Missing The America That Never Was

I’ve shed many misplaced tears this year.

For the past few months I thought I was grieving over the loss of America; that I was missing something we used to be, a place we once were, a new national erosion of hope I thought I’d been witnessing.

I imagined this great attrition was the source of my despair, mistakenly believing I was lamenting something that had at one time been here, but was now gone. It was until recently that I realized that I’d been mourning the death of a ghost.

I haven’t been missing America—I’ve been missing an America I wanted to be, an America I imagined to be—an America that never was.

For months now I’ve been sitting a straight, white Christian guy’s somber vigil over the dying of a country most people have never experienced—at least not in the way I’d convinced myself they had, and definitely not in the way that I had.

Growing-up I believed every word about America as land of the free and home of the brave. I imagined us to be that singular, brilliant beacon to the world, welcoming every weary soul who sought sanctuary on its shores.

The American dream was a thing to me; a beautiful, sparkling, attainable thing. All that Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness stuff—I ate it all up, wore it on my sleeve, and saluted it when they ran it up the flagpole.

It was easy to do that from the cozy shoes I’d stood in. America had been good to me.
I assumed that everyone experienced the opportunity I’d had without thinking about it, that everyone was given the things I received without needing to ask for them, that everyone had the seat at the same table that I’d had without arguing for it. Because of this I figured the profound loss I felt recently was something new for everyone.

But that America was never most people’s America. That America is unrecognizable to many of them:

I imagine Native Americans laugh at my supposed lost America.
To many of them it is the long ago-stolen home they have found little welcome in since being displaced; the sacred spaces bulldozed to run pipelines and build shopping malls.

Many people of color haven’t ever known my America.
Those who arrived here on slaves ships, those packed into cargo containers,
those who’ve had to stand up or sit down or speak out for every scrap of justice they’ve ever received.
They haven’t been privy to the glorious freedom we joyously invite to ring out.

Many women haven’t experienced the America I’ve grieved losing.
That wide open, spacious land of opportunity that makes for stirring stump speeches and moving halftime anthems is a foreign one.
 strained to breathe the rarefied air of equality just beyond the reach of ever-present, see-through ceilings.

Many Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender men and women have never found themselves in the America I’d been so grieved over losing.
No, as it turns out their inalienable rights had always been quite—alienable.
They’ve never felt particularly blessed in the country God supposedly blesses.

Lots of immigrants are still waiting to experience my America; still crossing seas, and digging tunnels, and braving great peril—only to know the scorn of strangers and the ridicule of politicians.

Many Muslims have only heard about my supposedly lost America.
It’s been the dream that never seems to materialize in the light of day;
a place of contempt and suspicion and fear.

So many have never seen the America that people like me have so proudly hailed, because the color of their skin, the poverty they inherited, the way they love, or the place of their birth have obscured their view of it. They’ve never had the chance to sing these songs of freedom and really mean them.

So as much as I’ve been recently lamenting what seemed like a few hateful people taking away the country we once had, I think what they’ve done is magnify what we’ve never quite fully taken hold of. I think they’ve shown us who we are—or aren’t as a people. In a weird way I think they’ve been a help to some of us who were unable to see.

But the thing about the America I miss, about the America that hasn’t been—is that I believe it’s still the America worth fighting for. It may not be the country we’ve ever quite had, but it’s the country we should be about making together. 

Bono once said that America was more than a country, it was an idea—and it still is. It may still only be aspirational, but I think it is a worthy aspiration. The world still needs an idea like America. All the stuff in those songs we sing is music worth trying to make together.

I’m no longer going to concern myself with grieving the country I thought this used to be, because that was largely mythical anyway. It was a haze of privilege, luck, and wishful thinking—and I know better now. America is incredibly beautiful and deeply flawed. So are its people. I can work with that.  

And I’m certainly not going to suggest that we be about making America great again. Anyone who says that is probably still in the bubble of self-delusion and selective memory that privilege and advantage bring.

Instead, I’m going to place myself alongside those who find affinity in seeking the equality, diversity, and interdependence that America was intended to make a home for. I’m going to work toward a greatness for this country that it has not yet discovered—the kind that everyone gets to call their own, the kind available to more than those who’ve always had access to it.

America has been really good to me—but it needs to be really good to everyone.

This will be an America worth the tears.



92 thoughts on “Missing The America That Never Was

  1. Thank you. You are able to articulate this reality we experience. Your passion, your clarity affirm those of us who are able to distinguish patriotism from blind obsession. We are ‘exceptional.’ ALL of us are ‘exceptional.’ Our country’s history is saturated with liberty for some and justice for some and bloody heritage for many. We need to always recognize and remember.

  2. Many times we , us , I look at where we are , what we have become and where we as a country are going.
    And I wonder , Why
    So many differences , cultures, view points, way s of thinking.
    Well the bible is clear in proverbs in saying .
    Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are older they shall not depart.
    This is what we see going on around us.
    Many of the things we did not or inadvertently trained other s to do are now Grown in our society.
    In any culture you have values, view points , and outright Wrong ways , actions, thoughts , pt’s of view.
    Right, Wrong, indifferent
    Live and let Live.
    Respect others and Always have a mind of your own even if it is different .
    Keep in Mind , There is always a cost, Price to pay, a reward to reep .
    NO one view gets off free.
    Law s of life always prevail , Laws of God always have a Price or Reward.
    YOU , I , YOUR children Reap the reward of our or your actions.
    If you be Free, Then Live Free
    Seek out what is right and you will be rewarded
    Seek out what is wrong and you reap the return for what you have done, your children will also reap what you have sown.
    These a Laws written in the 1st 5 books of the bible , the Torah , original Laws, given to a nation because they could not control their own Flesh, Desires, Values.
    As a Nation we celebrate Freedom , Free to think, act, do as we , I , you see fit for your best interest.
    Yet YOU are still Free.
    Free will , this is a gift to all mankind from a loving God.
    who keeps you free as long as you keep him in the forefront of your life.
    A Man, woman, Person left to themselves Bring Reproach on themselves, their family, thier lives around them.
    Practice Self Control , Self discipline, Self Giving to others and you will have peace with God. Who is the Founder , Foundation of our faith.
    God Wants to keep You , Your Family, YOUR hearts united in Peace as you Read, believe, Trust , Follow whole heatedly the Words written in the bible.
    Trust God, Believe in Jesus Christ, Follow His Teaching and Give Back , then you will know what is the will of God.
    God has rewarded the US with Peace Because We Believe, Trust, Follow His Word.

    • Wow, what a big nothing burger you managed to spew – bla bla bla. Absolutely nothing whatsoever in common with the beautiful and poignant piece John Pavlovitch wrote. Ironically John Pavlovich is not a Pavlov’s dog who comes running like a little lap dog to certain meaningless key words and phrases and then pukes them back up as you do. I have a friend who is an atheist who refers to most of what comes out of the mouths or most right wing Christians as “pew spew” and that my friend is what you just gave us. What an absolutely nothing burger of premasticated pablum with no real meat in it whatsoever. If I want to read gibberish I can just go right to the original source. I have a bible in my house and know where it is. Please don’t try and do me the “favor” of a summary or a “synopsis”. I know how to translate gibberish just as well as anybody else.

      • Let’s go easy on those who may use the Bible and their faith as motivations for their actions and behavior. After all, it was in our southern black churches where the civil rights movement of the 1950s & 1960s was born — and sustained — despite fierce, and often violent opposition to racial integration.

          • Seconded and thirded (if that is such a thing). If Christopher’s “writing” were to be translated to another field such as, I don’t know ship captain let’s just say, his expertise at steering and running the ship left me with the distinct impression that the cold icy water was pretty much the only place left to go. My bad for equating his ludicrousness with “the bible”. Just because there are some bad ship captains in the world is no excuse for throwing one’s self immediately into the ocean so my bad I guess. Thank you for better expressing more incisively and succinctly the true gist of my revulsion.
            P.S. I think my “titanic” analogy holds up rather nicely as many people hold out “The Bible” as this unsinkable craft with all these supposed airlocks and chambers to keep you from sinking but just because one can quote “The Bible” doesn’t mean one necessarily understands it. You don’t captain a seagoing craft without first being trained in its use and usually you don’t even get to sea captain’s school anymore without a halfway decent primary school and secondary school education but these are other problems… alas so many problems… so few trained chips to steer the boats as the waters rise…

    • Very well said. As a former atheist, who is now a Christian, I know the darkness that I once had within; now that I’ve come into the Light, I know the peace that passes understanding.

  3. All I can say is AMEN. Thank you for a very honest assessment of where we are, where we have been and where we should and can be. Peace and Love,

  4. Me too, John; me too. I had also been lamenting about this very subject–and then I also realized that what I was so busy crying about was not even real. So, in some way, we have to thank 45 and his entourage; we need to show our appreciation to his followers. They have stripped the blinders from our eyes, to show us the America That Really Is.
    Our lofty fantasy of America as a beacon? Gone in the face of travel bans and racial profiling. Our idyllic concepts of democracy, government of, by and for the people? Vanished in the backrooms deals, the “donations” that only increased the politicians’ personal wealth. Our oft-repeated mantra of “Welcome to Immigrants”? Shot down by hatred of any “other”, anything that is/was not “like us”–and that means/t if you weren’t white, preferably male, usually conservative in politics and worldview, you were “the other”.
    Our hard-won position as the planet’s leading nation? Thrown carelessly out a window by a narcissistic psychopathic man-child whose ego is so overwhelming, it won’t even take second place to the nation itself. Our children, the next generation to live here? Disillusioned, with college degrees that don’t mean anything but onerous debt that prevents such things as the little white house, the 2.58 children and a dog; living with the ‘rents because they cannot afford to move out.
    And somewhere, a Native American, a person of The Tribes is bitterly laughing at our …I can’t even say our naivete. Laughing at our absolutely self-imposed blindness, our oh so assured “rightness”, that “God is on OUR side”, that our religion and our skin’s color make us superior. All it does is make us blind. And arrogant in the most offensive way–with nothing of substance to back up that arrogance.
    The America that we thought we were was a dream–a dream from Washington, Franklin, Adams and Jefferson, whose inability to imagine any other system originally assigned that arrogance. It’s a 240+ year old dream. It’s time we make a new dream, one that includes all peoples, regardless and in spite of labels. Like Anne Frank, I believe in the inherent goodness of people–but like another author said, by being a capitalist society, all we have done is breed superpredators–and they EAT the prey, which is the majority of the population.
    We have “built this”; we have created it out of discrimination, repression, and GREED. We have “privatized” services that were for the general good: education, prison, healthcare. And those who had no problem doing this, for insisting that corporations are people too, for measuring profits not by the actual amount of money made more than the costs of doing business, but by how large a percentage of “the market” a company holds? They are the ones who are the predators and they have attained “superpredator” status.
    It’s time for a MAJOR change for this country and its states. If it requires dismantling the “Union”, so be it. I don’t want to live in this particular version of “America the Dream”. I want my children to watch their children grow up in a REALITY of America, where everyone is truly welcomed, where everyone has the chance to be whatever they want and can work for. I want the hate to stop.
    We’ll have to re-design humans as well, I suspect.

  5. Really insightful perspective. “It may not be the country we’ve ever quite had, but it’s the country we should be about making together.” Yes! Thank you!

  6. I too grew up with tithe mistaken beliefs. I even gave 8 years of my life to her in the US Air Force. I truly did not learn about the real America until I lived in Thailand. Then I found out how the world saw the US. We were invaders, meddling in the world’s governments. Fast forward 30 years and all those rights and priveleged I thought I had earned, were taken away from me the day I came out as a transgender woman. I live in Charlotte NC, and you all know what has occurred there. My veteran status is spit upon, I am abomination, a devil’s spawn, a drag on society.. this is what I face now…

    • Sabrina Daphne Catlin, I hurt for you. America is better than that yet those without compassion willfully display their ignorance.

    • As a Canadian whose childhood was influenced by the USAmerican entertainment that pours over the border, at first I didn’t question the lie that lays behind the beliefs of American superiority. But as I grew in maturity, education, and intellect the blinders dropped off pretty quickly. I acknowledge that there are many wonderful people living in the States, great accomplishments, and some encouraging history, but they are overbalanced by the racism, sexism, transmisogyny, and glorification of heteronormativity.

      The bonus for me in this was that in seeing the truth in another country, I was more able to see it in my own and work to make change. We told ourselves the same lies about our purported positive qualities at the same time as we were committing cultural genocide on Turtle Island’s First Peoples and engaging in the same negative behaviours I listed above.

      Your last sentence reminded me of a philosophy a friend taught me. You can be a sponge and soak up all those negative words being thrown at you, or you can be a tube and let them all drop out the back end. I know it is far easier to say than to do, but I fervently pray that you may have peace of mind and a cessation of those ignorant hostilities.

    • Sabrina Daphne Catlin, thank you for your service! It is a sacrifice you made and I appreciate it.

      I am deeply ashamed at how so many people in this country use their free speech rights and their Bible as weapons. You are a child of God as surely as anyone else and those who think differently and try to torment you in their misplaced “service” to God will have to answer for their hate some day. I am only sorry that day is not now.

      I pray you the courage to hold on in an unfair and cruel fight. I promise you that you are not as alone as you likely feel. And I pray the eyes of this nation will be opened and stop this discrimination that is so unAmerican.

  7. John you have written a remarkable piece!!! Wow!!! I am so fortunate to have found your blog. It is helping me get through this very dark period in American history!!!!!

    • Everyone is allowed to feel sadness, despair, and depression too, Charissa—even cisgender, white privileged guys. They’re also allowed to have their own demons, specific internal and external challenges,and reasons for wanting to quit. This isn’t a competition. Caregivers who tend to people’s pain often get overwhelmed. They shouldn’t be chastised for it. A caregiver’s effectiveness comes from his or her ability to feel compassion. This is also a liability when so many are expressing pain to them.

      • My husband says, I feel his pain. Been there, done that and it can be quite overwhelming but God is good. Peace and Love,

      • Thank you, sir, for articulating most of what I feel. I cry for the seeming abandonment of the idea of America. I saw we were slowly making manifest of our ideals and yet with every swipe of the wrecking ball for the past 40 years we have lost the will to make that idea manifest now.

        This election has been such a horrific eye opener. I fear that we will not heal and come together, in justice, anytime soon.

    • Charissa, I wish you had been more specific in your comment. I am not sure what you even mean by saying John will be “far more effective now, and far less prone to quitting” but it seemed to imply a duty that no one has the right to impose on another.

      John P has been pouring out his own pain here, that it is shared and so many see themselves in his words does not really mitigate the conviction he is living under. It is a real and true burden to “be” something to so many people, and how far, for how long, and in what ways he chooses to continue are all entirely up to him and his family. This kind of work has got to be exhausting. It is swimming against a strong current in very deep and treacherous waters.

      If John P continues to gain readers and supporters, he will also gain more detractors and enemies in the world that does not brook dissent. I, for one, would not blame him if he “quit” today. Though I pray him the strength to carry on, I fully recognize the burden he is carrying and the weight of it may cause him to need a break.

      John P, while I love the words you write and the comfort they give me (and the affliction they place on the hearts of the guilty), I beg you to take care of yourself, your family and your own sanity first. This is hard, exhausting, low-paying, work. God bless you for taking it on!

  8. No, America the final destination has never existed, but the America the noble Experiment has, albeit not in the full measure of its founder’s vision.
    No country ever has. Canada, celebrated throughout the Western world for its civility, its subtle and diverse concept of Canadianness, its compassion for its people, has done equally heinous things in its past with which it is still coming to terms. But it is still trying to come to terms.
    America is a process; one in which, if we can keep it, a system in which we can change our course by the agency of the people. We have not kept it well, and have given it over to others to shepherd, fighting bitterly amongst ourselves when they fail to keep the founding visions.
    The America we have lost is the America that looks forward to the change that brings all with it.
    We must reclaim it.

  9. Wow, John P. powerful stuff. I am glad that you finally articulated the truth of our reality. We have indeed been working TOWARD the America of the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble of our Constitution all along. It has not been achieved yet.

    That road has been detoured many times: Slavery, our Civil War, then our continued internal divisions, bigotry and racism, then World Wars and always internal struggles for freedmen rights, women’s rights, black rights, worker’s rights, gay rights, poor rights, on and on it has gone. And it will continue to go on.

    THAT is our mission! We are to use the foundation in the Bible to build a better world here. To think there is no duty in faith, no purpose to Grace, and no moral obligation to our nation is to deny the whole point of being here. How blessed are we that loving and serving God can benefit mankind, and our fellow citizens? It is as if it was designed that way…

  10. This is a beautiful piece, Pastor John. I wish everyone were capable of such deep and difficult self-examination. Your work always inspires me to continue striving to be the person I want to be in the world. This one makes me remember that the reason for my doing that work is to BE in the world, as a force of love and inclusion and change. Thank you.

  11. Dear John P,

    Thank you for writing this. I made this discovery at a much younger age, in my teens, thanks to the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.

    The America that we want is something we have to work for, struggle for. To bring that America into being we have to oppose authoritarianism, bigotry, bisexuality phobia, discrimination, fascism, gynophobia, homophobia, intolerance of that which is different, intolerance of those who are different from one’s self, intolerance of those who disagree with one’s self, intolerance of an informed disagreement, isolationism, misogyny, prejudice, racism, rape, sexual assault/molestation, transgenderphobia, white supremacy, and xenophobia.

    One way to persist in resistance is my FB group, Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff, where I post actions, petitions, info, actual news, evidence, facts. There’s a pinned post that I highly recommend people read. I also ask a screening question so I can keep the spammers and the trolls out. All who read this are invited.


  12. Dear John:

    It is difficult to disabuse ourselves of our nationalist conceit, and you have done well to take this stand.

    We must indeed strive for a better America. Have you considered that the America which is must be consigned to history for the better America to emerge?


  13. Amen.
    I’m sure you’ve read The People’s History of the United States.
    But the ideals are real and worth striving for.

  14. Jon, you continue to hit the critical pulse point and one that people would be well placed remembering. Views of the ‘America’ we know or remember are totally relative and those who wanted to ‘Make America Great Again’ themselves wanted a fictional version of our country; a Father knows Best type that really never was for the majority of the country. It was never that for minorities, especially the native Americans we swiped it from and slapped our ownership on it. It still is not that for Muslims, LGBTQ people and for so many who can’t comprehend what ‘again’ means. Thank you for speaking your passion so well.

  15. John, once again you have spoken the words that I feel in my heart. Thank you.

    America has, throughout its history, been through dark times. And, each time, we have succeeded in bringing back the light – not the brightest light but enough to keep our hope alive and build our strength for the next fight. Some times people have died to bring back the light in this country.

    Maybe, because I am older, now it seems that this time along with the darkness our country seems to be covered in slime. This slime hasn’t obliterated the good and the wonderful of this country yet. But I am afraid and frightened that this time we will all learn to live with this slime – that this slime is normal. So I remind myself that I have always been a fighter and I never been afraid of hard work and that is what I will tell my children and my grandchildren – America can and has been better than this. It is worth the fight.

  16. Exactly. I think the ‘great’ America we thought we lost was mythical–found on Nick at Night–but only for straight, white people…and even more, if you were straight, white and male. My hope is that this frightening period of history we are living through is a growth spurt; because without pain, there’s no growth.

  17. Wonderful–I was thinking the past few weeks (and got down in the dumps over it, of course) about what happened to America and the American Dream? Does it really exist or is there some crazy transformation in the works? I don’t recognize us anymore, and Bono’s right–this country is an idea, a helluva good idea, but an idea. We have to work together to make it a reality or it’s no good to anyone. That’s what I felt the past week, how to improve things for all here, not just broke-little-white-girl me who is scared and living at home because all my plans in life fell through. Time to shake that crap off and get to work, because that’s what hit me this week, that “great America” Dump keeps harping on about was great for him, but not everyone. It took a bit to recognize that (and as a history major, I’m giving myself a Gibbs-slap for dropping that ball).

    I think that America is the America I want, the one where we all pick each other up and live together, not blame and segregate. We can’t exist like that. That’s not my America. Mine is that world-shaking social experiment of a few centuries ago that just kept going, but with more welcoming arms and the ability to work together.

  18. I spent the first 11 years of my life in a segregated Louisiana. In 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed a man I worked with told me that now all the problems would be solved because of this law. I told him that there was a vast cultural chasm that would have to be bridged before the law would be a viable workable law. Since my family left LA I have lived in many different places in the USA and have seen and even been the recipient of geographical and cultural biases and discrimination.
    John, you spoke to me today. I am white and I know I have had many privileges that others have not had; however, since I was always new or “other” I can also understand and empathize with all the “others” that our country has supposedly welcomed with open arms. No, it has never been so, but as you have so openly realized we can and I am optimistic that we will fight for and persevere to help our country reflect the “idea” that Bono said it is, particularly now that so many have come to realize what has been simmering below the surface for so long.

    • I can understand the “other”. I am also white but I grew up in New England and have not lived there for 55 years. I am still considered “other” where I live in the Midwest, mind you, for 55 years. I still have an accent and that means I am one of those bad liberal east coasters. So I hear what you are saying. Peace,

  19. Heavy, heavy contemplation John!
    There may be more truth here than most are willing to acknowledge.
    It sounds as though you are ready to lead the way into the ‘promised land’; what say you John?

  20. And one again, this so-called pastor never once mentions Jesus, salvation, sin, repentance. A true wolf in sheep’s clothing just tickling ears.

      • John! Thank you so much for stepping back in and making an occasional rebut! You ARE reading the commentary!

        I had an incredible metaphysical experience recently- 2- really- on the same day- no need to tell the story- suffice it to say the word TRANSFORMATION slamming into my head exploded open my throat chakra. These are dark times- when what was trying to be built is being attacked by the very people who have most benefited from “America”- rich old white men. Maybe we have to hit bottom to escape the bottom feeders that think they are in control.

        But whatever happens- when people like you wake up- we’ve progressed. I know that god (if it exists at all) either blesses the whole world or there is no god. We must move toward that Light- where all are recognized as part of the WHOLE- and where no one gets to control anyone but themselves. Humans are not their yet- still tribal in so many stupid ways. But that is the only world I hope for.

        And my male whiteness never made me feel welcome- because my not/heterosexuality superseded everything. Transformation. The old politically religious tribal paradigm dies on the altar of ONENESS. NOW.

    • So Jason, someone can only be called a pastor if you agree with them? Such ugly hubris negates any point you might have wanted to make. Check your own clothing and the ears you seek to “tickle.”

      • Sandi, Jason reminded me of the lady who used to keep track of how many times my husband said Jesus in his sermons. She must of had a sliding scale because that would decide how good she thought the sermon was. God forbid if he had a sermon without mentioning Jesus. Her head nearly exploded with that one. She never did get the point of any of his sermons. Peace and Love,

  21. Hey John!

    I must say that I love my country!!! I’m glad and very proud to be an American. I am world traveled, and have been to many countries and other Continents, and I wouldn’t trade any of them for America, my home and pride and joy.

    • Emanuel, John P did not say or imply that he does not ‘love’ our country or that it would not compare favorably to any other. Maybe the chip is on your shoulder?

    • E. Scott, Jr– I too have traveled / worked/ lived all over the World. After living in Asia for 6 years, one day it hit the head-set. Oh my, the disrespect for human life is not something I care to live with any longer. Sex trafficking, child prostitution, abortion as birth control, nature worship, dark arts, occult. The idea that the young and healthy males are given special privilege, while women, children, old, weak, poor, mentally infirm, can be cast away without thought. In my naiveté, it was a shock to find out that Judeo / Christian (yes, the BIBLE!) values were not Universal.

      So back to USA, and I kissed the ground. Never to complain again.

      • We could use a little more nature worship in this country.
        Also, birth control should be used as birth control. If you truelly want to reduce abortions you should be fighting for greater access sex education and easier access to birth control.
        Also also, misogyny is one of those Old Testament values that should be thrown into the dustbin of history.

        • So long as you see the inconvenient embryo or fetus as disposable, your arguments for “reducing” abortions seem very disingenuous, besides the fact that the use of contraception is viewed as intrinsically evil by many Christians. If we could be on the same page that the unborn have a moral worth, we might be able to work together and really get somewhere in reducing abortions and protecting the unborn.

          • Edwin Mix, I beg of you, please do not engage Joe Catholic on the subject of abortion and his unseemly obsession with what women chose to do with their very own bodies.

        • Yes Edwin, you may or may not be an adult but you are clearly not capable of deciding on your own who you should or should not speak to here without a little nudge. Please feel secure in the knowledge that your views so far will allow you to be unencumbered by the “targeting” rule.

          I also agree with your words for what it is worth.

          Peace Mr. Mix

      • Seriously leslie m, is it not enough for you to malign the Christians who dare not follow your interpretation on every verse? Must you malign an entire continent with your accusations and smear?

        The good ole USA has all the ills you listed, and more. But that does not damn the nation because even in the darkest corners of the world, there are the lights of those working to bring peace, equality and the love of Jesus. They are also in Asia and every other continent! The righteous are among us, but they are not throwing stones like you choose to do.

        • sandi. who said anything about a nation being damned? –btw, the USA does not condone those behaviors, and they consider them ‘wrong’ & ‘illegal’. In ‘Asia’ it’s acceptable, and their ungodly, materialistic society is quick to look the other way. Not to mention, they consider all foreigners (especially blacks) to be sub-human. I agree, there is Light in the World, and The Holy Spirit is alive and well, often He shines brightest in the darkest places. And when more people accept Jesus, those dark evil acts (that are in every nation) will lessen.

          JESUS is the LIFE & He lights up the Darkness.

  22. John,

    Like you I was raised to believe in the greatness of the USA. Years of indoctrination was shattered in my later high school years and especially in college during the Viet Nam War. The Civil Rights Movement further revealed the lies that all men are created equal, some are just more equal than others.

    Bono is right that America is an idea that all should strive for. Unfortunately, the evil malignant monster(s) currently occupying the presidency and controlling congress has shown how a significant number of “citizens” are believers in an evil (alt) foreign concept.

    After mourning several months, I have been spurred to dry my tears and shed my outward non-political persona and become active in the Resistance. As Edmund Burke said; “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I have vowed do what I can to help defeat the evil forces showing themselves at this time.

    — Teri

    Some men see things as they are and ask why, I dream things that never were and ask why not?
    — Robert F. Kennedy

    • Teri, I was a great admirer of Bobbie Kennedy and proudly walked around my high school corridors wearing a “Bobbie for President” button in 1968 and I was shattered when he was murdered.

      However I winced when I heard him utter these words without proper attribution and these words are not original to him. “Some men see things as they are and ask why, I dream things that never were and ask why not?”

      This is a quote from George Bernard Shaw’s play, Back to Methuselah. I’ve never met anyone else who has read this play nor has it been performed in my lifetime, as far as I am aware. LOL, But I had read the play and these words struck a chord with me so I remembered them and cringed when Bobbie used them without citing the source.

  23. Indeed. Most of us have never lived in the America of the white, Christian, male, middle-class, healthy, privileged person. Rather than bemoan the loss of the country that never was, I’d rather work toward an America in which everybody shares those distinctions. We have work to do.

  24. I keep seeing this moment as America’s “bottom”–as in the rock bottom an alcoholic or addict, or family member of an alcholic/addict has to hit before denial is swept away and reality is accepted and dealt with. We, as a nation, have been addicted to unhealthy privilege and division and hate (and success built on the backs of downtrodden people–while falsely claiming the USA is a meritocracy). Lots of “white, Christian” (privileged) Americans are finally waking up to the ugly realities other people have already seen. What we do with this–whether we recover ourselves and find something better, or whether we succumb to despair and diseased thinking ourselves, will play out over the next few years.

  25. Celebrate YOUR freedom , But let others be free
    Setting an Example, Living a Godly Life as YOU and I teach others to live as Free men and woman respecting others , but taking a stand for truth, right, godliness, Holiness
    Living to please God 1st, Then showing others how God, the one and only God has forgiven them , but they have to repent, turn to , trust in , Deny themselves, their passions of lust , their passions of greed, selfish indulgence.
    Only then will you truly find peace.
    No smokescreens of temp fixes , that just cover up sin, rebellion, rejection and Ungodly passion.

  26. Maybe we all need to read some of our history from a different perspective: “In this groundbreaking book, noted historian Thaddeus Russell tells a new and surprising story about the origins of American freedom. Rather than crediting the standard textbook icons, Russell demonstrates that it was those on the fringes of society whose subversive lifestyles helped legitimize the taboo and made America the land of the free.”

    “In vivid portraits of renegades and their “respectable” adversaries, Russell shows that the nation’s history has been driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires—insiders versus outsiders, good citizens versus bad. The more these accidental revolutionaries existed, resisted, and persevered, the more receptive society became to change.”

    “Russell brilliantly and vibrantly argues that it was history’s iconoclasts who established many of our most cherished liberties. Russell finds these pioneers of personal freedom in the places that usually go unexamined—saloons and speakeasies, brothels and gambling halls, and even behind the Iron Curtain. He introduces a fascinating array of antiheroes: drunken workers who created the weekend; prostitutes who set the precedent for women’s liberation, including “Diamond Jessie” Hayman, a madam who owned her own land, used her own guns, provided her employees with clothes on the cutting-edge of fashion, and gave food and shelter to the thousands left homeless by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; there are also the criminals who pioneered racial integration, unassimilated immigrants who gave us birth control, and brazen homosexuals who broke open America’s sexual culture.”


  27. Thanks so much for this, John. This is exactly what we came to realize in the past several months. We started an organization here in Santa Fe, NM, Retake Our Democracy, and then we realized that so many people in American have never really experienced democracy! That is why we are now focusing our efforts on supporting existing organizations in our community that have been on the front lines for years, helping people of color, immigrants, low-income families, and more. That is where white middle class people can use their privilege and power to make change right in their own communities. Thanks again!

  28. Hi everyone. I have just returned from a long vacation in Southern Florida. It is my hope that you have all been happy and well during my absence. It is also very nice to see John Pavlovitz commenting on his own blog once again after a couple of years of absence. As some of you know, I do research and writing for a living, among other things, and it takes a lot of extra time to write new books. My best guess is that John was doing a lot of writing, editing, and revising over the past two years—not to mention being on the pastoral talk circuit at various churches. Anyway, it is good to see him back.

    A learned a lot on my vacation. One of the things I learned is to never try to comment on this blog at a general-customer-use computer in a hotel lobby. They do not have ad blockers and well—it is just a mess. The only place where commenting actually worked was the Comfort Suites hotel on the south side of Atlanta. It appeared to be run entirely by African-Americans from the management on down—and it was the best, nicest, cleanest, most functional, and overtly friendly and welcoming hotel we have ever stayed in. If these African-Americans, Latinos, and an occasional employee from Pakistan were in the White House right now, our country would be in good hands and on the move to better things for all Americans.

    • Mr. C.

      Take heart, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Niki (Nimrata Randhawa) Haley, Bobby (Piyush) Jindal, are in the White House, so to speak. An answer to your prayer! (except, Haley & Jindal are Indian –not Pakistani.)

  29. Read thru all the posts. As a veteran I find it slightly offensive. But, I served so that we are free to hold various views . For that I am thankful. Maybe it would help if the writer could point to a better country that we might model after. I will leave you with this. Try being positive because being positive and inspiring is with much. See the glass as half full, not half empty. Glad you have the freedom. I helped pay for it. And, I am proud I did. But, it is a little dark.

    • Thank you for your service; I am the wife and daughter of disabled veterans.

      I think you should define “better.” I long thought that American was the home of the free; my definition of freedom involved religious and speech; that was my default. Then I spent a summer working in Germany (early 90s). I had much more complete freedom of movement in Germany. I literally could have walked all around the town in the middle of the night and not worried about being raped or assaulted. Suddenly I, a young woman, felt free in a way I had NEVER felt before. No, I couldn’t paint my house any color I wanted but I had autonomy of movement. I didn’t need a male escort if I decided to stroll around the streets at 3 AM. That I did not stroll around those streets at 3AM wasn’t the point — it was the freedom to choose it if I desired. … unless I went near the US military base. It wasn’t safe there :-/

      So while I cherish the constitutional rights of expression, religion, and assembly I have in the US, I also understand that culturally there are many, many ways those freedoms are curtailed or non-existent.

    • Tom, thank you for your service. To often we overlook the sacrifice of those who serve in our military and the sacrifice of their families. You are a hero for stepping up and I applaud that courage.

      BUT, if you are familiar with the way John P writes, it is clear that when he is “complaining” and “castigating” an issue, it is out of love, real love. I do not believe he is, in any way, trying to say that we need to emulate any other nation or that any other nation is “better.”

      What he IS clearly saying is that America still has work to do to live up to the words in our Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to our Constitution and the ideals that our Founders and many bright lights of leadership since have tried to help us attain. We cannot pretend we have no problems.

      In that exhortation to do better, be better, live up to our ideals, John IS “being positive” and he is “inspiring” us to work for the America we want to be. He is not saying the glass is half empty, he is saying it is still up to us to fill it.

      And while you may not have meant to insult those of us who did not serve in the military. There are more ways to “pay for it” than just taking up arms. The people who work and pay taxes that fund the military help pay for it too. The people who volunteer, donate to causes, vote and commit to being good citizens help pay for it too.
      I am grateful for those who serve in the military but no one pays for it alone.

    • Tom, thank you for your service.

      I am sorry that you choose to find John’s words offensive.

      There is an idea of what America can be and you served to protect that as well as America for what it actually is.

      It is when we chose to stop growing, to cease to mature, that we become stuck, complacent, and then there are inevitable consequences to that.

      I suggest that you also served in order to make the USA a better country. We need to always chase the ideal. We must always strive to grow up, to mature, to incarnate the values of the Bill of Rights within every person who lives here.

    • Dear Tom:

      Sorry to break it like this, but they lied to you. There were reasons for your service, but they had little to do with what they told you.

      For whom can one cast a ballot for peace over war?
      For whom can one vote for responsible business over corporate parasitism?
      For whom can one vote for a reasonably compassionate budget over austerity and social murder?
      For whom can one vote for a government that is blind to the power of wealth?

      In reality, wealth has replaced the ballot as the basis of political representation. How this is compatible with ‘freedom’ is unclear to me.

      Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh thoroughly debunked the false claim of a Syrian government chemical attack on April 4 [ http://tinyurl.com/yc2untzd ]. But this is subjected to a nation-wide news blackout. How this is compatible with ‘freedom’ is unclear to me.

      Personally, I think that the ‘Great Free Land’ mantra is a political attack designed to placate the working class; it is based on the premise as simple as it is ingenious as it is effective that if you THINK you are free — you won’t try to BECOME free. You will instead be a nice, quiet, passive, manageable, doting, respectful little taxpayer — a model citizen who gladly lives a second-hand life tailored to serve ruling class interests.

      One can, of course, say that the publication of this opinion itself evidences ‘freedom.’ But this holds little political import. Let the working class unite and say, ‘we will not be retained as political hostages to the machinations of our increasingly illicit state,’ and it won’t be long before our sons and daughters in uniform are pointing guns at our own people.


  30. Let America Be America Again
    by Langston Hughes

    Let America be America again.
    Let it be the dream it used to be.
    Let it be the pioneer on the plain
    Seeking a home where he himself is free.

    (America never was America to me.)

    Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
    Let it be that great strong land of love
    Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
    That any man be crushed by one above.

    (It never was America to me.)

    O, let my land be a land where Liberty
    Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
    But opportunity is real, and life is free,
    Equality is in the air we breathe.

    (There’s never been equality for me,
    Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

    Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
    And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
    I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
    I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
    I am the red man driven from the land,
    I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
    And finding only the same old stupid plan
    Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

    I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
    Tangled in that ancient endless chain
    Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
    Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
    Of work the men! Of take the pay!
    Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

    I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
    I am the worker sold to the machine.
    I am the Negro, servant to you all.
    I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
    Hungry yet today despite the dream.
    Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!

    I am the man who never got ahead,
    The poorest worker bartered through the years.
    Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
    In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
    Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
    That even yet its mighty daring sings
    In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
    That’s made America the land it has become.

    O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
    In search of what I meant to be my home–
    For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
    And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
    And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
    To build a “homeland of the free.”

    The free?

    Who said the free? Not me?
    Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
    The millions shot down when we strike?
    The millions who have nothing for our pay?
    For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
    And all the songs we’ve sung
    And all the hopes we’ve held
    And all the flags we’ve hung,
    The millions who have nothing for our pay–
    Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

    O, let America be America again–
    The land that never has been yet–
    And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
    The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
    Who made America,
    Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
    Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
    Must bring back our mighty dream again.
    Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
    The steel of freedom does not stain.
    From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
    We must take back our land again,

    O, yes,
    I say it plain,
    America never was America to me,
    And yet I swear this oath–
    America will be!

    Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
    The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
    We, the people, must redeem
    The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
    The mountains and the endless plain–
    All, all the stretch of these great green states–
    And make America again!

  31. https://www.episcopalcafe.com/true-freedom/

    True Freedom
    July 4, 2017 by
    by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller

    On this day of freedom and fireworks, fun and festivities, remembering and reflecting, I come back to the One who first introduced freedom.

    To the One who was in the beginning.

    To the One who is still to come.

    To the One who first breathed life into the world.

    To the One who first created us in holiness.

    To the One who first freed the Israelites.

    To the One who walked with the prophets and priests, kings and queens.

    To the One who was born in a manger.

    To the One who walked this earth with us.

    To the One who knew pain and suffering.

    To the One who healed and taught.

    To the One who overcame death.

    To the One who breathed fire and wind into the church.

    To the One who commissioned disciples to spread the Gospel.

    To the One who brings salvation for all.

    This is a freedom which we are offered unconditionally. Wholly. Fully.

    This is a freedom that compels us to remember our neighbors so that they too can know this love and grace.

    I, for one, am all about the festivities that come with celebrating July 4th – and giving thanks for the people who had the foresight to create a just and democratic country which I call home.

    Yet, I also know that living in this country and living as a Christian comes with deep responsibility. Responsibility to my neighbors, to my community, to my country, and to the world.

    My freedom, then, becomes bound to the freedom of all people.

    Jesus taught me this truth, too. Through his example he modeled how to live in community. How to reach out to the stranger and the foreigner. How to take in the refuge. How to clothe the naked and the poor. How to feed the hungry. How to heal the brokenhearted. How to welcome those who are different. How to speak out for justice. How to love unconditionally.

    So this Fourth of July I will remember freedom. And most importantly, I’ll remember my neighbors. I’ll pray that they will know freedom too.

    Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of a toddler, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. Her website is http://www.kimberlyknowlezeller.com

  32. God Bless America. Are You Sure About That?
    July 4, 2015 by David R. Henson

    You might want to think twice this Fourth of July weekend before singing “God Bless America.”

    Since 9/11, this sentimental bit of civil religion has become a national anthem of its own and almost every politician loves to end their speeches with this benediction.

    But it has always struck me as an odd thing to do, to ask God to bless America.

    Do we really want that blessing?

    I mean, have you ever read what Jesus says it means to be blessed?

    Maybe this Fourth of July weekend, before we sing “God Bless America,” we should first revisit the beatitudes.

    We might just change our minds about whether we as a nation even want God’s blessing.

    Blessed are the poor, Jesus says, not the prosperous.

    Blessed are the mourning, not the triumphant.

    Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth, not the imperialist mentality who boast that America is greatest and others should obey its will.

    Blessed are the merciful, not the vengeful, not those who refuse food to the hungry or refuge for the immigrant.

    Blessed are the pure in heart, not those full of greed, self-interest and manifest destiny.

    Blessed are the peacemakers, not the warmongers, the war machine, the might-making-right.

    To be a nation blessed by God would be quite a sight to behold indeed.

    Somehow, I don’t think this is the kind of blessing politicians and the patriotic are talking about.

    In fact, I imagine they’d say asking for this kind of blessing would be downright unpatriotic.

    But truly when we say “God Bless America,” this is what we pray for.

    My guess is most of us are thankful God’s never exactly answered that prayer.

    We don’t want God to bless our nation.

    We don’t want God to bless America.

    About David R. Henson
    David Henson received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He is ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He lives in North Carolina, is a father of two boys, and the husband of a medical resident.
    Connect with David through his Facebook page, Twitter, or Instagram.


    • Dear Gloriamarie Amalfitano:

      I once had the job of coming up with those slogan thingies that people put on their church lawn signs. For one July 4, I offered this:

      God HAS blessed America.
      Let America bless God.


  33. I read John’s words and the comments… and then listened to Leonard Cohen sing “Hallelujah” and now type my own words while tears run down my cheeks.

    In the years since 9/11, I’ve had my illusions about the land of my birth shattered and had my faith shaken to it’s very foundations and then some. I’ve watched as we’ve gone from being the “home of the brave” to a land where I see fear at every turn, right or left, religious or secular. I’ve seen the Gospel of a homeless Man transformed into the Prosperity Gospel– aptly named, btw, because it’s only concerned about prosperity, not Jesus of Nazareth. I’ve listened as sermons that once focused on the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the poor…”) now say that any financial woes or sickness is because one isn’t righteous enough or giving enough to the God they worship. That’s not the God I’ve known since childhood.

    You see, I don’t need a Bible to tell me God is real, because I feel the Presence of the Divine regularly, without going to any church, holding to any specific doctrine or even needing Jesus to be real, let alone actually God Incarnate. It doesn’t matter if the Bible is or is not the inspired Word because I am in-spired by the Living Word. I have experienced God’s presence just as surely as did Moses or any Levite priest in the Holy of Holies. Where God is, is Holy. And He has held me in the palm of His hand when faith was all I had.

    I have faith still. In the God that loves me even though I do not understand. In the ideals this country has tried to strive towards, however halting and crooked our gait, however dark the horizon seems right now. I know it doesn’t really make sense. I know it’s not really all that rational. I’ve even tried to stop because it’s so damned hard and hurts so much sometimes… but here I am. Offering my own shivering and broken “Hallelujah.”

  34. Very thoughtful blogpost, Mr. Pavlovitz. I think much of what we experience as nostalgia is, in reality, a yearning for a sentimentalized version of the past. Our minds seem to have a way of increasing the significance, frequency and/or duration of the the things we most cherished, and of minimizing those same things with regard to things we found difficult or unpleasant. There might, in fact, be very good reasons, from an evolutionary standpoint, for our brains to treat our memories this way.

    This is just a hypothesis, of course, but perhaps our brains have evolved to treat memories in such a manner because a yearning for an idealized past can drive us to strive for a better present and future. But, like most adaptations, this one is a bit of a double-edged sword, because if we allow it to do so, that very same yearning can descend into self-destructive recriminations and resentments towards others whom we have come to see as being responsible for where we now find ourselves — a place that is somehow less desirable than the fictionalized past we think we remember?

    Having said that, however, I do think there are some things we have lost, or are in imminent danger of losing. I do believe we have lost or are losing our norms of civil discourse and our expectation for a certain level of decorousness in public conduct for all people, but in particular for public servants. And to the extent we are losing those things, I think we are right o mourn them.

  35. John, you brought back such childhood memories of stories from my Father’s life. A poverty-stricken child in the 1940’s. One of six children that a Mother had deserted; his Father an alcoholic who did attempt to keep a roof over their heads. Yet, had to leave all six kids alone to find construction work all over the country any time he could. Starving at times, freezing at times, never experienced a Birthday or Christmas. The “Christian Church” in those days: Rejection…. which is a story repeated over and over again in that era. Not rich enough, not white enough, not they “typical” family situation. Rejection…. His dad tried to see if “Church people” would help them. All they did was make it clear: Your kind is not wanted here. Might be why, as I devoted my life to following Christ, that I have always been accepting of ALL. BLESSINGS!!! Thank you for pointing this out… I can never thank you enough in this life time for being a “beacon home” for so many across the world.

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