The Other America

You can’t listen to the few words Joe Biden spoke when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with distinction, without realizing what deeply decent people we have had running this country.

At a moment when Moonlight, Fences, and Hidden Figures are in theatres.

At a moment when rights for trans people were really having an effect.

At a moment when the Pipeline protests caught the national attention and once again, Native Americans showed us how to respect our land and ourselves.

At a moment when everything seemed to be going something like right finally, when our national conversation about the prison pipeline and the deep patriotism of the Muslim parents of a fallen war hero reminded us of the worst and the best we can be as a nation — at that very moment, it all fell apart.

It hasn’t yet. The fumes of Obama’s legacy are what we’re running on now. It was only 8 years ago when the high hopes and inspired souls overjoyed so many of us; that we looked at each other with wide-eyed amazement as if to say can you believe we did this? And the rest of the world looked at the US with surprise and respect: we could be still be America. We were.

I don’t know what we’re going to become. That other America, the wretched one, the gilded mean one of bottom lines and wealthy excess, of poorer people making the groceries stretch a little longer, of a nervous middle class, what of it there still is, of people dying from medical conditions they might have survived in a more generous time.

This is going to be hard. We are going to suffer, as will the land, and the critters, and people we know and love and strangers we don’t know but might love if we knew them.

But this eight years that just passed is something for us to hang our hopes on. That other America that we’ve now all seen and experienced at least a little, a period where more people gained rights, not fewer. Where common sense actually counted. Where Black Lives Matter showed us all what the legacy of racism really means. Where some actions, and some words, convinced us all we were in this together.

So I’m going to keep saying it, as Obama did when he gave his farewell address: yes, we can.

And apparently we’re going to damn have to.

Helen Boyd

is the author of My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married.

3 Comments

  1. Helen, time to take a step back. Your perspective is a little to close and granular. Progress may oscillate, but it usually has vector, meaning direction and velocity. We’re moving in the direction that it needs to, but at this small snapshot in time, it’s oscillating in a way that may make some nervous at best. I recall the henny penny’s in 2008 when Obama was elected. There still here and so are we. The world didn’t end and I suspect the same is with Trump. I agree that some of the people he’s picked aren’t in our corner, but he’s not someone that’s doctrinaire about anything political or religious. If the congress/senate overreach, we’ll see a correction there like we did in 2010. What upsets me more is the pendulastic swings in political ideology that governs us that get more extreme with each election. Instead of focusing on solving problems, a lot of us and I mean Americans are stuck in a religious war of whose beliefs are correct. Neither are really, certainly not completely and what’s more troubling is that smart people in either corner don’t recognize it for what it is. Instead we default to the liturgy and orthodoxy we’ve been programmed. What both sides need to realize is that shouting about privilege or the bible told me so from the other side of the room doesn’t bring people together. Calling people racist or stupid or libtard or freak doesn’t either. SO, take a step back and a deep breath. it’s going to be ok. Keep up the good fight, but be civil and focus on problems. The religion is unnecessary and doesn’t help. It’s going to be ok.

  2. That is very, very, very well said. Thank you.
    There are millions and millions of good people girding up their loins to keep hope alive. I am honored to join them.

  3. TrudieAnne, I don’t really see what you’re talking about re: religion. I don’t mention it. And if you mean ideology, that’s not even what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the American Project, if you will, of providing more rights to more people as time goes on. This may be the first time we see a reversal of that.

Leave a Reply