How I feel about America now

I had waited a long time to write this post, even though I had been writing it long before anyone was considered a candidate for election, long before the memes began and the protests started. I am an American, my whole life (most of it) was lived there, that’s where I went to high school, that’s where I first spoke, that’s the place where my birth certificate says I’m from even though it says “American born abroad”. Even still, I’ve always been “abroad”, in every sense of the word I am abroad. I am abroad in my thoughts, my behaviour, and my opinions. I’ve never been able to cultivate the American pride that blatantly spits on every other country and calls America “the greatest”. I’ve never seen it right, even with its conveniences and my nostalgia towards it, even with how accustomed I may be to this my home country, I’ve never seen it correct to say it is the best. I have always been conscious that America will and shall always be a nation formed by many nations, in essence making it perhaps the greatest melting pot… and hence exalting the fact that every nation is great if it can make one nation, so great.

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On November of 2016 I felt a pain in my heart that I didn’t think was possible to feel outside of losing someone dear to you. It was during these elections that I realised that I felt let down by the country I called my own. But the worst feeling was the combination of losses, the loss of faith in humanities ability to see that all humans are equal, and also the loss of respect for the Christian church in America, who for the most part welcomed these thoughts of separation with open arms. I’ve been stunned by the amount of Christians celebrating and embracing the slogan “make America great again”. Because for eight years, for eight long years they felt that the acceptance and equality, the “European” like mentality, the tolerating of individuals outside of American soil both in thinking and in location meant that America was no longer “great”. It meant that we had a different kind of president both in skin colour and in behaviour, and that just wasn’t great enough. It meant that our first lady wasn’t a life-size cut out of our stereotypical “all-American” girl ideals. It meant that just like I was once told by an employee at my old job at a store called  Lilly Pulitzer: “you just don’t fit the look of the brand, you don’t look American” I guess for eight years America didn’t look “American”enough and that just wasn’t acceptable. It wasn’t acceptable because all of us who compose America which may look a certain way, who may be a little different, who may eat some other kinds of foods and speak other languages, we just don’t fit the mould of the country who has seen our ancestors set it up, build its bridges and send it rocketing towards the future.

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I’ve been to these churches, I’ve spoken to these pastors and these leaders before, and no matter how hard they try to say that they include everyone, that Jesus loves everyone, they fail by the longshot to actually abide by those rules. These patriotic Christians can’t help the way they look at anyone who isn’t as “white” and “American” as they are. They look at you in a way that you can’t forget, it’s like beneath all of the smiling and the grinning, and the “Jesus loves the little children” songs, you see it… you can tell that you just won’t be good enough to them. At their churches and their gatherings you’re the “dark-skinned girl” or you’re the one that everyone thought was Mexican or Chinese, even though you may not know the first thing about either of those two countries, even though you’ve lived a few blocks away from them your whole life. It’s never enough. They keep telling the church that they are open to everyone, they say it so much because they want to make sure no one feels the exclusion they are subliminally screaming out by the mouthful. They tell you that you are “exotic”, that they love how “different” you are, without realising that the fact that they are pointing it out at all says they noticed something you didn’t think was all that important. They say things like: “I love having so many different cultures at our church” but the fact that they have to acknowledge that they’re different at all speaks volumes of how they’ve seen all of us for years. They host “hip-hop nights” for the young people, and go on mission trips to the countries they would secretly never go to. But it’s okay, because they take good pictures to post on their church websites. There’s always a smiling homely caucasian girl with no make up, dark blonde hair, and bohemian clothing next to a confused Haitian child, and that picture says it all. She’s smiling because she thinks she’s doing something so great for her church, and for God, but she doesn’t realize how much she’s alienated herself from the people she’s “volunteering” to go see. These are the people who say God is love, God is merciful, but they boast and they pride themselves and they glorify America first. They glorify the right to carry weapons that could kill and justify it under everything except the bible that they preach from. I ask you Christians, what are you doing? What are we doing right now? The second I heard the name of Jesus at the inauguration, the second I heard preachers and pastors known by the world saying that this was a “blessing”, that it was a “blessed” day, I knew that this is nothing more than the beginning of the end. I knew then that who I thought was the enemy was not the enemy at all, but the enemies were those who I had grown up believing and trusting. I realized that for the sake of protecting race, protecting politics, protecting the all-american America which excludes anything that isn’t great, rich or white, Christians would sell out. They would sell every bible verse they have hanging on the walls of their Laura Ashley style homes. They would put their American flag tapestries ahead of their leather-covered bibles, and their guns in front of their crosses. They would say they support a president who has disrespected every type of person in existence, who has boasted about sexual assault, who has lived a life of deceit and lies and of not caring who he crushes on the path to “success”. This man is going to make America great again, because according to numerous pastors and evangelists, according to an evangelist whose father brought thousands upon thousands to Christ, he was a good man and everything else… well, all the other stuff we can sweep under the rug.

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Yesterday as I saw the America I thought was progressing fall apart, I realised that nothing was going to be the same anymore. Even if by some miracle, if by some stretch of mercy something happened, and all of this was stopped, things wouldn’t be the same. The new president has exposed the ugly underbelly of an America who was quietly boiling in anger while we “the different ones” had our day in the sun. It’s over for us now, and the hard part of all of it is going back to daily life and having people ask you how it feels. How does it feel to be an American now? It feels like every day I ever went into a church group and they asked me where I was from because “Florida” wasn’t good enough. It feels like every time I’ve had to enter a dinner party full of white Republicans and feel that everything I say will be held against me in some way. It feels like the countless number of times I’ve heard pastors wives say that someone is “so Latina” or be surprised at the curls in my hair, or make comments about why someone doesn’t look white, or doesn’t look black, or just doesn’t look how they wanted them to. It feels like all of the racist teachers I ever encountered as a kid got together and took over the world. It feels like the many times I’ve noticed the subliminal messages against biracial couples, against children that are mixed. It feels like the empowerment of females was kicked in the stomach, it feels like the dreams of millions of immigrants was flushed down a toilet, it feels like the pain of hundreds upon thousands of people everywhere seeing the bad guy get away with his plan.

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I’m disappointed in America, yes, this is true. But more so, I’m disappointed in people, I’m disappointed in the church I believed in. I have learned now more than ever that we don’t share the same God. I thought we did, but we don’t. I don’t believe in the Jesus that supports guns, and elitist patriotism, I don’t believe in the Jesus who thinks America is the greatest nation on earth, I don’t believe in the Jesus who thinks violence is justified or that prosperity is the golden nugget that makes the world go round. I don’t believe in the Jesus who thinks that anyone has the right to mock someone who was born with a physical incapacity, or the Jesus who says that Mexicans are anything other than people just like me. I don’t and have never believed in the Jesus who notices skin color and social class. I will never believe in the Jesus who cares more about someone’s ethnic background than he does about their soul, about the issues they are going through. I have woken up, and I have realized that I didn’t fit in at “church” for a reason, and thanks to the new politics, I finally know what those reasons are. I was always alienated, I was always different, our gospels were different, our religions were different. They can’t hide it anymore, they can’t hide their racism, their classicism, or their ignorance, it’s over, it’s uncovered. God has done the one thing that He always does, he has brought light to that which was hidden in darkness. Now we see people for what they really are, we see our churches for what they really are, we see America for what it really is.

All Photos in this post are from the Ellis Island archives. Reminding us of America’s immigrants.
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