easier not to try and understand the underlying causes of racism. It is easier to just move forward with life, live in a bubble of understanding about our immediate needs, and not question the norm. This is laziness at its finest. True understanding is difficult. It requires hard work and perseverance.
In America we would rather watch reality television and be hyper consumers than think about our history or future. We walk around in a daze, brought on by fast food and the need to pay bills, while ignoring the bigger parts of our being. We miss out on the important things in order to focus on the garbage. The media easily shifts our focus away from wars, in other countries and down the street, by “reporting” on the latest pop culture phenom and his or her fall from the pedestal of fame. We buy in to this focus shift through our own retweeting and sharing of senseless memes, or worse, memes that make fun of marginalized communities. We continue the cycle of nonsense that the major media creates, through social media outlets. This is not to say that we should give up Facebook, twitter, tumblr, Instagram, and everything else online, but that we should be more thoughtful (and, even better, thought provoking) in our interactions on these sites. Social media is a tool for change, but until we focus, it will continue to be taken over by the masses who do not care about real social change.
I suppose this sounds like the rantings of a bitter feminist who does not want anyone to have fun, but that is not the case. We should all be able to have fun. Our lives should be enjoyable and we should, each and every one of us, expect the following things out of life.
1- to be able to have a job that we love, or, if our preference is not to work, to be able to make that happen in our lifetime.
2- to be able to work in an environment free of harassment and maltreatment.
3- to be able to have the family structure that we strive for, without restriction, and all the benefits that come with that family structure.
4- to be able to pursue an education without having to pay off the debt of said education for the rest of our living years.
5- to be able to walk down the street, in any neighbourhood in the country, without being followed or made to feel unsafe and certainly to not be attacked verbally or physically.
6- to be able to make choices about our bodies without the interference of other bodies.
7- to be equal, each of us, all of us.
There are many more ways in which our lives can be enjoyable, but these should be what we expect, at minimum. After the past week of events, it seems that we cannot even have all of the above things fulfilled in this country and that is sad. Pundits are always floating the idea that America is the greatest country in the world, which is, by the way, baseless when you consider all the injustice. Would the greatest country in the world seek to limit the rights of half its population by sneaking through restrictive legislation in secret special sessions? Would that nation allow a young person, who was unarmed, to be brutally killed by an older, armed man, and then put the child’s friends on trial rather than the perpetrator? Would that nation set standards for voting only to revoke those standards 50 years later in the name of progress? Would that nation try to sidestep its racist past by being apologists for a frame of mind that still exists in the southern most reaches of its land mass? No! A great nation would not. On the birthday of our country, it is shameful to see what we do in the name of a great nation. We hurt our own people and we send our citizens to other countries to fight and die for these ideals. What we should be doing is having a very real conversation about equality, in this so called great nation, and how we can truly be a beacon for the world. How we can own up to our past injustice and move forward. How we can lead the charge for human rights by example, not by rhetoric.
When a parent tells a child what to do, maybe the child will do it, maybe they won’t, but when a parent models behaviour to that same child, the child will eventually mirror those behaviours. As a young nation we have had massive growing pains, but it is time now to grow up. To be a decent society that treats all human beings equal. To be the best we can be. I know we have it in us, but we need to bring it out. Bring up the best and call out the worst, then move forward, together. If we need a model, we can always look to an even younger nation to the north. They seem to be moving in the right direction. They stumble at times as well, but they are also pretty damn good at standing up, dusting off, admitting wrong, and moving forward. That should be our goal. Lets make it happen, together.