Why I’m Ashamed to Be an American

It’s probably pretty obvious why I’m writing this. In the space of a week, men across the country were given the thumbs-up to rape anyone they want with minimal consequences, a singer with everything going for her was murdered point-blank, and then there was Orlando.

It feels pointless at this point to chime in. It feels pointless to try and say anything that hasn’t already been said a thousand times. It feels like no one listens. And most importantly, it feels like nothing will change.

I try really hard to stay away from the news these days. I try to bury myself in writing my book. I try to read web comics, and things that will make me laugh. It’s hard to laugh these days. But every so often—pretty often, now—something so terrible happens that I can’t help but pay attention. I read the media coverage, and the sensationalizing of the perpetrators. They were acting alone, or maybe they were part of a terrorist organization. They got their guns legally, it seems … or maybe they got them on the black market. They were targeting gays, or children, or teachers, or something. Maybe they weren’t targeting anyone.

The analysis of the criminals goes on and on afterward. We want to know why someone could do something like this. We want to know what kind of sick mind would walk into a nightclub, or a concert hall, pull a trigger and kill dozens of people. We want to understand how a seemingly good little frat boy could do something so horrific as rape an unconscious woman.

I don’t think this is right—not at all. The motivations of the sick few should be beneath us. The questions asked are the wrong ones: why someone did what they did is moot after they already did it. The damage is, tragically, done. The question no one seems willing to ask is: how can I stop it from happening again? Ever?

There is a great deal of blood on our hands. Every single person who watches in silence as more people are massacred is guilty, to some measure. I’m including myself in this. We don’t want to see more senseless deaths, but we don’t want to do anything about it. We are a country lost in apathy, desensitized to the point where we know perfectly well that some horrific tragedy is only a matter of days away. We are a mindless corporatocracy where any attempt to change the mindset of the population is negated by the staggering greed of the companies that profit from death and horror. We are sold the ‘truth’ that guns save lives; we are sold the ‘truth’ that women ask for rape.

And when these tragedies occur, the media swallows it whole, spitting out the gory details and feeding on the sense of horror they instill. Should we be horrified when something like Orlando occurs? Of course. But should people be allowed to capitalize on that horror to push their agendas? How many media bosses, waking on Sunday morning to the exploding twittersphere, secretly thought about how many more copies they were going to sell, or how many more hits they were going to get?

Although I was born an American, I spent more of my life outside this country than in it. Living in the United Kingdom for fifteen years, I heard of such tragedies on the news—but they were always in another country. We were told to focus on tragedies in Afghanistan, or Kazakstan. We were taught that bad things happened elsewhere, but our country was safe. Living in England, I felt safe walking up to a police officer and asking for directions. Living in England, I didn’t get a little thrill of fear every time I saw a cop car. But wait—in England, the cops don’t have guns. Imagine that—the law enforcement officers don’t carry weapons capable of killing people.

At what point did law enforcement become a question of shoot-to-kill? When did sheriffs have to shoot down the bad guys, or be shot themselves? Sadly, I fear this has been ingrained in the American psyche since the birth of our country. There were always bad guys with guns, so we had to have good guys with guns. It’s true—a good person with a gun is unlikely to go into a movie theater and open fire. But there are bad people out there, too—and they get guns too.

This country is broken. Bad guys get guns, and rapists are let off the hook because it might damage their career. People die at the hands of violence every day, and all we can do as a nation is mourn. Our justice system is deeply flawed, to the extent that police can kill people without any checks or balances, and judges can hand down sentences of their own liking, out of pity—or a lack of it. There are people in jail serving more time for possessing marijuana—a legal drug in some states—than Brock Turner got for raping an unconscious woman. Last I checked, rape wasn’t legal anywhere.

When I returned to the United States six years ago, I had some hope. We had a good president, I thought. Gay marriage was being legalized. Things were looking up.

That hope is gone. A fascist bigot is in line to run the country. Guns are more prevalent, it seems, than ever before. Rapists get more lenient sentences than drug addicts who harm no one but themselves. I’m in despair. And as much as I try to shut myself in, as much as I try to keep the violence out, it seeps in. There is no ignoring it.

All of a sudden, I realize that I’m not living in America anymore. Cartels run the country under the guise of legal corporations, and dictators rise to power under the pretense of democracy. And I just want to feel safe again. I want to live in a place where the worst crimes are bungled robberies. Frankly, I just want out.

I’ve lost sight of the good in this country. I’ve lost sight of the kindness. All I see are masses of paranoid strangers, eager to believe what they’re told because they think it makes them safer. And the scariest part is the sweeping majority are safe, because they live far from the population centers where these crimes inevitably occur. And that majority are the ones who buy the guns, who rape their wives, and who glorify a fascist.

I’m done. I’m out. As soon as I’m able, I’m packing up and leaving. I don’t want to live here anymore. I don’t see change ever happening. I’d love to be proved wrong, but I doubt it’ll happen.

I’m ashamed to be an American. I’m ashamed to be descended from such a vile, hate-filled place. And while I know there are good people still, people with love in their hearts, it makes me cry to know that it’s those good people who suffer every day. They don’t deserve their fates. I encourage them—all the good of this country—leave while you can. Leave this place to burn. Maybe when it’s over, we can start all over again.

Maybe I’m just being depressed and cynical. Maybe I ought to think of the people marching in L.A. despite the tragedy in Orlando. Maybe I ought to think of the decent men who would never lay a hand on a woman without her consent. But it’s damn hard.

It’s damn hard.

Featured image taken from http://libertynews.com/2015/06/activist-group-disarm-nypd-publicly-announces-burn-the-american-flags-event-as-july-4th-approaches/.

11 thoughts on “Why I’m Ashamed to Be an American

  1. I’m sorry your country is going to shite. I agree that focus is on the wrong subject. I’m Canadian, so I don’t know all the details because I don’t live in America. I’ll be 33 years old this year and I have never been to America. I don’t ever want to go. I’m too scared to go, to be honest. I’m certain there are beautiful parts but I don’t want to die. Maybe that’s an extreme generalization, but it’s my view at this time.
    I also have two children: boys. You’ll never believe how relieved I was to have boys. I did not want to bring girls into this world. I’m a statistic, which is all I’ll say here, but after reading the sentencing for that rapist my heart broke.
    Canada isn’t much better, and it’s horrific. Something needs to change.

    • Hey Sarah, I’m sorry to hear about your experiences, and how hurt you must be. It’s sad to think of never coming to the United States, because there are some amazing things here. The people, on the other hand—that is to say, the unwashed masses—are terrifying sometimes. I wish you all the best for yourself and your children; I know you’ll raise them to understand these things.

      • I guess I’m just scared. I don’t know any Americans personally so I only have the media to go by. My rational brain knows that the media is blowing everything out of proportion, but my irrational brain gets nervous hahahaha. Maybe one day I’ll venture out there. I have a lot of Canada I want to see first 🙂

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