I reside, and always have resided, within a land some call the USA. I do not feel like I belong here. 29 years here, and I travel these pothole highways estranged.
I have been soaked in temperate rainforest downpour in the old Duwamish lands. I have watched the sun rise over the waters of Coeur d’Alene. I have seen the Montana cornucopia of wildflowers fold into kaleidoscopes of color from a bus window. My feet have touched the badlands sandstone, the sandhill remnants of the ancient inland sea of the Dakotas. I have wandered the ripe cornfields of Iowa. I have searched for a job in the lake effect blizzards of Michigan. I have drove the Massachusetts coastline, peeking through sleepy used book and record stores. A cold seeping through layers of winter wear to bite my skin.
Atlantic to Pacific could be, and maybe once was, a beautiful land. But today, everywhere, it is a place of poisoning, alienation, and asphalt uniformity. The ghosts of what used to be haunt my every step in America. And I am not enamored with the new world taking over. The new world looks like ruin to me, even though it is supposed to be progress.
America is forest and clay, ocean and mountain, scarred by concrete, choked by smog. Everywhere you go there is cellophane and glass. Everywhere something beautiful is dying for the sake of more cold corporatized uniformity. Water supplies are poisoned by oil, uranium, sludges from coal mines. Usually the water of the rural and poor are the blood sacrifice to these poisonous profiteers.
America is such a lonely place. Everyone is so segmented, stratified by class. There are so many invisible lines, infinitely subdividing us all, until we can scarcely even relate to another human being. American life is almost a series of transparent isolation chambers. Always surrounded by neighbors, by throngs of people, by classmates, by coworkers, yet almost always alone.
America is a place where human automation has replaced humanity. So many cells on roadway grids, leading to jobs most find no fulfillment in. Sometimes enough money to get by, but never enough to break a cycle of subservience. Sometimes not enough to get by, and just existing costs an astronomical sum in America.
I look at our vast arsenal of death, the bombs, the arms, our ever booming industries crafting new novelties of human dismemberment and obliteration. It seems so utterly senseless, and bound to backfire. Like monkeys playing with atom bombs.
The whole system always seemed rigged. A pyramid barge floating on a river of blood, built from the bones of numerous atrocities. With enough hypocrisy to say we stand for things like justice for all, to try to play world arbiter. Sucking dry the world marrow, and calling it liberation, bringing democracy, humanitarianism.
Decadent skyscraping luxury and wealth everywhere. While people freeze to death homeless in the cold huddled next to these monoliths of wealth. Such disparity, all fed by the lie that if you work hard enough you can earn your ticket to the decadence feast.
I could name so much more wrong. So much more that makes me sick, has me going down the highway thinking “how the fuck did this come to be? Who thought this was a good or satisfactory way of life?” But I would have to write a book, or a whole volume of literature, to get at the root of my discontent.
And I am filled with discontent. Condescending parrots mimicked the apologetic for this system to me when I was younger. Assured me I would grow out of my thinking, that I would see things their way. Everything was ok with this place called America, and I was wrong, what I experienced was wrong, what I looked around and saw was wrong.
Yet my discontent only grows as I age. And I am more convicted of a sense of fundamental wrongness. I am more an alien, in a strange land, that seems governed and structured so irrationally, so cruel, so backward, and corrupt.
And nothing seems to change, from where I take it all in.
Conservative politicians openly advocate for the misery of most the population. Pretending to stand for fiscal responsibility, while shovelling millions out to their crony industries. Austerity for the poor, yet every day is welfare day for lobbyists, industry, upper class. Selling this agenda through propaganda of bootstrap tough talk, cynical religious appeals, xenophobic fearmongering. The old hegemony and dying worldviews, everything backwards and outdated, clutching to a ledge overstretching a dustbin of irrelevance.
Liberal politicians talk, but never do much. They come around Native American reservations, making promises. Then get in office and sign Native lands away to oil pipelines owned by foreign corporations. They come around promising education and solutions to the poor neighborhoods and communities. Then get in office, and its more school to prison pipelines. More toxic, institutionalized brutality as jackboot cops murder with impunity, and use race and poverty as target practice for abuse. They promise peace, responsibility to environment, and enlightened governance. Yet get in office, and its more drone bombings, more war, more drilling, more razing the natural world, more exploitation of humans in what we have designated disposable parts of the globe.
And I am not sure how any of this can be fixed. And that fills me with dread that this great pyramid barge floats the rivers of blood toward nothing good.
We have a presidential race going on in the USA right now. Lucy Parsons once said “Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth”. And that seems true in that the status quo is near totally immune to change, though your average person is given these tokens like voting to foster the illusion of a voice.
Something like a political race comes too much to resemble choosing a savior. How common the attitude that we just vote for so-and-so, and that is where our part in changing anything ends. Just wait for the lord to overturn the tables of the wicked in the temple.
Yet there are no saviors. And I think the biggest obstacle to change may be apathy. Looking for someone else, some avatar, to do what we should be doing. Revolution isn’t voting for an aging socialist in a corrupt system. Revolution is how you raise your kids, what you are doing in your community, how you treat your spouse, how you honor the land you exist on, how you treat the lowly in society, and how you project these values outward, and demand the institutions you are a part of and the people who represent you live up to these values.
Nothing effective starts from above. Everything with the slimmest hope comes from below. Transform everything. Start with yourself, gather a community, keep going far as you can. Build movements, rather than gather around another savior avatar every election cycle, who will not, and cannot do everything they promise and you hope for.
How can consciousness, justice, equality, compassion, education, care for persons and planet became as infectious as apathy, injustice, inequality, cruelty, ignorance, and viewing everything and everyone as disposable? How can the former come to replace the latter until the former is normalized?
I’m not sure how we get there, but observing this land from Atlantic to Pacific coast, I think this is the needed movement.