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America, I Hate You (America, I Love You)

A few months ago, it occurred to me that I’d been going out and drinking more than usual. “I’m just busy”, I thought. “I say yes to people too often.” And while that’s true, I was a bit too willing. Usually, I’m happiest when I’m being productive and earning my cocktails. (To be clear, I wasn’t waking up pantsless in any gutters. Just going out too much.) After thinking it over, I started to count back to when this started- it seems to have begun in November. Remember November? I do. The Cubs won the world series, my dad had open-heart surgery, and America went down the toilet. It was a weird month. It was a stressful month. I remember standing in my parents’ kitchen on election night, drinking tequila out of the bottle and crying. I know that seems dramatic, but everything that’s happened in the last eight months has validated that behavior. And isn’t that a shame? There are few things that amuse me more than making fun of my past self for being dramatic, but this time I was right on target. Bottoms up, November Kate, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Anyway, I reminded myself that I’m getting married next year and got back to a healthier routine. My dad is recovering beautifully and no, it wasn’t a dream, my Cubbies really are World Series champs, so that’s good. But Donald Trump is president and it feels like a nightmare. There have been a few brief shining moments; things you’d think he just couldn’t recover from. Like when Flynn resigned or when he fired Comey; it seemed like things were really blowing up in his face. Even the close race between Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel. But then I remembered all the destructive power that both he and Congress still have. Y’know, like healthcare. Or this. Or this. This is the stuff that makes me wake with a start in the night and think, “DONALD TRUMP IS PRESIDENT?!” It takes me awhile to fall back asleep.

This is all a lesson in naiveté, I guess.

About ten years ago on the Fourth of July, I wrote a Facebook status that said, “I love America! lol jkjkjkjkjkjk.” I thought I was being controversial (or something). I was in the midst of watching documentaries and reading a lot of long-form articles (when I should have been working) and my deduction was, “Maaaaan, this country is messed UP!” I also smoked too many bowls back then, so I usually erred on the side of distrust and paranoia. The massive amount of information I was ingesting left me feeling unpatriotic, afraid of nationalism, and afraid that one day a Trump-like scenario would occur. So, despite the fact that I could barely function as a responsible adult in the world, I was right about one thing.

And here we are.

America, I kind of hate you right now. This didn’t happen overnight. This is a result of our own greed, decadence, anti-intellectualism, and apathy. So, you’ll have to excuse me as I roll my eyes and gag a little at every “‘MURICA” post I see this week. I’m told that humanity errs on the side of progress, despite intermittent lags. But the greatest world power is acting like a befuddled, racist old uncle leaning against the open bar at a family wedding. This country seemingly voted itself onto the reprehensible side of history. But on July 4th, most will write that off (if it even registers), watch fireworks, wish the country a Happy Birthday, and think nothing of the slightly terrifying path we seem to be on. I suppose this is a result of generation after generation enjoying the benefits that come with being the world power. We’ve gotten comfortable. But WUT-EV-ERRR, wake the hell up and care about the world beyond your cool flag shorts, bro.

I get mad at my loved ones who don’t take care of themselves. The ones that still smoke, drink too much, refuse to lose weight, or avoid going to the doctor. I get mad because I love them so much and I want them to be healthy and okay. I want them in my life. Desperately.

America, you’re a loved one. Home to the mountains that astound me and the cities that inspire me. You’re the home of Motown, Maya Angelou, and Bruce Springsteen. Not to mention nearly all my family and friends. So when I say I hate you it’s really because I love you. Desperately. I’m desperate for you (us) to be okay, to thrive, to inspire. I realize it’s an unrealistic hope at this point, but I can’t help it; you’re the only country I’ve got. And just like my friend that sucks down a pack a day, I want (need) you in my life.

Long before I actually started reading James Baldwin, I emailed myself this quote of his: “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

I insist on the right to my own frustration, my own boiling anger, my own desperate love. Because of and for my country.

 

 

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