I have been informed, in the comment section, that since I don’t love my country, I ought to get on the next plane to someplace I actually do like.
That’s rather a tempting thought. I fantasized for a moment about where I would go. When I was a very little girl I was torn between wanting to live on Prince Edward Island, Narnia or Middle Earth. Then, after I read Les Miserables, dragging the unabridged volume all around with me one quite summer when I was not yet thirteen, I decided that my destiny was in Paris. I wanted to live in London when I became obsessed with Charles Dickens shortly afterward. The next summer, I read The Brothers Karamazov and decided the only place for a woman of my eccentricities was a small town in the nastiest corner of Russia, and I’m still not sure I’m wrong. Somewhere along the line I moved to the Ohio Valley, whose culture is the bastard child of Faulkner and Kafka but with a more temperate climate. Narnia sounds better all the time.
After musing for a moment, I came back to earth.
Did this commentator think I hated my country, because I was criticizing it?
Do you only draw attention to a sickness that someone has, if you hate them?
Do you love your mother? What if you came to visit one Sunday afternoon, and found your mother shooting heroin at the dining room table? Would you politely ignore her until she’d finished? Would you quietly clean up the needle and pretend you didn’t know how it got there? When your neighbors noticed their houses had been broken into and their valuables had been sold to fuel her drug habit, would you tell them it wasn’t happening and anyway it was their fault? Would you act as though you didn’t notice what was going on until the day your mother overdosed and died? Would that be love?
Do you love your father? What if you found out your father was beginning to have dementia? What if you came home one day and found he’d forgotten to dress himself? Would you let him walk around naked, and pretend nothing was wrong? Would you let him get behind the wheel of a car? When he ran a red light and hurt a pedestrian, would you claim it didn’t happen and anyway it was the pedestrian’s fault? Would that be love?
Do I love my country? Yes, I love her. I have also begun to familiarize myself with the history of my country, and I’ve begun to notice the world around me. I know that our economy and our status as a world power are due to slavery. I know that America has always suffered from the cancers of racism, greed and the lust for worldly power. I know that these things are ingrained in our culture in such a way that the powerful may not even notice them anymore, but the helpless can’t look away. My country hurts people because it’s sick, and it has been sick for more than two hundred years.
I do everything I know how to do, so that those sicknesses don’t infect me or my family. I try to raise my daughter differently, with different values. I teach her to love what is good in this great country, while despising the evils here, because that is how you love. Insofar as I have a platform to speak publicly, I try to do the same.
If you try to tell me that this country isn’t sick and its sickness is not hurting others, I’ll tell you that you’re wrong. If you tell me that saying so offends our troops and veterans, I’ll inform you that I think the troops and veterans will have to live with being offended. If you tell me that this is an attack on the American way of life, I’ll hold that our way of life should not be allowed to go on as it has, because our way of life is sick and needs healing.
This is how I love my country, and if you love her too, you’ll join me in doing what we can to heal her.
But turning a blind eye is no part of love.
(image via Pixabay)