Happy 241st birthday, America, you gorgeous girl, you! I understand that the previous 240 years were rough, but I feel like the last 12 months have been particularly fraught. Let's be honest. It's been fucking tough to be an American lately.
I've been struggling to keep up relationships that previously might have been considered "contentious," but I'm now more likely to refer to them as insurmountable. I have several friends and family who actively and vocally support the current administration, and I literally don't know how to talk to them anymore.
Not knowing how to carry on political conversation is new to me. Politics have always been front and center in my life, and I cannot think of a single day that passed without some talk of the day's news in politics.
In 1992 when incumbent George HW Bush was challenged by Bill Clinton, my parents hosted a Kid's Election. And they gerrymandered the hell out of that vote. They invited our friends from down the street, four siblings who bore a strong physical resemblance to Hitler youth. All four dutifully cast their votes for Bush. The rest of the electorate consisted of children of public school employees and the Indian immigrants from across the street. Clinton won the Kid's Election handily.
Those were the days! If only it were that easy now.
Nothing about the last 12 months has been easy. It's been hard to maintain civility when discussing politics. It's been hard to resist the slow erosion of the American values we hold dear. It's been hard to worry about policy that is going to negatively affect those who support it the most. It's been hard to hold politicians accountable to represent all their constituents, not just those with the largest wallets. It's been hard to read the news. It's been hard to think about the world we're handing over to our children.
For those of us whose candidate lost in November, it's been fucking hard to stay engaged in politics.
But this is not about sour grapes. It's about our duty as Americans.
America is hard, y'all. This is not a surprise. From our first bloody days as a country, through civil war, through the growing pains of women's suffrage and civil rights, Americans have been called upon to do the hard work.
If the hard work of today is to continue to communicate and engage with friends and family whose views we disagree with, then that is our task.
Patriotism comes in many forms. Sometimes, it's flying the flag on your porch or putting your hand over your heart during the national anthem. Other times, it's finding the energy to call your congressman one more time to defend your Trump-supporting neighbor's right to health care.
Happy birthday, America. Even on our worst days, I'm so grateful for the hard task of being your citizen.
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