What is the United States of America?
I want to say
it is the soil, rock, the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada and Appalachia, that it is the creeks and the Potomac and Mississippi and Sacramento rivers, that it is redwoods, aspen, tulip and elm trees, that it is the Everglades, the bison, bald eagles, quail, the abundant deer and squirrels, that it is the sunrise on the Atlantic and sunset on the Pacific.
But all of this was always, has always been. Before.
I want to say it is the Navajo, Iroquois, Cherokee, Sioux, Ohlone, I want to say it is the people who have always inhabited this land and continue to do so, I want to say it is their ethics, their roots in the land.
I want to say it is the resilience in the hearts of black slaves and their descendants who have survived and persevered against all odds, in a system that is built against them, I want to say it is the blues and bluegrass and rock and roll that originated from African Americans, a true testament to spirit and soul.
I want to say it is the strength of the Asian and Mexican and Central American immigrants to make a home here amidst hatred and ignorance that still floods this country every day. I want to say that it is the flourishing of cultural diversity.
But the United States is none of those things. Those things are, in spite of the United States. The United States of America is a chokehold, a system made by white people for white people, for the rich to stand on the backs of the poor, it is mass incarceration of people of color, it is the exploitation of the rest of the world, it is corporate greed, corruption, and the brainwashing of its population into hatred, racism, sexism, and homophobia. The United States of America is a place where someone like Donald Trump has a chance to win the presidency in 2016.
I have love for the soil, the songs, the resilience of the people who have always been here, the strength of oppressed communities to keep on existing and pushing to make things better. I wish to express my gratitude: that I can dwell in this place that does hold goodness – IN SPITE of its political being as the United States of America – and in spite of the legacy of my white European ancestors.