In this America, but not my America, life is not a precious resource. In this America, getting sick does not only punish the body with pain, but absorbs and claims your future, subsumed to debt payments. A new lifetime–if you are unlucky–of deductibles, calls from collections, and a deeper and deeper hole. You wonder if you, and the loved ones also stuck with this bill, wouldn’t just be better off dead.
In this America, but not my America, all that matters is money to be made. More than the lives of our fellows. More than the lives of our children. There is paper over ears, hundred-dollar bills, to cover the screams. Fences of wealth are erected with razor-blade precision, kept sharp with bullets, redlines, and life sentencing. Nobody bothers with batons anymore. Barely 100 pounds, and a threat to all the neighbourhood; gunned down by six (6!) bullets to a body only twice that old. Their names fall into repetition, and yet we forget–forget that all this happened before, yesterday and already-again tomorrow.
In this America, but not my America, the sole metric that matters is cost. Dollars and power, precious little sense. The reification of a life into Treasury notes, not housing for the houseless. Your suffering is fungible they say, Just last week I had to upgrade my phone, my favourite mobile game doesn’t work on the old model. Seven hundred dollars, what cost a human life?
In this America, but not my America, suffering is but a scuff on efficiency. There’s an app for that–you can watch your stocks’ performance while avoiding the pain that is the street between your Uber and the club, between the Metro and work, between the store and home. But don’t get too caring, don’t get too complacent, you know how replaceable you really are. And once you go down, you’ll never win your way back up.
In this America, but not my America, there is no America. There is You, there is Me; there is They, and there is We. We and They walk utterly convinced of our challenge, the challenge to survive, to adapt, and to thrive. Each win for We is a loss against They, points stolen, meals wasted, a heavy price to pay.
In this America, but not my America, the reward for silence is only ever more of the same. The safe and the comfortable, not the new and the hopeful: Be still. Be silent. Obey the King.
In my America, in that vision far away, things are as they could be, as they would be. In this America, the shared is difficult to care for. I have learned that anger begets pain and over again; that this pain comes for each of us as we turn through the world. In this America, I have to believe that a different one is possible.
I know, too, that this America will become mine.