I like to check in with America every year on her birthday. It started for me years ago as a Facebook goof… “Happy Birthday, USA, you look great for your age,” etc., just to give myself a giggle. But in regularly talking to my own country so casually, I began to see her as an old friend in my same stage of life. This year, she’s turning 243 a few days before I turn 45 – so we’re both just a couple of ladies in our forties.
But honestly, she’s kind of a lot right now. She is being really difficult, and I don’t want to go to her birthday party.
My feelings around her are complicated. I’m sad for her, mad at her, hopeful that she’ll see the error of her ways, and get back on track. She asks for advice, then doesn’t take it. She’s invited the wrong people through her door, and they’re making a big mess of everything, so I’m like, “fine, but don’t call me at 3 a.m. when these hooligans have robbed your house, alienated you from your friends, vandalized your neighbors’ homes and locked their children in your basement. OK, yes, in that case, please call everyone.” Her place needs a good sage cleansing.
I want to hand her off to someone else to deal with for a while. But I keep coming back to the stark reality that she is my responsibility. Oh yeah, sorry to break it to you, but she’s yours too.
We conveniently forget about her checkered past – one filled with a string of bad decisions and countless hurtful actions. But it always felt like maybe she was making progress. It was our fault I guess, for taking all those little improvements for granted, but who could possibly have imagined we would stop going forward and go backwards again after all this time?
So I don’t really feel like celebrating her birthday, because she is being such a b-…I mean, she’s being so rude right now.
Complicating my already complicated feelings, I finally saw “Hamilton”this year which made me a different kind of sad and mad and hopeful about our country. I watched the RBG movies (again…sad, mad, hopeful), and met American and Civil Rights hero, US Rep. John Lewis, totally by accident on a quiet street in Atlanta, an encounter from which I walked away grateful, humbled, hopeful, and energized. All of these were in-my-face reminders that nothing has been straightforward for America; not her birth, her adolescence, young adulthood nor her currently rocky bout with middle age. NOTHING AT ALL has been easy, and as her friends, we know that on a cellular level, but…
Damn it, I expect more from you, America. You are old enough to know better.
I want to leave you on your own to learn your lesson. But if your friends leave you alone, things will just get worse. So we’ll mow your lawn, and take out your recycling and trash, we’ll sage the place ourselves because finding a shaman on short notice is hard, and we’ll do our best to help you be better. Ladies in their forties need to stick together.
We’ll vote and protest and fight for you, but we will also invite you to yoga, and a meditation retreat, and buy you thirty-five billion books because YOU NEED TO READ MORE.
Fine. I will celebrate you this year, but I am NOT dressing up, I am not buying you a gift, and I refuse to bring an appetizer to the party. I will stay for five minutes, and then I will go home and change into pajamas.