I Miss America ... Don't You?
It seems like we've been thrown into some horrible remix of the country's darkest days and like most sequels, the second iteration is nastier, bleaker and more violent than the first.I Miss America... Don't You?
I graduated college in the 90s when my generation -- the Xers -- were coming off of a pop culture era punctuated by Spike Lee movies, the emergence of hard core rap, and the coming of a new dawn of awareness for African Americans who were questioning all the things they'd been told and learned in public schools across America. I remember classmates donning the "It's a Black Thing, You Wouldn't Understand" T-shirts and Africa-inspired necklaces in the shape of the continent. It all seemed more like a form of self-expression than rebellion, and for the most part, people seemed to acknowledge it (or quietly complain about it) and move on. There weren't any public fights, that's for sure.
How I long for those days.
Fast forward 25 years and it seems as though we have devolved into a cesspool of hatred, intolerance, and incivility that is not only hard to explain but to understand. What happened? Years ago, I sat in an auditorium in Birmingham, AL, and listened to a speaker brought in by Leadership Birmingham to talk about the disappearance of civility in America. It was a prescient lecture.
What America has devolved into is so disheartening, so embarrassing, so over the line, it makes one wonder what happened in the span of a few generations that we have gotten so completely far away from what it means to be American. Sure, this country has more than a checkered past of oppressing people... look at what happened to Native Americans, whose story has never been adequately told nor cherished. And, to others across the globe from the despicable slave trade and its systematic dehumanization of the African, to the oppression of women, and to the mistreatment of the Japanese in Post World War II America. This country has gotten a lot wrong, but what makes America great is its ability to bounce back and to try to rectify, if you will, its love affair with hate.
As a nation of immigrants, Americans have always overcome adversity. Like the sinner on Sunday morning, America has looked itself in the mirror and not like what it has seen. Brave leaders -- black and white, Catholic and Jewish, men and women -- have helped to hold up that mirror over the years and many of them sacrificed all they had, even giving their lives, for the dream that is America.
That legacy is being threatened every single day that we, as a nation, allow ourselves to forget who we are...what we are and what we believe.
It's 2017, and here we are, struck in a bad sequel, living in an upside version of America that I don't even recognize. I don't just miss the 90s. I miss America.