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An American Lost in America

I confess that I’m a little lost presently.

I’ve become a restless, reluctant nomad moving through familiar places with a hovering emotional dissonance.

I am a lifelong American who is profoundly disoriented trying to navigate this nation now.

I was born here and have spent most of my half a century and change here—and yet in recent years, I’ve begun to feel more and more like a stranger in my homeland.

There are dozens, sometimes hundreds of moments in a given day when I look around and I simply don’t recognize this place anymore. It all seems terrifyingly foreign.

Waking up every morning and walking out into this version of my country is that bittersweet experience of expectantly visiting the town you grew up in as a child, feeling the rapid deflation as you note the changed landscape and strain to see the familiar places you used to know well and feel at home in.

Yes, it’s still a version of the familiar, with quick glimpses here and there to momentarily ground and reconnect you—but so much seems missing and so much feels different that you begin to grieve the alterations that have taken place because of how much appears gone for good. You realize you miss the idea of home rather than the reality of it.

I’ve found myself searching frantically for old familiar landmarks to try and ground myself again: family, neighborhood, church, national leadership—but these have all been renovated to the point of being almost completely obscured by recent garish facades in their place: newly fashionable malevolence and bitterness and cruelty.

But here it isn’t just the physical landscape that has changed. There are so many people who I do not recognize anymore; people whose lives I used to call home, people who now make me feel newly orphaned.

I’m unsettled and distanced in their presence; estranged from them because of what I’ve discovered about their hearts, what I’ve heard out of their mouths, what I am realizing about our new (or perhaps newly revealed) moral incompatibility.

They are the America that I am most disheartened to bear witness to. They are the greatest source of my lostness. They are why I wander.

Maybe this was never the place I thought it was. That image is likely just the selective memory or the idealized version of it all as filtered through a younger, more naive, less aware, more optimistic version of myself. Still, the sense of loss is the same.

Part of me wants to leave altogether, to go and make a new home someplace else that might feel more aligned with this iteration of who I am but that would feel like surrender, it would be admitting a defeat that I am still not yet ready to consent to. I still have dreams of what this place can be: not a mythical land born of uninformed nostalgia but a tangible incarnation of the best of its stated aspirations.

Right now, the best thing I know to do is to keep my eyes open for the other restless, reluctant nomads; to look for those who too feel lost here but who are still stumbling through increasingly unfamiliar surroundings, trying to cultivate quiet, gentle personal goodness in the middle of the loud, sickening march toward national greatness.

I’ll keep seeking out those compassionate, generous, open-hearted outliers who also no longer feel at home here, and together we will shepherd humanity through these days—and we will be rebuilders.

We will make an America where our diversity is our greatest aspiration.
We’ll make an America where religion isn’t wielded like a weapon.
We’ll make an America that is big enough for everyone who wishes to call it home.
We’ll make an America that requires no one to go elsewhere to find refuge or respect.

Right now I’m an American who is lost in America right—but I am not yet ready to lose America.

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