I was driving around last Summer listening to the BBC, when news about the Brexit vote came down. I can remember thinking, “Wow, did they blow it. How could so many voters be so lazy, myopic, and uninformed? I hope they enjoy that mess!”
(To all my brothers and sisters across the pond, my apology is in the mail.)
Over the course of a few hours on November 8th, the vast majority of Americans moved from pride to abject humiliation; exchanging a hand on the heart for a face in the palm. We spent a few horrible days in stunned sadness—and most of the rest of the time since, alternating between rage and embarrassment.
You see, an overwhelming majority of us understand how ridiculous this all is. We see every bumbling, reckless, dishonest thing this Administration is doing. We know how thoroughly batsh*t crazy the President’s behavior is, and we’re well aware that he has absolutely no business running a street corner hot dog cart—let alone the Land of the Free and home of the Brave.
We still get outside news here (for now at least). We read the papers from all over the world. We see what you’re saying about us. We hear the jokes. We know that we’re a global laughing-stock. Occasionally we even find spots to laugh along with you just to retain our paper-thin tether to sanity—but for most of the time we’re red-faced and beside ourselves, because we’re living as a punchline and it isn’t funny.
Every day seems to deepen the severity and magnitude of our never-ending national facepalm.
That’s because this year has put many of us in a precarious position that we’ve never been in our entire lives: we’re now ashamed of our homeland.
No, not of the ideas of Liberty and Equality that are our very heartbeat, not the tremendous sacrifice that’s been offered by past generations in order to protect us, not the noble Constitution that forms the very bedrock of our nation, not the things we’ve done together to this point to craft a country open and welcoming to the entire world.
But we are embarrassed of this President and of his Cabinet, and we’re embarrassed to live in America as they represent it in the world. We’re ashamed that they are speaking for us, serving as our ambassadors, being our surrogates—because we know it all reflects terribly on us and alters the way people see us. They’re the old, weird uncle, rambling on at the family outing; becoming belligerent, picking fights with strangers, and keeping us always on edge with the fear of the inappropriate actions we know are surely coming. It’s exhausting to try to live, work, and study while holding your breath and hiding your face.
So many things are now shame-triggers: the mention of the President’s name, the very sight of him; the flag, the eagle, the word America. Hearing those first few words of our National Anthem, “Oh say, can you see…” are cause for mourning, because right now it’s very difficult to see those things we should still proudly hail.
Perhaps the only true comfort we’ve found in these days has been the solidarity of like-hearted men and women who are equally humiliated; the affinity we have discovered together—like arm-locked victims seeing one another through a terrible disaster. If misery loves company then the majority is certainly finding such terrible, head-hiding company now.
So yes, we are united here in our great embarrassment; young and old, black and white, men and women, red state and blue state, straight and gay. We are greatly ashamed of the America that the world is experiencing—and no we’re not leaving, even if those loud and angry few who are not embarrassed would prefer we did. That’s not how this works.
We are staying to push back, to advocate for one another, to repair what is being damaged. We are staying to be the dignified and rational response to the most undignified and irrational behavior by those in our leadership. We are staying because we know that our nation is better than those who have commandeered it and made it into the present planetary joke that it is.
We’re shaking our collective heads here in the Land of the Freaked-out and the Home of the Facepalm, trying to make America great again—and we will.