My Love/Hate Affair With My Country
By Scottie Lowe
I am to be counted among the small percentage of the population who harbors a simultaneous deep love and a heart-wrenching disappointment with my country. I can’t say that I hate my country by any stretch of the imagination because I adore the people, places, and events that have shaped my identity but to suggest that I have a God-Bless-America-Of-Thee-I-Sing blanket patriotism would be disingenuous as well. I love my nation but I see her flaws and shortcomings. I do not hate my country but I hate some of the aspects of it that taint its supposed greatness. I see myself first and foremost as a citizen of the world; my life and my story are reflected in the eyes of people from all around the globe. I’m not of the belief that man-made borders make the particular land I was born on more sacred; more deserving of peace, or that this soil somehow grants its inhabitants greater rights than any other human being. I can’t wear red, white, and blue colored glasses and wrap myself in Old Glory, blinded by visions of apple pie and baseball that distract me from the harsh realities of this country’s past, and present injustices.
I live in a country that I willingly acknowledge affords me personal freedoms that I take for granted every minute of every day. I love that I have a constitutional right to practice any religion under the sun in this country. Hell, I can create my own religion, recruit members, and be tax-exempt in this country if I so choose and it’s perfectly legal and I don’t have to worship in secret or fear late night storming paratroopers arresting and torturing me for my beliefs. I detest the fact that the commonly held perception is that this is a Christian nation and that oppressive, repressed, and tyrannical religious zealots have decided that their moral misinterpretations of the bible are the standards by which I should be judged. The only voices considered valid in discussions of faith are those who claim that Christianity is the only, true, and right religion for America and that the vast majority of my fellow citizens have no respect for my first amendment rights to religious freedom.
I love my country and the unparalleled sense of community and togetherness that arises when we face collective tragedy. I also love that I can speak my mind without fear of prosecution. I hate the fact that when I use my God-given common sense, logic, reason, research, and information to suggest that there are factors that surround September 11th that don’t add up, I’m persecuted and labeled a lunatic, conspiracy theorist, and unpatriotic. I will never forget the innocent lives lost on that fateful day but I don’t think those lives have more value than those lost during Hurricane Katrina or those lost en masse anywhere else in the world for that matter. I mourn for the families of those that died, and even those that survived but I recognize that millions upon millions of enslaved Africans who were kidnapped and enslaved and brought to this country have no monument, have no movie, no lobbyists in Congress, have no yellow ribbons on SUVs for their loss of life, liberty, and their pursuit of happiness.
I feel safe in knowing that I have the right to own a gun to defend myself even though I have not even the tiniest inkling to do so. Gun violence has proven itself to be an epidemic in this country and radical militias are plotting at this moment to kill people like me because their particular brand of patriotism deems me expendable in their pursuit of a purer nation state so that safety seems a tad bit misplaced but I accept that I have the right to bear arms. I’d much rather live in a nation where differences are celebrated and respected, where people can live comfortably in their own skin without the need to try to control, dictate, or annihilate anyone who makes them mad or disagrees with them. I understand that there are nations in this world where I couldn’t even express my displeasure without imprisonment or worse so for that I love my country.
I appreciate the fact that I can live freely as a woman in the United States without fear of having my genitals mutilated, state sanctioned rape, or being considered a second class citizen just because I possess a uterus. I’m troubled by the fact that I can’t turn on the television or radio without being insulted or denigrated for my gender. I hate the fact that misogyny is a multi-billion dollar form of entertainment in this country.
Unlike some other places on earth, I have the right to love anyone I desire, regardless of their gender here. Regrettably, I don’t have a right to marry whom I choose because some people believe that I will infringe upon their heterosexual rights if I do. I’m not gay. I’m not even sure I will ever have an overwhelming need to get married again. I just can’t stomach the fact that a country that proclaims to want the tired, poor, and huddled masses from all over the world doesn’t have tolerance and acceptance for our very own neighbors who want to share in a committed, loving relationship with all the benefits and privileges thereof. The very same people who claim that homosexuals are immoral and promiscuous are the ones who are working to ensure that they can’t ascribe to matrimonial monogamy. It’s difficult to understand why in this great land, we can’t live and let live.
I feel incredibly blessed to live in a country where I have a right to choose what to do with my reproductive body. Right to lifers in this country not only want to take my ability to control my body away from me, they also want to ensure that my child and I won’t have access to adequate affordable health care, housing, education, and opportunity. Their concern for my fetus ends when I give birth. Then, it becomes their mission to see that I’m denied every social benefit that ensures the well-being of my offspring and the community at large. It’s precisely that hypocrisy that infuriates me about the USA.
There can be no question that the U.S. stands alone as the richest, most alluring country in the world. People from other nations see this as the Promised Land. It’s here they want to move and migrate in order to realize their dreams of wealth and prosperity with vision of streets of gold and the land of milk and honey. My country has laws in place to ensure that I don’t have to toil in a sweatshop for a month and only bring home $7.00. The United States protects my rights if I’m injured on the job, if an employer harasses me, if I lose my job, and when I retire. The people of the United States, a very large portion of them rather, want to demonize people who come to this country in pursuit of a better life in this country. The disdain and hatred for undocumented workers, who work in jobs no one else would want, who receive a mere pittance in exchange for back breaking labor, and who have no rights as even human beings let alone employees is was makes me ashamed of my country. With all the wealth, with all the resources this country has, the greed and selfishness of people who think there isn’t enough to go around and who actually feel justified in their beliefs that we should build a wall to prevent people from having access to providing for their families is despicable.
I love that here in America I have access to museums and libraries and some of the best educational institutions in the world. I am incredibly blessed by the fact that my friends are from virtually every corner of the globe; I belong to a community of activists and artists who are passionate about fighting for justice, diversity, and truth. As an American citizen I can vote and participate in the political process however liberal my agendas. I hate that my ancestors had to shed their blood and in many instances, give their lives in order for me to be a part of that process. My heart soars that I could be a part of an election in a country with such an odious history of racism elected an altogether brilliant man of color to this nation’s highest office. I hate that racism is at the core of the right-wing criticisms against him. I love that I reside in a country where the freedom of speech is protected. I hate that Fox News isn’t seen for the hate-filled, racist, liars that they are and shut down with public outrage and a demand for more fair and accurate reporting. I love the sweet summer peaches of Georgia and the electricity of New York City at 4 a.m. I love the heartbeat of Washington D.C. and the shrimp etouffee of N’awlins. The music and culture of Miami’s Latino population infuse me with vitality and I’m equally moved by the traditions and food of the Chinese people of San Francisco. There’s nothing better than waking up on a brisk Chicago spring morning and going running by the lake. I love the Midwestern fields flowing with amber waves of grain and the purple mountains with their majestic views of my homeland, I love the Redwoods, the Grand Canyon, and the flowing Mississippi River. I hate the fact that the indigenous people of this land have been marginalized and disenfranchised with the acts of genocide that have been ignored and erased from the history books. I love Florence, South Carolina where I would go in the summer and spend time with my cousins and get bitten by mosquitoes the size of quarters and eat the best food I’ve ever tasted at The Thunderbird Inn.
I hate the projects of the inner cities where people are piled on top of each other like rats with no plan to provide them with affordable, decent housing, as if they deserve to live like that simply because they are poor. I hate the segregation of the south where Blacks are kept in their place with imaginary boundaries and intentional mis-education. I hate that the soil of the south is stained with the blood of my ancestors who hung from the trees like strange fruit for the entertainment of others.
I love my country because it is my home. To be born in this time, in this place is to be considered fortunate. Simply because I am a United States inhabitant, I know that my voice has a greater opportunity to be heard and, moreover, respected around the globe. Listening to the American art forms of jazz, the blues, and Negro spirituals soothes my soul. If only they weren’t born of the horrendous history of chattel slavery that has been sanitized to appear little more than a mistake and not one of the most egregious acts of terror against humanity that it really was.
Our founding fathers saw fit to ensure that each and every person born in this nation had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The irony that plagues me is that during that very time individuals with beautiful black skin were considered 3/5ths of a human being, little more than animals, who labored to make this country the wealthiest in the world. I want desperately to love my country because it is the bastion of principles that it proclaims. Oh were it truly the land of the free and the home of the brave with liberty and justice for all. Sadly, they are empty cliches. Injustice reigns freely from sea to shining sea based on race, gender, income level, physical ability, age, and sexual orientation. I can’t, in good consciousness, give my unconditional love to a nation that perpetuates wars on concepts where innocent people are victims of capitalist agendas but I can love the potential for my United States of America, a beautiful jewel with flawed facets, to live out its mission so that all its children might be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Scottie Lowe is an author, activist, and she is also the creator of www.AfroerotiK.com.