Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It Is Coming

Shhh! Listen. Put your ear to the ground. It's starting again.

America is reinventing itself.

This is not the first time. After inventing itself as a nation, united, America reinvented itself as a nation in which all live free. And quite a while after that it reinvented itself as a nation in which all citizens, people of every shade, both genders, and all religions, have (more or less) equal rights.

There were and are all kinds of movements here. Civil rights.  Women's rights. The anti-war and anti-nuke movements. LGBT rights. Occupy Wall Street. To name just a few.

A while back, though, I noticed that America was different. Not the place I thought I knew. Civil discourse had become less civil. Greed had blossomed. "Values" had accrued a certain meaning that was foreign to me, that was about exclusion, suppression. People valued stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Venerated wealth. Ignored suffering. They seemed to be willing to throw the most vulnerable among us under the bus.

The day a business student in my freshman English class proclaimed, "Poor people don't need heat. People lived without it in the nineteenth century; why should we worry about people who can't afford it now?" I truly thought we had hit rock bottom.

His was the face of the future, and it was not pretty.

For the past ten years or so I lamented the way our country was tilting. Sometimes I looked at real estate listings in Canada, in Germany, in Australia. I did not take these virtual forays into foreign lands lightly. I did not really want to go. I just couldn't see a place for myself in the country America was becoming.

I was not rich, I was not greedy, and I was not cruel. I was a woman who believed in the integrity of her own body, and in the bodies of all others. Who thought everyone deserved to worship freely in their own way -- or not at all -- but not in public spaces. I delighted in the love, and the romance, and the commitment we, as humans, are capable of feeling for each other. It did not matter to me the arrangement of genitalia in couples who loved each other; the love itself was enough.

The laws in my country did not always protect what I cherished. The values of those in prominent positions -- those who make and enforce laws, for example, and those who control what people earn and what is available for them to eat -- were not my values.

So I slipped into intermittent despair. The election season was an agony -- it brought the divisions here in America into stark relief. It brought out the worst in some people, and in others it brought out the best. The whole country was stressed and humming with repressed anger, with anguish and passion. From Maine to California, we were quivering.

One day I put my ear to the ground and I heard the rumbling. Voices emerging, blending, growing louder and stronger. I heard them on Facebook and Twitter and in the blogosphere. In coffee shops and magazines (the ones I read, anyway) and at dinners with friends. They were earnest voices, and urgent. And on November 6th they enunciated clearly. They are still speaking. Do you hear them?

America is reinventing itself again, and I am awash with anticipation. A majority of us are tired of this government by the few for the few. We care about the poor with no heat, about the disabled and dispossessed. We see all human beings as equal -- citizens, people without papers, children. But we do not believe that corporations are equal, of that I can assure you.

And now, after a tragedy of immense proportion, a tragedy that has rendered many of us unable to work, to think, to stop wringing our hands over what things have come to, it looks likely that America will divorce its guns. Maybe not all of them. Certainly the ones that exist solely for the purpose of wholesale slaughter.

It even looks like The Gentlemen of Congress are standing up, a few at a time. They are discovering their moral compasses. Divorcing the NRA. Not all of them, but if we are lucky, enough of them.

I am a little scared. Change is good, but does not always come easily. It is coming, though, that seems clear enough. And I am waiting with open arms.

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