I grew up in a small town in Ohio in the '80s. At about the same time my fifth grade self started scratching out a world view, I dubbed a friend's copy of Raising Hell. After that...well...you might say it was all down hill. Hurtling toward a perspective that was simultaneously wide open and narrowly defined.
"Fuck Amerikkka, still with the triple K..." ---Ice CubePublic Enemy. NWA. BDP. EMPD. Redman. Cypress Hill. Rakim. All of 'em trailed Run DMC fairly predictably. At best, that music told stories which didn't appear in my history books and never made the reels of the newscasts available to me. At worst, it violently condemned the majority of the dogmas which had been fed to me. Resulting in what would best be described as a very young, paling version of Black militancy. I viewed a lot of the things in this world--things like the US Congress, Nike and all basketball referees--not simply as enemies to be opposed to, but as special incarnations of evil.
"Every official that comes in/cripples us, leaves us maimed/silent and tamed and with our flesh and bones/he builds his home..." ---RageHip hop, of course, is not the only music I've ever encountered. And Black militancy is not the only philosophy I've ever digested and spit back up, in some part, as my own.
As I've aged, supreme righteousness has given way to agnostic cynicism. Sort of. Maybe it's more like practicality at this point. It's very easy to snipe at the country you live in when your passions are tweaked by local injustices. But in the long, broad view so many of the things that I find fault with seem to be less about what is unique to the United States and more about the most common shortcomings of humanity in general. That recognition can be fleeting when witnessing the grossest of grievances in one's own backyard, but it has become part of the base of my personal belief system. It does, however, contrast sharply with hope. The salt that desperately needs some pepper to prevent a belief system from succumbing to a self-loathing fatalism.
"Now you know I'm only human, instead of all the things I'd like to be..." ---Gil Scott-HeronAmerica has a bloody history. Some of the ugliest moments in the whole human narrative.
Slavery. Annihilating the First Nations. Japanese Internment Camps. Jim Crow.
And that's just the easy stuff to condemn. Nevermind the pieces of the story that concern hoarding of wealth and resources. Or the unequal distribution of rights allegedly guaranteed all citizens. Or...well...I'll stop there. I think you get the picture.
But, in the big picture, what country is not bloody?
Nation building is not an idyllic endeavor. At best, it involves a war of words. At worst, men make oceans of blood in order to draw the boundaries separating them from their neighbors. Mayhaps, they kill their neighbors to get more land for themselves. Whatever the case, it's not a pretty picture.
What counts most, though, is what a nation does after the blood has been spilled.
"The Revolution is here..." ---CommonLet's suppose that a motivated group of Americans decided that we hated what America has become and agreed to re-revolt. Today, we wage a massive war and we win our revolution overthrowing the government in the process. Tomorrow, what are we gonna do? We have to build our own country. And what country are we gonna build?
That's a damn good question, inn'it?
We would have to build something. Otherwise, we'd run the risk of a counter-revolution. And all our efforts would be for naught.
Of all the different forms of government we could cut and paste or modify to our liking or create from scratch...are we really gonna come up with a remarkably better system than the one that is already in place and has been evolving for 230+ years?
Frankly, I think not.
Resignation does not hold an obvious place within the act of revolution. Within the process, though, it is a key component.
"Change is easy. Living it is hard." ---Kelly TsaiI am a Bicentennial Baby. Not quite as Twy-centennial as my friend born on July 4, 1976, but born in '76 no less.
The bulk of the bloodiest, most unjust chapters of the American story precede my life. Among those chapters, there are many egalitarian pages. Whether charting the best or worst of times, I cannot say that America itself is solely to be lauded or denounced. Rather it is the people who created and maintained our institutions who deserve credit or blame.
It is the people whom this Grand Experiment has always been by. It is the people whom this Grand Experiment has always been for. It is the people who have changed institutions to make this union more perfect. Rather, more closer to perfect.
And it is the people who will always have to live with those changes. Even the ones that make us less perfect.
When we encounter those changes, though, that's when we get revolutionary.
Rather, more revolutionary. Than we already were.