America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.
Alexis de Tocqueville
It’s hard to say precisely the moment when America ceased being good. Some might even say she never was good–at least not wholly. Our country was built upon interracial warfare and slavery–against American natives, Africans, even the white poor.
To say any of that was ever good is shortsighted and misleading.
And yet, one can’t help but argue that America has always been great: a bastion of freedom, a new exploration of democracy on a scale that hadn’t been seen before, a righteous (but not self-righteous) country whose faith lay not in ethereal deities or divine mandates but upon the collective goodness of the people themselves. Yes, America hasn’t always met these ideals (if ever she has), but striving toward ideals is itself a a constant struggle and a constant celebration of the small victories along the way.
Yet now, amid political corruption and mass shootings, what victories remain?
This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.
When I was six or seven, my aunt gave me a copy of The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas. It’s part of his D’Artagnan saga, most notably begun as the Three Musketeers. It’s a novel of historical adventure, with a political twist–not quite satire, but enough criticism it probably played a role in catalyzing the French Revolution.
The version I was given, however, was adapted for children. I never read it.
The book sat on my bookshelves for ages, and I probably still have it somewhere, stored away in a box in a closet probably, but because it was a gift, something given to me, I always felt obligated to read it. The intrigue was always present, if my interest in reading it was not: Who was this man? And why did he wear a mask made of iron?
The historical figure we may never know, but the fiction is a story all its own.
A few weeks ago I came across Investing in Futures, “a project which helps you imagine future worlds (wild, impractical, idyllic, and utopian) and what it would be like to live in them.” As a writer, I immediately latched onto the idea and became a backer.
Then they sent out a digital copy for playtesting. And, of course, I eagerly played.
So here’s my thoughts and findings. Will you, too, invest in futures?
By which I mean it’s the beginning of the year. I’ve moved to a new city–with all the hassles that come from being the good tenant who follows those disastrous ones you see on HGTV who left the place a god-forsaken wreck–and I’ve begun a new job.
I realized recently that I’ve allowed myself to stagnate. I felt somehow I had finished developing as a person–I knew I would never stop growing, but I assumed there were things I had figured out, things that were finally fixed.
Like perhaps I’m a paint by numbers, and while there were still a lot of spaces waiting to be filled in, I had the core of the picture complete. I knew who I was.
I was sitting outside in the beautiful fall North Carolina weather (our first day of sunlight in two weeks), musing about the story I might write for NaNoWriMo…I have an idea, but is it enough of an idea–
And then, from a table near mine, “–faggots kissing.”
The beginning of this week brought the beginning of a new year: Rosh HaShanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, began on Monday. I had in mind a few thoughts I wanted to share, and every intention of doing so on Tuesday.
Then on a Monday a student at NC State completed suicide, and on Tuesday I had homework, and on Tuesday night I fought to finish my homework due Wednesday.
So in the midst of all these things, I never even realized I hadn’t welcomed the new year on my blog, and being on campus, in classes, the most I had been able to do to celebrate this occasion was share some apples and honey with others in the community. On Monday, a fellow math student had shared challah in the graduate lounge. That had made my day.
The truth is, death is a great occasion to think about life, and a new year is a great occasion to think about what we’re doing with our lives. So, naturally, I did.
I have a backlog of posts waiting to be published. Many of them talk about race, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to share them. I’ve fallen under fear–the fear of losing social capital, the fear of saying the wrong thing, the fear of looking ignorant, the fear of admitting my own faults, the fear of alienating the people I can learn from.
Friends, I said in a weekend Facebook post, I need your help.
I’ve learned a lot about systems of (dis)advantages over the past few years, and newsflash, I have a lot of privilege. In fact, it’s hard for me to find much in my life that isn’t a result of somewhere someone giving me me something that someone else was denied–whether it’s my assumed intelligence because I’m white or my assumed leadership skills because I’m male or so many other things.
So how do I hold onto any sort of self-worth when everything I thought I had fought so hard to achieve was really just handed to me?