2020 has been both hard and uniquely challenging and I know why.
The true nature of the United States is on full display and the silent majority isn’t hiding anymore. Between the groupthink and tribalism being pushed from places of power (looking at you POTUS and Co.), we’ve entered into an age where patriotism and hate appear to be nearly indistinguishable and garner national praise, even when it’s at the expense of other people. We’re knee-deep in a pandemic and over our heads in a cesspool of racism with no end in sight for either.
I’ve come to the realization that in the midst of what’s going on, a large portion of society in the U.S. has been conditioned to look at everything with cognitive dissonance, to defer from the issues at hand and their real-world implications, to seek peace and quiet rather than peace and justice, and to oppose anything that affects comfort.
This country clamors for love to heal the land and bring us together, but as soon as it’s time to show that love, the priority becomes self and nothing more. Why? Because the United States looks at itself in the reflection of its own rose-colored glasses and loves what it sees. It boasts about the grandeur of the self-crazed culture it’s created. It’s why so many people have aligned themselves to the true heart of this nation: selfishness and individualism. It’s been made to look attractive and appropriate.
An environment has been created that demonizes criticism of the country. To many, holding the United States responsible for its misdeeds and urging it to do better means to be an enemy of the state. Many have latched on to that theory and because of that, we have yet to see the U.S. truly live up to its promises on a humanity level.
COVID-19 and racism have proven that. Right now, the two most controversial topics are people wearing masks and police needing reform. They shouldn’t be controversial at all. Not in a country that claims to be the champion of people.
Doctors have told us that the COVID-19 is killing us and that an easy way to prevent more deaths is to wear a mask. They’ve provided us numbers and documentation. They’ve made videos. People have died by the hundreds of thousands. Healthcare professionals have urged us to do the bare minimum just so we don’t spread the virus and kill someone who is immunodeficient or simply just our neighbor.
Black people have shared their experiences with the police and racism. They’ve died without reason. They’ve begged for empathy and plead for others to just see them as human. They’ve walked people through their history and pointed out at structures that were built to oppress them. They’ve asked for even the most minimal or reforms just to get a taste of equity and equality.
Both are met with jeers and opposition. And those who’ve drowned themselves in garments of individualism, who know stats better than they know the actual communities being disproportionately hurt, yell that their freedoms are being discriminated against by being forced to wear masks. Then in the same breath tell Black people that they should be happy for the freedoms they have. Which one is it? Is everyone free here or not?
It can’t be both and the unfortunate reality is that it goes beyond just COVID-19 and racism.
So how come this great country falls so short when it comes to living up to all of its beautiful sounding monikers? Because the true heart of the country isn’t selflessness and oneness. It’s selfishness and individualism. We’re obsessed with building our own kingdoms when we, as humans, were tasked with doing so much more. Empathy and compassion were given to us as a gift, to make us loving and selfless, not as tools to justify why we only care for ourselves, yet that’s how so many of us choose to use them.
This is a place where privilege is shared by few and touted as freedom that everyone can partake in (not true) and where convenience is more important than sacrifice.
This is a place where someone else’s death is less important than an individual’s right to breathe without a face covering of no consequence.
This is a place where I can get shot and killed by police and justice for me is still less important than another person’s right to have a conversation that isn’t about race.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
The country did not listen and it has failed to ever adopt this as a foundational truth to exist by. Instead, it feeds us propaganda that we are the greatest and most moral country on the planet. With that arrogance, we stick our noses up at other countries and then stick our noses up at our own people when they need our help.
Individualism continues to rip the fabric of our society by unceasingly promoting apathy and ignorance towards the concerns of other people. It scoffs at the sight of equal human rights and protection. It doesn’t care for the sick or the poor or the person of color. It detests the thought of teamwork and it refuses to lay down its own ideals for the sake of anyone else or the greater good.
It’s a disease that has been eating this country from the inside out since the very beginning when liberty and justice for all were fought on behalf of only some.
This is what has always been. The only difference is that the message has become more clear and a lot noisier.
The only cure is change. Yes, love is the way, but we have to re-examine how we look at that word. It’s a double-edged sword that cuts both backward and forwards. It prompts us to hold others accountable who are living below a standard of love and it prompts us to change when we are living below a standard of love. For where we are at, we desperately need that kind of love.
COVID-19 and racism have shined an all-consuming light on what needs to be fixed, but it cannot change until we start putting others before ourselves and take off the chains of American individualism.