I am sad.
I am so very sad and my heart hurts in ways that I can barely express.
I remember when I believed that my country was a good place. When I accepted the idea that the American experiment in democracy was a light to guide the world. My father served in World War II, and talked about our country’s mission to free the people who had been tortured and enslaved in Germany. As the son of Italian immigrants, he felt that it was his duty to push back against the fascist takeover of Italy under Mussolini.
My father and his brothers, first-generation Americans, fought to preserve the American ideal. They believed in this country. They believed that its leaders were good people who meant to do good things.
As I was growing up, I experienced the tensions and traumas of the Vietnam War. I attended my first protest marches as a young teen, demanding that our government stop sending our brothers and friends off to die for a cause that we struggled to understand. I was a part of many family arguments over the war and the peace movement and the direction in which the country was going.
But through all of that, all of it, I held onto my belief that life in the USA was as good as, or better than, life anywhere else on this blue planet.
I can no longer hold onto any of that faith. I can longer delude myself into thinking that somehow I am incredibly lucky that my grandparents came to this country.
They could have gone to Canada. Or to Argentina. Or to another European country, like Austria or Germany.
I am sorry now that in those early days of the 20th century, they decided to cross the ocean to come to this place. Like me, I guess they believed in the story of American Exceptionalism, and that shining “City on the Hill.”
I am now 64 years old. I have been married to my childhood sweetheart for 42 years. We’ve raised three mentally healthy and productive adults, and are now the devoted grandparents of three sweet grandkids.
And I am in despair because all of us are stuck in the one developed nation on earth that has not managed to deal with the Covid19 pandemic. Our country has the highest infection rate and the highest death rate in the world.
Our government has done nothing to stem the horror. Because we are the only developed country in the world that has a profit-based, capitalist healthcare system, we are the only one in which millions of laid-off workers are now unable to pay for Covid treatments. We are the only one where the cost of treatment and testing is so prohibitive that millions of us are just toughing it out at home. Because we are the only first-world country without federally funded healthcare, we are the only nation that feels the need to force businesses to open so people can have jobs and therefore insurance, and therefore the ability to pay for Covid treatments.
And our government is the only one that I can find (perhaps outside of Brasil) where the recommendations of every single medical expert in the world are being challenged by the leader. We are now living in a country where people are physically fighting each other over whether or not to wear a simple cloth mask.
We are living in a country where literally every idea and every thought has become part of a partisan war. Should we honor the men who waged war against the US 150 years ago in an effort to break the country apart? We’re fighting about that. In a country that was founded and built upon a slave based economy, we are still wondering if racism exists. We are physically fighting about that.
In a country where more than 130, 000 citizens have died of one single disease, we are fighting over whether or not that disease exists and how serious a threat it poses.
Finally, as the mother of a teacher, and the grandmother of a tender, innocent, excited new kindergarten child, I find myself in complete despair about this country’s approach to education during a worldwide pandemic.
Those who care for and love children are in agreement that we need to get kids back into school as safely as possible. The emotional, intellectual, and social losses of life without school are too great to ignore.
Yet at the same time, unlike any other wealthy country on earth, our government is literally doing NOTHING to make that return to school a reality. No plan, no money, no support. Instead of helping schools to open safely, our government is threatening and bullying them into opening no matter what.
The United States is a sick, morally corrupt, socially empty place. It is a place where corporate profits are the only goal. We will open our schools without adequate safety, without any federal funding or guidance, without any hope of keeping people safe. We’ll do it because if we don’t, parents can’t return to work, and corporate profits might drop.
The US lives under the rule of the Wall Street elite. As long as the stock market stays up, the people in power have a chance of keeping that power. Their corporate backers will reward them with more support.
So what if we sacrifice a few hundred teachers and few thousand public school kids? So what?
I am in despair. I no longer believe in my country or its ideals or goals. In fact, if I had one wish to be granted, it would be to miraculously make me and those I love citizens of a decent nation that values its citizens.
I am sad.
For the first time in 64 years, I wish I could talk to my grandparents before they immigrated. I’d steer them in another direction entirely.