I want to love this broken-hearted country, this land of shattered dreams and dashed hopes. I want to place my ear to the drumming cadence of our cities and hear the insistent pulse of life. I want to wander the forgotten highways of stories that run like wrinkles through our body politic.
Our nation is more than just our headlines. We are the collective sum of all our people, past and present, and as far into our uncertain future as we dare to imagine. We are our stories, sordid and sublime, humble and extraordinary. We are our conversations as we sit on our porches, or crouch on concrete stoops. We are our tragedies and horrors. We are every newborn hope.
We are 320 million inhalations in every moment and 320 million exhales in the next. For every breath that stops, another newborn gasps their first breath. We are all these moments of all our lives, a country of interwoven destinies, breathing in and out together. We are our cruelties and our violence. We are our kindnesses and healings. We are the joyful hitch in a happy step. We are sorrow weighing down our limbs.
I want to fall in love with my country, to remember our saving graces while decrying our failings and injustices. I have reeled in horror at the face of our ugliness; now I long to remember the beautiful again. We are lost without the depth of our souls, the vision of our dreams, the illumination of our hope. We become hollow shells of armor, brittle and empty, fueled by the fumes of rage. The struggle for justice becomes a long, pointless march in which we trudge in darkness through the mud. This is no way to live, no way to fight, no way to strive for change.
Instead, we must sink the roots of our heart and souls into the deep earth of human existence. We must seek out the nourishing ground of love. For every cruelty tossed in our faces, we must grasp the balm of kindness, connection, courage, and caring. These are the truths we stand up for. These are the “country” that we defend, a nation without borders, a place defined by the human heart. These values are the bedrock of what we call justice: the inalienable rights of all humans to live in peace, in hope, in compassion, in a community that dares to respect and even love itself.
Our country has learned to despise itself. Some clutch their race, class, gender and shove everyone else out of their “halluci-nation” of this country. Some include everyone in the shape of their imagined nation, but sneer and degrade the ones they despise. We are a nation divided by our fears and hatred, a nation that cannot bear its truth: we are broken-hearted, battered, terrified by what we are, unable to face the mirror and look our truth in the eye.
Dare to look. Your human soul is strong enough to hold the sorrow, the pain, the shock, the fear that stark and honest truths evoke. Hold your gaze until the “monster” you first perceive shifts, and a deeper layer is revealed. Like the old folktale of Tamlin shape-shifting through bear and beast, snake and lion, be like brave Janet, holding him in her love. Such love will weather the monstrous rages until the truth of our humanness emerges.
We are a nation that needs to love our true selves – not the hubris of our illusions of imperialistic might. We need to discard our arrogant posturing and bullying, and see the wounds and insecurities underneath. We need to let go of our bloated and false pride. We need to love the humbler truths, the hidden stories, the wounded places needing healing. We need to love our children and our elders, our people in all their colors, our artists and our workers, our frail and strong alike. This is the foundation of meaningful change, the commitment to a love strong enough to heal the brokenness, to address our wounds, to speak to our simple human beauties, to remember our kindness and commonalities, to nurture the basic human values that make us truly great. We need to believe in one another, to have faith that we – all 320 million of us – are worth the effort that healing and transformation require.
I want to love this broken-hearted country, this land of shattered dreams and dashed hopes. I want to help us rise, together, and embody our visions of equality and respect, caring and connection, justice and transformation. I want to fall in love again . . . so that we all might heal and live and change.
The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection and the sequel, The Roots of Resistance. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today”, when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution. This article is one of a series written by The Man From the North, which are not included in the novel, but can be read here. This essay was originally published on Dandelion Salad and can be reposted with attribution. Thank you.