It's Almost Impossible to Not Hate This Place
How can we celebrate America’s birthday considering what it has become?
In the spring of 2003 I boarded a plane bound for England. My girlfriend had been spending the semester living in Sheffield and when I’m given a free place to stay in a foreign country, there is a 100% chance that I will show up to visit.
It was a weird time. The Iraq War had just begun and the United States was finding just how quickly they could squander all of the good will that came in the wake of 9/11. As an American traveling abroad—and particularly for this American who could never even hope to pass as a citizen of any other nation—there were a lot of difficult conversations to be had. And let me tell you, the English really, really wanted to have them with me.
I didn’t go into a pub or on a train or into a restaurant without someone coming up to me to let me know how they felt about W’s invasion. This put me into a very awkward position in which I defended, quite vehemently, the United States.
I feel like I should probably give you a little more insight into my exact political affiliations at the time. Twenty-two-year-old Charlie was a pretty goddamn militant socialist at the time. Honestly, I was pretty much the same as I am now, but there was a period of becoming a centrist in between then and now. Thanks, Obama. I digress, at this time I had been radicalized by the stolen 2000 election, albeit a few years too late. In 2000 I had the very Gen-X view that there was little difference between Gore and Bush, so what did any of it matter? But as the war drums started beating and W became increasingly determined to “go get the guy who tried to kill his daddy,” I started to become really distraught that we had allowed the court to steal an election and worried that we were about to get into a disastrous war where many of my generation, and possibly some friends, would end up getting killed. Howard Zinn had become my guiding light politically (I likely had my copy of “A People’s History of the United States” in my backpack throughout the journey) and despite all of the patriotism back home, I found myself more disgusted with the United States with each passing day.
Yet when I was confronted by angry Britons yelling at me about how horribly the US was acting by going to war in Iraq I found myself fighting back, defending against the exact same arguments I was making with people back in Chicago. I recognized my own hypocrisy, of course, but I was driven to take the position for two reasons.
The absolute absurdity of the English holding us to task for invading a foreign power. If there is one country on Earth who can’t get on that high horse with the United States it’s England. The sun never sets upon the British Empire… or the atrocities they have spread globally.
A fervent belief that despite our many, many flaws as a nation, there was hope to be found in us. We were founded as a noble experiment and I still saw possibility in this.
Today, not so much.
It’s already been a disastrous five years for the nation, I think few would disagree with this, but within the last two weeks I have watched the Supreme Court set us back at least 50 years with the prospect of doing far worse in the near future.
Women losing bodily autonomy with the overturning of Roe v. Wade was the stab in the gut, but it was accompanied with a dozen other wounds. As Congress passed the most milquetoast possible law concerning gun control, the Court went and overturned common sense restrictions on carrying firearms, doing so with such broad language that seemingly any future restrictions will be hamstrung by the decision. The Court ruled that even when police choose to violate a person’s Miranda Rights they can’t be held legally responsible, further extending the degree to which police are completely above the law in this country. It was in a ruling against the EPA that the Court finally cast a little good news on the week—by insuring that corporations will never have any sort of emissions standards imposed upon them we probably won’t linger around that much longer in the hellscape they have created.
The nine justices with lifetime appointments who are so far removed from regular society that they make Lucille Bluth look woke weren’t done yet. They decided to take up a case next term that could possibly allow any state legislature who is bummed about how a presidential election turns out to change the outcome, killing any semblance of democracy we had left. Oh, and Clarence Thomas also very publicly opened the door to overturning same-sex marriage, same-sex rights and contraceptive rights. Cool.
And I haven’t even started with the mass shootings that happen every single goddamn day (including the one in Highland Park, Illinois that is breaking news as I type this), the near daily executions of Black men by police, the staggering prices at the pump spurred on by greedy oil companies chasing record profits, the ongoing pandemic, the further normalization of white supremacy, the GOP legitimizing the most-extreme far right maniacs for political gain, the rent prices that have made living in a city impossible for all but the privileged or the clusterfuck that is attempting to get any type of affordable medical care.
All of that would be enough to drive any person to become disillusioned with this country, but when you add in a Democratic Party whose only reaction to any of this is to do nothing while urging us to vote harder it’s beyond maddening.
The day the Court overturned Roe the only action I saw from the party who has a majority in both houses of congress and the White House involved a shitty reading of a poem, an even worse rendition of “God Bless America” (arguably the worst of all patriotic songs) sung on the courthouse steps and roughly two dozen emails in my inbox begging for money. No attempt to eliminate the filibuster. No discussions of adding justices to the court or enacting term limits upon those justices. Nothing but empty platitudes and a cry for more money so they can spend two/four/six more years fighting limply against actual fascists.
How the hell am I supposed to want to spend the weekend draped in the flag, eating hot dogs and watching fireworks programmed to the tunes of “God Bless The USA” by Lee Fucking Greenwood in celebration of a nation that is utterly broken?
I just can’t do it. I can’t revel in any concept of American Exceptionalism when people are losing rights and getting murdered every single day while the government refuses to lift a finger to stop it. We know how to fix these things, we just don’t.
I’m not moving to Canada. I’m not giving up. I’m going to do everything I can to fight against the rising tide of fascism… I just can’t go along pretending that we are anything but a horribly flawed country.
The solace I can find comes from my community and the way we have continually lifted each other up throughout all the darkness of the last couple years. I find hope in the micro, not the macro.
We’re going to need to really fight to get through this. Holding up the status quo won’t help. Catering to every whim of the fictional “independent voter” won’t either. The right can’t be the only ones willing to obliterate the rules whenever they see fit. If we actually took action to get Merrick Garland on the Court things would be very different right now, but we wanted to hold up institutions and civility. Fuck that. We need to find our will to fight and fucking fight.
So on this Fourth of July I’m going to read some Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel. I’m going to donate to an abortion fund. I’m going to tell my people I love them and hold them tight. And tomorrow I’m going to put in the work to make this country the one we all want it to be in our hearts, not the shitshow it is in reality.
Thank you for reading Moronitude. I promise they’ll be more regular updates soon.