American English

One in a series of essays about being American.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The woman in the black and white hijab like costume told my parents that we all are in America now and in America we speak English not the Kings English but the American English because while we are descended from England (well, some people are) because they founded this country (not really) and they built this country (definitely not really) we must therefore speak English (not really) not the King’s English because we fought a revolution against the King of England that’s why we don’t speak the King’s English but the American English that we speak everywhere otherwise how will Spanish-speaking (that’s another poem) people understand their orders to clean the bathrooms or push racks of clothing down seventh avenue or cook in their restaurant kitchens or wash their dishes or take care of their lawns or their children or whatever it is that we do when they’re not looking while some of us speak that non-American lingo hoping they don’t hear us because we know what they will do when they hear that non-American lingo and start screaming like banshees that they can’t stand to hear our mumbo jumbo como esta usted foreign lingo that came from our brown and black mouths and yes there are some white people on those same islands and countries that were raped and conquered by those European Spanish people from the Europe side of the world where the King of England lives near but doesn’t speak that foreign lingo that they say they can’t or won’t understand and refuse to acknowledge it but meanwhile they live in cities and neighborhoods with Spanish names and eat at those restaurants with Spanish names that they swear ain’t the same because that’s hip and cool and they tell me they love them some carnitas and burritos and arroz and beans and tacos and Cuban sandwiches but hate that we speak that foreign lingo in their presence puncturing their sense of identity as an American speaking you know American English because we might be talking about them and it is important that they always understand what is being spoken around them except for their hundred year old polish grandfather or eighty year old Italian cousin who came to visit and has no idea what the fuck they’re saying and the nice German girl they met while on vacation in Berlin at the Octoberfest festival the one they wanted to show her their sausage sandwich because hell who needs lingo when everyone can use hand signals and pictures to show what they mean but they still complain that everyone should know how to speak American English even the people who speak the King’s English even the damn people who come from China and Africa and the Middle East and they wonder in American English why won’t those people stop talking that foreign lingo shit because they’re convinced that they must be talking about them otherwise why wouldn’t they talk like every other red-blooded American with no accents and using simple words that they can understand without looking them up on google insisting that one or at the most two syllable words only in American English is sufficient (there you go using a big word) for them to understand while some of us dream that we could knew more the one or two syllable American English words like French words and yes Spanish words and Japanese words and Arabic words and even German and Italian words so we can communicate with as many people in the world and learn to share and learn their lives and maybe learn a thing or two that all of have in common and those things we don’t have in common and not worry about whether they’re talking shit about us but yeah it would be cool to learn a couple of curse words in French (connard) and Italian (figlio di puttana) and German (Mutterfucker) and Japanese (マザーファッカー) and Chinese (混蛋)and Spanish (hijo de puta) and wouldn’t that be cool so that the next time some fool tells all of us that we can’t speak anything but the American English (what exactly is that again) we could riff off some of these words and impress them because they wouldn’t know if I was talking about them or their mother and father or the close-minded mind that thinks all people in this country speak exactly the same without any accents because there are words that only they in their part of the country knows those words and an accent in New England is going to sound different than one in Alabama so really they need to get their asses out of their heads and learn a thing or two that might make them uncomfortable because they don’t know it yet but it might help them with that German woman or Italian man or how to order in an ethnic restaurant unless they’re going to stay in their neighborhood in their block in their house all their life damning anything and anyone outside their comfort zone learning nothing seeing nothing doing nothing being nothing all because they refuse to learn something because they think they already know everything there is to know and it is only spoken in American (tell me again what that is) English demonstrating once again how small how narrow how dumb a life that must be and that they really are so proud of it even if it makes them smaller than a grain of sand a speck of dirt that is so insignificant (no big words please) that there is no hope for them and that is sad for them and this country and all of our futures.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

1968: A Year of Violent Living

The following essay was written for my final Creative Nonfiction class submission at California State University, Long Beach, Spring 2022.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay copy

In 1968, I was nineteen, living in the Bronx. I couldn’t feel how deep was the water around me or know I would almost drown in it. My mind and life were mired in an ocean of depression and anxiety. The turmoil was lurking on the horizon. Youth were challenging the world order.

War was everywhere, in faraway lands, on American streets, in our souls. The war in Vietnam continued to eat the young even as we protested across this country. The champions of a peaceful revolution were assassinated. Racist forces held their ground against the forward movement of American history. The old voices told us to believe that America was exceptional. That racism, sexism, income disparities, and class warfare were only aberrations. They called us communists, rabble-rousers, and traitors. According to them, we were the real danger to America. They sicced police violence down on us. Bodies and blood flowed like a flash flood across America’s urban landscape.

I battled for survival inside the cyclone, where my life would be defined by two lies: a “normal” life during the day and a dope fiend at night.

It was not what I dreamed 
when I was a kid 
looking into the future 
or what my mother and father 
had wished. 

Amid the violent chaos, 
a quiet but deadly menace 
stalked the Bronx. 
Its campaign for death
swept me up. 

I pushed back against the waves of depression with long subway rides from the South Bronx to Greenwich Village to seek camaraderie with other anti-war compatriots. There were the secret Thursday shopping excursions into Manhattan with my girlfriend Chicky, who hid the relationship from her family. We swore we were in love. The Fridays with my boys at Saint Anselm Catholic Youth Organization. We would shoot hoops and pool and then run off to Carlos’s basement apartment to smoke weed and listen to Red Foxx and Moms Mabley comedy albums.

Despite my worst efforts, my life was besieged by a growing heroin habit, the petty crimes to feed it, and the inevitable drug overdoses. I was scared, confused, and angry, and sure I would be doomed to six feet under.

In the dope world,
everyone lies and cheats. 
It’s the bargain with the devil. 
imported from some foreign country 
smuggled across thousands of miles 
hidden in suitcase bottoms 
to apartments full of naked women 
mixing it with baby milk powder 
or rat poison 
into a glassine bag 
so you can buy 
from a man with no name 
in some dark hidden hallway.

I was old enough to go to Vietnam but wasn’t ready to die in a faraway land. So, I bluffed my way out with a promise of military service only in a war or national emergency. So what the hell did they call what was happening in Vietnam? The powers in Washington, D.C. couldn’t or wouldn’t admit there was a war there.

Meanwhile, my friends were disappearing from the hood—drafted to become the wounded and dead bodies that kept piling up in field hospitals and black bags 8,637 miles away. Young people, the fodder for the war machine, lost faith in the Vietnam conflict and the illusion that America was exceptional.

At home, another battle raged on between my father and me. Even as the bleak reality of the war filled the evening newscasts and newspaper headlines every day, my father declared America was winning. I only saw death and hopelessness. In protest, I burned my draft card at a UN rally.

Abandoned apartments 
became shooting galleries 
like the one
off Willis Avenue 
where a violent moment, 
a drug overdose, 
played out 
like a bad crime movie 
that would not stop.
It was my daily dance with mainline, 
straight into the central vein. 
Slumped in a broken down 
upholstered chair
that had seen a more peaceful, 
relaxing time.
My hands smeared 
with pain and blood, 
surrounded by the smell 
of alcohol, weed,
a grease-stained brown shopping bag, 
a trail of dead food, 
half-empty beer cans,
and desperate dreams.
Image by mmreyesa from Pixabay

It was the year of cities burning. New York, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Newark, Washington, D.C. I wanted to join the urban guerrillas committed to tearing it all down. I was no longer willing to sit on the sidelines watching televised pandemonium.

I left a Wall Street trading job to enlist in the South Bronx social justice army to battle over community control of public schools. The New York City Teachers’ Union closed the city schools against community control, the largest strike in the city’s history. Community groups, parents, and teacher allies vowed to battle the union and the Central Board of Education in the streets and schools. The days were filled with marches, school board meeting takeovers, and Black and Latino parent mobilization to fight for local control.

There is a ritual.
There is always a ritual 
when preparing 
for the violent death
that is sure to come.
Don’t worry about sterile. 
Ignore the dirt on the stairs
to the apartment, 
the old blood dripping down its walls, 
or the smell you swear is 
“Man, did someone shit up in here?” 
This is not Good Housekeeping certified.
Image by joanbrown51 from Pixabay

The cops lined up military-style in a straight-line shoulder to shoulder on that Friday, September 13, in front of JHS 52, with their shiny badges and nice crisp uniforms. Their police hats tipped just right on their lovely crew-cut white heads. Their job was to keep the threatening hordes of black and brown mothers and their children from conjuring up a new life and future beyond the South Bronx and public housing and run-down tenement buildings.

The parents were there to open the school for their kids so they could pledge allegiance to the flag, become successful Americans, and move to New Jersey, Long Island, New Rochelle, or Connecticut. It could happen. It’s the American Dream.

Instead, they were destined to work low-paying jobs. You could find them at the greasy spoon in El Barrio, shuffling clothes racks down 7th Avenue or sorting through boxes of vegetables at the Hunts Point Market. 

injecting directly into my vein 
was the only way 
to enjoy the fruits of the opium poppy. 
I pulled out the eyedropper
 and a small needle 
ready to shove heroin
Smack, H, Chiba, Junk, Skag, Dope 
 into my body.

An old bottle of murky water 
the rusting bottle cap 
on an equally rusting coffee table
leftover from the last fool 
who overdosed while 
crying for his mommy, 
“Don’t take this ride on the mainline home.”

I’m choking from the stink 
that’s floating around me. 
I needed to get high 
with my last five dollars 
until payday Friday.

The police megaphone announced there would be no trespassing that day. Not on their watch.

The spotlight turned to one constable, a defender of the social order, the vanguard against disorder. A young, fresh-faced stalwart for a way of life, an ax handle in his hand. This ax handle, typically 32 to 36 inches long, was not the usual official policeman’s nightstick. The longer ones worked best for big timber and splitting wood. The shorter lengths were superior for smaller timber and general utility work. The latter was also best for beating those black and brown people who thought they could trespass onto public property as if they were taxpayers.

On this day, the American Dream turned into an American nightmare. The one defender of the social order would use that ax handle as he saw in those news reports from the south. They knew how to use the ax handle properly. Swing and never miss.

Into the bottle cap 
I so carefully squeezed 
one, two, three drops 
of unclean water.

The water slowly mixed 
with the off-white specks of heroin. 
Cooked it with a match 
underneath the cap 
until it blends into a muddy liquid.
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

The picture in front of me was vivid, living in my nightmares for years into the future. Swing baby, crush some heads, some Friday daydreams. Swing that ax handle like it’s 1968. The angry spittle foamed from his face and those of his comrades.

The message was clear. The ax handle would crash through some heads and bodies to teach them a lesson. “Don’t fuck with us. We’re the man. We are the power.”

No amount of black and brown mothers with their innocent children at their sides could stop them. Not one. It was madness run amuck. They went after the first black guy they saw, swearing that he was the Black Panther Party. As if they all looked alike. Brown hands reached out to stop the arrest. Nightsticks and the ax handle blocked the charging crowd.

I grabbed a blue uniform. A club and an arm then wrapped around my throat choking me. My eyeglasses crashed onto the sidewalk. My breath escaped from my lungs. Two arms became four become six as I was lifted and hauled to a waiting police car.

My belt wrapped around my upper arm 
looked for the central vein 
that cried for the high.
And the muddy water sucked up 
through the thin needle
from the rusting bottle cap 
through the weeks-old cotton ball 
up into the eyedropper 
back down through the needle 
and down I plunged 
and the rush of warmth
that turned to panic
while my soul was
falling and falling and falling.
And I realized
this is not a trip home or into paradise.
No one would save me here.

Those guardians of society proved they would do anything to protect their American Dream. The war for social justice continues until this day.

Image by ArtWithPam from Pixabay
Suddenly, I was falling out 
out of the apartment
down broken stairs
spilling out into the street
where I heard heavenly music 
crashing with the sounds of sirens, 
what my father would later call me 
in the emergency room,
I’m shrieking, 
But I’m alive,
I’m alive. 

My Country, Right or Wrong?

Image by kalhh from Pixabay 

This past 4th of July celebration with its American flag decorations and fireworks displays and the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the radio made me think about how much patriotism is spoon-fed to us growing up in the United States of America.

This is the story we are taught to believe: that some brave white men (it’s always courageous white men in the history books and movies) set out to make the United States of America by declaring independence from the British Crown. They alone fought the war to make it happen. It’s a great story. The oppressed take on the oppressor and tell them to get the eff out of their lives and kick their ass to make freedom ring over the land. Good story, but everything about this country is not the whole story.

Born and growing up in the fifties and early sixties in the South Bronx, I was taught that patriotism was all about flag-waving, talking shit about the evil empire of communism, and making sure that no one talked shit about America. However, it was okay for everyone else to talk shit about politicians, the IRS, the DMV, people on welfare, and of course, anyone who wasn’t white (Although in New York, talking about the Jews, Italians, and Irish was often allowed).

Howard Zinn at MIT 2005 – The Myth of American Exceptionalism

The concept of patriotism was inculcated into our young minds by our Catholic school and the endless flag-waving movies on television and at the local movie house. I was a big fan of James Cagney’s portrayal of George M. Cohen and his Yankee Doodle Dandy. My father, who was Puerto Rican born (U.S. citizens since 1917) and served in the U.S. Army during World War Two, constantly repeated the mantra of American patriotism, “My country, right or wrong.” Trust me; he wasn’t alone.

You were never patriotic enough. For example, the fifties were the times of the famous Senator Joseph McCarthy witch hunts. A communist in every level of government, colleges, unions, hell, have you looked under your bed lately? Be careful what you say or else. America may have been the home of the free and brave, but only if you toed the line, whatever that was. The problem was that they kept moving the line. The consensus in White America (there were more People of Color in this camp than you might believe) was that America was the land of freedom, even if it meant you couldn’t exercise that freedom or didn’t have that freedom. Remember, the modern-day Civil Rights Act wasn’t enacted until 1964. The Voting Rights Act came the following year, in 1965.

Myths from American History Class: Atlantic Magazine

It was all about the illusion of freedom. Just ask Black, Brown, indigenous people, all women, and most Asians during the fifties in America. For many folks, patriotism was loyalty to a myth, a dream that sometimes made you feel good because you thought you belonged but didn’t. If you fought in a war, you figured you paid the price of admission, so you should be able to attend the party. The reality was, however, often something else.

This is more relevant today as we react and respond to threats on even fundamental voting freedoms. This essential freedom is now threatened by potential repeats of the efforts to overthrow the peaceful transfer of power last year. The realistic fear is that 2021 was a dress rehearsal for the 2022 and 2024 elections. You begin to wonder what is it about America I should be cheering, “My country, right or wrong.”

8 False American History Facts You Always Thought Were True

We love wrapping ourselves in myths. From school to our religious institutions to the media, American history is distorted to favor the winners, which usually translates into white men the victors. Everyone else are either the defeated or just didn’t really do anything to help. We’re talking indigenous people, enslaved Africans, the excluded Chinese, interned Japanese Americans, and brown people. No matter that those who were not brought here by force came here just like Europeans in search of a new and free life. If they complained about their treatment when they got here, they were told to go back where they came from. “America, Love it or Leave it.”

All this talk of “America, Love it or Leave it” or any of its modern day versions needs to be seen in the context of what it is all about, power. At first, it was the power of the majority over the minority. The majority of Americans who were white could decide who got rewarded and who got punished. Who got rights and who didn’t. They (you know whom I mean) controlled the power of government, business, and religion. They used the money that power generated to build more power and then more money and then more power. They had a head start because they were good at it (Okay, they’re still very good at it).

Now, as more People of Color and their liberal/progressive political allies become the majority in some states and cities, they (Come on, do I need to spell out who they are?) have become the minority. But they’re not sitting by and taking it gracefully. No, while they’ve had the power for most of the time this nation has existed, President Barack Obama scared the bejeesus out of them. From that moment until today, they have done everything they can to ensure that the year 2045 never arrives. That is the year People of Color are forecasted to be the majority in this country.

(Quick aside: I’ve never believed that just because People of Color are the majority, it means we’re all suddenly going to abandon this country’s white-dominated political and cultural domination.)

Jordan Klepper Shows Trump Supporters January 6th Hearing Clips | The Daily Show

Well, they are not taking any chances. The preparations are underway for preserving majority rule even when they become a minority. Beginning with the Tea Party and now with Trump’s party, the winds have shifted, and we, whoever we are, will get our asses kicked. Not just the Democratic Party (I got your When they go low, we go high right here) but also any true Independents, scared as shit Republicans, and every other political party in this country who sees the writing on the wall. When they say, America, love or leave it”, they mean love it or leave it, which translates into “otherwise we’ll send your ass back to whatever shithole country the hell you came from.” Yeah, news to them: Ain’t going anywhere. I’m here to stay. Fuggedaboutit.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before

The unraveling of America. Not that we were ever as knotted together as we think we were.

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Road Rage
A group of teenagers (or adults) is beating up another teenager (or adult) in a public space, and no one who is witnessing it attempts to stop it. Instead, everyone pulls out their phones and start recording the event, and some even live stream it. Another human being whose video of the incident later gets 225,643 likes steps over the victim on the ground because they have places to go. The victim is so severely injured that they are transported to the hospital, where they suffer needlessly or die. Maybe, they'll get five minutes on the news. 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Mask Fights
You’re seventy-three years old and high-risk health-wise, and you go to the Urologist’s office in Orange County where you see a waiting room of other senior-looking men and a few women who you assume might also be at risk health-wise considering their age and the reason they are there and the intake person is a young woman who is not wearing a mask in the middle of a pandemic and chatting up a storm to those coming to the window, and then you look over and realize that other staff around her (also young people) are not wearing masks, and you’re shocked, and you quickly retreat to the furthest corner of the office lobby hoping that you’re going to be okay and wondering “Is this a doctor’s office?” and why weren’t you warned and you swear that you won’t ever come here again because it’s apparent that they just don’t give a shit about you or your health. Kind of like walking over your dead body because they got better things to do than protect your health in a doctor’s office. 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Spirit Airlines passengers brawl inside Detroit Metro Airport
You’re at the airport waiting at the gate for your flight when all of a sudden you hear shouting from the gate next door, and you turn and see a full-fledged rock 'em and sock ‘em battle to the death by would be passengers hauling blows upon the airline staff behind the counter as the victimizers curse their mommas and daddies and complain “Whatcha’ mean the flight’s been canceled?” and people get their cell phones out and are recording the action, some even streaming it live, and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Where’re the cops?” and “Aren’t you supposed to be wearing a mask at the airport?” as you watch the victimizers not wearing masks because they want to be able to shout their obscenities filled rants clearly and loudly so they can be heard and some of the people shooting videos have lowered their masks because they’ve determined that somehow the masks get in the way of their live streaming the battle royal. Later one of them will learn that their video has received 525,674 likes after they’ve stepped over the airport damage and some little old lady innocent bystander who’s writhing on the ground in pain (“Fuck ‘em).

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

I was thinking about all of this when I came across the headline America Is Falling Apart at the Seams, an opinion piece by David Brooks. The headline scared me because I’d been saying it for the past seven years (Actually, way longer). Brooks lamented the seeming breakdown in society’s weave and wondered why.

“But something darker and deeper seems to be happening as well — a long-term loss of solidarity, a long-term rise in estrangement and hostility. This is what it feels like to live in a society that is dissolving from the bottom up as much as from the top down.”

David Brooks
Image by joanbrown51 from Pixabay

There’s a long list of signs that America is unraveling, but he offers no solutions, “As a columnist, I’m supposed to have some answers. But I just don’t right now. I just know the situation is dire.” I agree. Things seem bad. So bad that we just don’t have an answer to what to do about it (Besides just shooting some video and stepping over some person’s dead body).

It must be so bad that I found other columnists bemoaning the state of America: Rudeness Is on the Rise. You Got a Problem With That? by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Others are looking into the possibilities of the next American Civil War: Imagine another American Civil War, but this time in every state reported by NPR’s Ron Elving or In the coming second American Civil War, which side are you on? an opinion piece by Chauncey Devega.

These pieces mirror the news headlines we see every day announcing the latest battles around COVID or Race or White Supremacy, guns, crime, fights on planes, and my favorite, Wokeness (I wish someone would define that for me). Dogmatism has replaced compromise because the extreme wings of our political and social discourse have hijacked the process.

On the right, the politics of the last twenty-two years since the Bush-Gore debacle have grown more feverish, commanding, and powerful. Strategically, they have worked hard to take the levers of power in more states and localities than the moderates and progressives can ever have dreamt. Ruthless and dogged while inciting in mostly White Americans (Black and Latino adherents are a separate story) the need to kick some ass on their way to their thrones of power.

On the left, there has been a desire to abandon dialogue with the right and moderates because, well, what has that gotten them? The victories of the sixties through the end of the twentieth century are threatened and, in some cases, have already been pushed back by conservative legislatures and conservative judiciary. The left asks, “Why are we still fighting for social justice in 2022?” and they are frustrated to the point of To hell with compromise.

Some on the left, like their counterparts on the right, believe the only thing this country understands is what comes out of the end of a gun barrel. It may be time to kick some ass.

But the reality is, that as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve witnessed this conflict of conscience where some people don’t give one cent about their fellow humans. Anyone who has studied American history (not the whitewashed homogenized version) knows that this is not the first time in our history that the hands of Americans are at the throats of other Americans and that they didn’t give a shit.

However, something feels different now. It’s not just the pandemic, or that’s there are just more of us with smartphones and access to and influence of the thoughts of millions of other Americans who just can’t stand other Americans and also don’t give a shit. Fuck ‘em as I walk over their dead bodies.

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

This is sad. Not surprising, but still sad. You just feel that something is missing. An emptiness of character, a deficit of human empathy. That there is no hope.

Damn, there just has to be.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Dear Joe

On the eve of the one year anniversary of the inauguration of President Joe Biden, I repost this open letter to him that I wrote on on January 16. 2021.

Image by Tibor Janosi Mozes from Pixabay

Whatever happens on January 20, 2021, or after, you will need to begin your administration with a clear vision, the vigor of spirit, and a powerful determination to take on the greatest challenge of this young century and possibly of our modern age. No, not the MAGA insurrection (I’ll address them later). Our nation cannot move forward until we work together to cure ourselves of the Pandemic. With millions of people worldwide affected by COVID-19, deaths and hospitalizations mounting daily, we cannot return to normalcy until we find the leadership necessary to show us a path forward. This crisis needs its own Marshall Plan.

The United States of America needs — no demands — a leader who commands respect, believes in science and medicine, makes reasoned decisions, and is willing to tap and trust the best minds to solve problems. You will need to call upon the best experts and leaders in politics, business, nonprofits, and education in the United States of America and the world. As President, you must harness the best resources available like no other time in our history. This effort cannot be some long-term (of say, ten years or more) project where studies are first prepared and submitted for consideration to the appropriate authorities for consent. We demand action by our government today.

Image by Comfreak from Pixabay 

No solution is possible unless you get everyone on board, and yes, that includes the opposing political parties. The goal of this current President and his allies is to delegitimize you and your administration. He and his sycophants want to cripple your ability to save this country so that they can cynically claim in two and four years that they must clean up your mess. We face a critical question, how do you break through the fog of misinformation and subservience to conspiracy theories? It will take a certain amount of courage to reach out to America’s moderate voices for help. I want to believe that political, business, and nonprofit leaders recognize that this will not end well if we continue to fall down the rabbit hole of evil accusations and retribution. For the past four years, only the most vitriolic voices have been the loudest. We must call upon all Americans who believe in this country’s ideal to raise their voices together to break through the toxic atmosphere enveloping our nation.

We must task the influencers in media, the arts, culture, advertising, and marketing to help create inspiring and proactive messages to revitalize our vision of shared social responsibility and dedication to a shared future. All of us must work together to fill with new hope and vision, the chasm created by dark forces over the past four years. Somehow, we must convince a large swath of Americans that, as a past President has described, “There are no red states or blue states, just the United States.”

I am too life experienced to believe that we will all join hands and sing Kumbaya by changing the messaging or legislative solutions. You only need to study American history to see that truth. However, we cannot forever be prisoners of our history. We must be ready to make our new future; one where every resident of this country receives the promises of our Constitution, “…in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” In 2021, after all that has gone on over the past four years, I believe it is time for all of us to step back from this precipice we find ourselves and stop and think about the challenges that are ahead for us as a country. We cannot survive if we only live in past conflicts and do not forge a better future.

Joe Biden
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Now, we must spare no effort to hold those responsible for the MAGA insurrection. I’m not just talking about those who invaded the people’s house. You can trace the roots of that insurrection to the Tea Party’s birth and the lie of Birtherism. Unfortunately, too many in politics and the media didn’t take this seriously enough. We called it fringe. It was dismissed as racist and not deserving of our time and attention. The current President and his enabling elected officials, religious leaders, right-wing groups, and media pushed that fringe, the white supremacy monster, out of the darkness into the White House and the halls of Congress. We must protect ourselves from their desperation, mindful that they will continuously attempt to disrupt a return to constitutional government.

I believe that this last dying gasp of an America cannot survive the cataclysmic demographic changes underway. I have an older son who is two-thirds Puerto Rican and one-third Dominican (Yes, there is a difference). His daughter, my granddaughter, is a four-year-old who is half-Puerto Rican and half-Anglo. My youngest son is twenty-eight years old and is one-quarter Puerto Rican, one-quarter Dominican, one-quarter Black, and one-quarter Japanese. They are all members of that demographic wave. The new United States of America frightens many. It is not only race and ethnicity that scares them; it is also urban versus rural, old versus young, progressive versus some forgotten or non-existent past of what America was. The America that is shrouded in flags and myths hides what we have been and who we are today. When we accept the whole truth of our history, we can then immerse ourselves in the glory of the great moments we all shared and move forward as the United States of America.

Image by BarBus from Pixabay

Mister President-elect, I know the burden on your shoulders, and that of the Vice President-elect is great. But you will not be carrying the load alone. All of us who care for the future will be here with both of you. Reach across the chasm to those who did not vote for you. Those who did are ready to do the hard work. Create new ways for all of us to see and hear each other so that we can rise together and defeat the Pandemic and build the America that we need for the twenty-first century. As another American leader, Abraham Lincoln said during the last great war between Americans on a bloodied battlefield at Gettysburg, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure — It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

We must soar above the worst in us to new heights and a new America. Don’t f*ck this up, Joe. We got your back.

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