He doth protest too much

In America, we’re offended by protesters. We’ve become fragile and incapable of hearing dissenting opinions without our entire sense of self being threatened. We gain our identities from the myth of a perfect, benevolent country rather than being grounded to things that matter more. We could be part of the human race first, and citizens of the US second, but we’ve chosen the opposite in order to justify our ideas of exceptionalism to ourselves.

Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and even individuals like Colin Kaepernick are all criticized as divisive and un-American, when in fact there is nothing more American than protest and willingness to point out the imperfect and the unacceptable. The Boston tea party was possibly the original inconvenient and “unacceptable” American display of resistance to the status quo. We proclaim the righteousness of that because it’s in our history books next to pictures of white guys throwing stuff into the harbor. We don’t accept Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick because they aren’t white guys and because they’re refusing to treat our flag with the reverence we feel it deserves. We love our flag and demand unyielding loyalty to it, regardless of what the country wielding it does to subsets of its citizens. To question is to hate, to speak up is to be told to love it or leave it.

But does loving America really mean reverently bowing to the status quo forever and ever, amen, or does it mean fighting for change so that the myth of equality for all becomes slightly less nebulous, slightly more tangible? Do we get to be truthful in our relationships with loved ones when they are being self destructive, but not with our very own country which we are entrusting with our children’s futures? Is it really sacrilege to point out where we need improvement and directional change, or is it actually a greater form of love than that possessed by those who want to banish anyone who has a complaint? Who loves America more? Those pointing out where the emperor has no clothes, or those with their fingers in their ears, raging at the disrespect of people daring to exercise their constitutional freedoms?

Protests are never convenient and acceptable unless they’re not actually protesting anything that matters. Change is not easy unless it’s completely meaningless change. The status quo will never be denied without a fight, and without people who declare themselves to be proper and acceptable leading the battle against those asking for a correction in course. If you’re satisfied with how your country is treating you, that’s wonderful, but your arrogance in assuming everyone is getting the same deal is unbecoming and self-delusional. It’s never been that way, anywhere in the world, and if you don’t see that, you’re just wallowing in your own self-interest. The promise of America was never perfection but the allowance of striving for perfection. America isn’t a destination, it’s a journey, and if we’re not allowed to make that journey, then we’ve failed.

Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest is fundamentally American

Dear America: what does justice look like in a land that never loved us?

An open letter from a black man to his white family in a moment of violence