“Give it back! It’s mine!” screams the child, tears streaming down his face because his sister is playing with a ball he previously had. His response to the stolen item is visceral, emotional, quick. Maybe he pinches or rips the ball out of the other child’s hand. Jealousy? Or does he just not grasp the concept of sharing yet?
In many ways, America is like an unkind child because she does not truly know how to share the world. In the daylight she demands and demands, pinching and bruising Mother Earth without as much as a sorry smile. At night, she fears the unknown in the dark, tossing and turning, plotting ways to eliminate the unknown. What does she fear? Poverty? Death?
In politics, the focus on “me-me-me,” the inability to share, and fear of the unknown fester and erupt in illogical taglines, such as “gay marriage will harm straight marriages.” This pits one group against another. It’s easier to justify America’s fears when she knows who is to blame. Recently, a meme has been circulating that reads, “I wish some of you would care about homeless veterans as much as you do about illegal immigrants and refugees” … as if those fleeing wars, human right violations, and poverty are responsible for America’s unequal distribution of wealth, health care concerns, and homegrown terrorism. The meme suggests that caring for refugees and immigrants is un-American because our sole focus must be on those who have been part of our military. Certainly, our veterans are due our consideration, but unless there is now a finite depth to our empathy and compassion, America is capable, although unwilling, to care for more than one group of people at a time.
It does not serve America’s capitalistic nature to care for too many. Individual Americans may demand that America offer kindness and equality to All, but she, in all of her citizens’ names, does not hear those calls. Caring does not serve her dog-eat-dog world view, so she must pit religion against religion, corporation against environment, and human against human. America resists sharing and instead constructs the monsters that fit her narrative. In a child’s mind, monsters are large, fiendish creatures with pointy horns. To America, monsters are non-white, non-Christian, non-English speaking persons.
Keeping the monstrous other alive allows America to justify her own bad behavior. America doesn’t have to be compassionate when she feels it is at her expense, and it’s easier to feel apathetic about bombing civilians when they are part of a group that matches America’s description of a monster. The same goes for deporting a family. America may give their fate a brief thought, but then she moves on without compassion because the family didn’t have the correct paperwork. America knows it’s a hellish position to put a refugee through a nearly two-year vetting procedure only to force her to stay in a land inclined to bomb everything, but America does it anyways because the President said to.
Refugees are running away from the same terrorists America fears. They fear death too, but they no longer have the privilege of isolating themselves. Americans can close the door, turn off our computers and televisions, and pretend that America is a land of equality and peace. We can hide ourselves away, but refugees must rely upon human decency and aid, which America’s leaders now deny.
Call it fear. Call it protecting America. Paul Ryan, Mr. Trump, and everyone standing idly by, dress it up however you want! Say it’s “America First.” Say you are “Making America Great Again.” These statements may be catchy and speak to your supporters, but the rest of the world sees these nationalistic statements as euphemisms for the pain that this administration intends to inflict.
That pain will be your legacy. Every step towards equality for America’s minority groups is met by the fiercest resistance, with countless bodies left bloodied and imprisoned. Whenever someone resists America’s advances, she demands, rages, and kills in the name of her freedom. She must be free to create monsters. This is cruel, but America perseveres unchecked.
As Samantha Bee demanded during Full Frontal on 2/1/2017, “own your pointless cruelty.” America, own your brutal history and your uncompassionate present. Own the pain you inflict on Muslims and refugees. Own it. Recognize your petulance.