Posted by Pattie on 9/23/2002 04:40:00 PM

I don't know why I don't write more than I do nowadays. I think I've been depressed and overwhelmed by the world. On August 31, I was ready to jam, to have fun and poke fun at important, deserving targets. Then the war rhetoric came and I've been reminded once again at how much I am disappointed by my native homeland, how much I hurt for America and her people. I don't talk about this much, well because it is painful and because I have no answers. I hear the rhetoric about it being the greatest country and the most powerful country and the great experiment and so forth. But I no longer believe it.

I remember pledging allegiance as a school girl every morning and being proud and feeling lucky that I lived where I lived. In 1969, when we walked on the moon and people protested in the streets, my 6th grade teacher told me that all I needed was imagination and I could do anything. I just needed to imagine it and then work hard and it would happen. He didn't tell me that if I grew up in one neighbourhood instead of another that my imagination would be limited by who would listen to me. He didn't tell me that my being fat would ruin my credibility. He didn't tell me that my being a woman would create an invisible, but real ceiling to what I could become. He didn't tell me that smart people are often regarded as too much trouble unless they apply their brains to maintaining the status quo and furthering the agendas of those who are already rich. He also didn't mention that the black elementary school several miles from our all-white school was filled with African American students who had even less chance to be a fully functioning, imaginative citizen who could be and do whatever they put their mind to. In short, my sixth grade teacher forgot to mention how many ways Americans divide themselves up into groups of haves and have-nots.

On some days I think things have changed since I was a kid and have gotten worse. But on other days, I realize that there is a long and sad history is the United States of saying one thing and doing another. The Declaration of Independence, supposedly proclaiming equality for all people, was written by slave masters who regarded dark-skinned peoples, indigenous peoples and women as their inferriors. The Constitution of the United States defined African Americans as being only 3/5 a human being. The economic reasons for fighting the War of Independence and for fighting the Civil War have been glossed over in American history books with rhetoric about freedom and equality. Greed has been a stronger tradition in the United States than either freedom or democracy. But greed remains the hidden agenda.

But lately, it does seem to be worse. Much of the jingoistic and fascist elements of American culture are out of the closet. It is okay to equate patriotism with hate. Now American leaders are talking of pre-emptive strikes and how to convict people of crimes that they are going to commit. These "necessary" violations of constitutional rights and tried and true foreign policy tenants are being done in the name of preserving democracy. This is more than the proverbial slippery slope. This is a mud slide -- dirty and destructive and not much of democracy will be left at the end of the day.

I still feel that culture needs to be challenged and I still feel that is my best place to be. A professor once told me that I have a great sociological imagination. But I'm a fat broad from the wrong side of the tracks who had the audacity to earn a Ph.D. Will anyone listen to me?

A part of me wants to crawl into a cave somewhere and just not be around people anymore. I envy the hermits today. But it just isn't me. So I guess the question before me is how do I remain somewhat well-adjusted and sane in such a crazy world. How do I grieve? How do I incorporate that grief into my work?