#IWantAmerica started as a game but ended up showing our dissatisfaction with the country
We reveal much about ourselves in the way we play games, make comments, and interact with the world. Early yesterday morning, the hashtag #IWantAmerica emerged on Twitter and it was interesting not because of any particularly insightful or witty responses as is often the case, but more for the ways in which the hashtag showed how very dissatisfied with our country and each other we are. Some tweets were downright mean in their attack on differing points of view. Some, sadly, were unapologetically racists or homophobic. If there is a reason the hashtag didn’t trend for long it is likely because the hate being expressed was too much for anyone to enjoy reading.
At the same time, though, the hashtag was also taken up in a very different tone by those, primarily students, stuck overseas. For them, the hashtag reflected why they actually miss the US. Their tweets said things like, “I’m running out of my day’s allotment of Internet #IWantAmerica,” and “My card doesn’t work at foreign ATMs. #IWantAmerica.” Sometimes we don’t appreciate the little things until we are deprived of them.
While the game itself quickly dwindled and died, the concept of what I want from America, the kind of nation I expect America to be, stayed with me all day. I am an idealist in that I expect a lot from my country. I expect the collective, corporate body to behave better than I do on my own. I expect the nation to be smarter than any one individual, to have better foresight, to be more thoughtful in its actions. While we, as individuals, might fail through our foolishness, I expect our country to succeed through our combined wisdom. Let me elaborate.
#IWantAmerica to keep its promises
We don’t have a great track record for keeping our promises as Americans. Most notably, we have continually gone back on treaties with made with those who occupied this land before us. The current situation at Standing Rock, where the Dakota Access Pipeline threatens native burial grounds and endangers drinking water, is but the latest example of a litany of grievances native peoples have against the government. While I’m pleased that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers that is responsible for the placement of the pipeline is looking for alternatives, I am saddened that it too massive protests to lead them to what should have been an automatic priority when the pipeline was first considered. Then, as native protestors were beaten and mistreated, more promises were broken. #IWantAmerica to start keeping its promises, all of them, to native tribes.
#IWantAmerica to keep its promise to provide for the safety and common welfare of all its citizens, not just the privileged few. While we are concerned at the rise in threats against minorities since the election, those actions are just a reflection of the increasing violence and hate crimes that has been growing across our country for years. Compounding that problem is the fact that, increasingly, hate crimes are being committed with a religious bias.
The First Amendment of the Constitution, that document which allegedly contains our core values, promises the ability for one to worship in any way they please. So how is it that Bible study members at a black church get shot? How is it that mosques and temples have their members threatened and their facilities vandalized? How is it that if we are not judging people by the color of their skin we’re judging them by the belief system they profess? We’re breaking that fundamental promise of the First Amendment and it’s disgusting.
#IWantAmerica to respect all people without exception
Social media justifiably exploded yesterday as word of a West Virginia non-profit director called First Lady Michelle Obama an “ape in heels.” The severe error in judgment was compounded when the town’s mayor agreed with the statement. The comments do not come as a surprise for anyone of color, though. The undercurrent of racism long present in our country moved to the surface the day Barack Obama took the oath of office as president and has only grown worse over the past eight years. America is, to put it in derogatory terms, a large group of racist jackasses trying desperately to hold on to power they don’t actually have.
#IWantAmerica to get past the racist nonsense. The civil war ended over 150 years ago. There’s no damn good reason to keep flying Confederate battle flags. There’s no reason to continue treating and speaking of people of color, ANY color, as second-class citizens or as some form of animal. We should be ashamed that people of color are afraid to even walk down the street for fear of being harassed. This isn’t the ideal on which the United States was founded. Our continued embracement of racism, through policy, in practice, and in things as simple as Facebook statuses and appointment of chief strategists is beneath us. This is not who we claim to be. This is not who we should be.
There should be no exception in who we accept in this country. America was founded, from the very moment those pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, that those who were not welcome anywhere else in the world could come here and be free. Then, from the moment those pilgrims actually set foot on the soil, we promptly forgot that ideal. #IWantAmerica to be a place for everyone without exception. There should be no need for classification of race nor of gender nor of marital status nor of sexuality nor of religion. We are all Americans and that should be quite enough, thank you.
#IWantAmerica to be intelligent
There is much I don’t know. My children are smarter than I am but there is still much they don’t know. I have mad respect for the intellect demonstrated by people such as Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking but both will admit there is still much they don’t know. There never will be one person who contains the whole of all there is to know. Our potential strength and intellect lie in the combined forces of all our minds, not just a few. To the extent that many of us are not cooperating not only makes us appear stupid but endangers the entire country. Where we do not embrace wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who do. What we don’t know can hurt us.
Anti-intellectualism has always been present in America and it is high time we drove out that thread rather than letting it take hold. When we deny knowledge, when we believe in mythologies rather than facts, when the truth becomes too inconvenient for our lifestyles, we place ourselves in grave danger. Our policies and our actions should be based upon our combined intellect and understanding of how the world works and is operating. If we see that global temperatures are rising and creating a long-term threat to our very existence should we not look to solve that problem rather than denying it even exists?
We have the ability to do great things, to make millions of lives better, to solve problems that have plagued us for years, but doing so requires a combined intelligence. We can’t make progress if half the country decides to skip science class because it conflicts with the mythologies being preached in a pulpit. Our greatest shortcomings arise from our collective ignorance, our purposeful inability to see past our own selfish existence and the desires that entail. We must stop running from reason and logic
#IWantAmerica to be better than it is. I want us to lead not from a position of military power but one of superior reason and understanding. I want us to lead with compassion, not from the ability to kick someone out at will. I want us to lead from a position of acceptance, not exclusion.
#IWantAmerica to be the best it possibly can be. I think you do, too. Why don’t we work toward that goal?