20 January 2005

5. U.S.A.

Dear United States of America,

So as of today, George W. Bush is sworn in as President, and even cynical little me has to admit he was probably elected this time around. At least this time we didn't have to get the Supreme Court involved, right? That's got to count for something, right? Okay, I'm grasping at straws here.

I've been meaning to write you a letter since November 2004, of course, when the election happened and I couldn't bring myself to call it a re-election, but I also couldn't bear to think that we averaged 70,000 votes worth of fraud per state this time around. Of course, most of my letters started out, "Dear U.S.A., what the fuck?" and didn't get much more eloquent from there. It was the popular vote that really turned my stomach. I mean, I was glad it matched the Electoral College results for a change, not that I particularly like the Electoral College, but that's a topic for another letter. But G.W.B. didn't win the popular vote in 2000, and carried on like it was a landslide anyway, so the thought of what he and his team would do with even a slim majority was pretty sick-making. So was the thought that a majority of people cast "Please sir, can I have some more?" votes, and wondering what the hell was going on in their minds, and feeling like an alien maybe a little more than usual even. Also I really didn't like the thought that people with opinions and ideas like mine (and a lot of people with opinions and ideas a lot less extreme than mine, for that matter) were going to be thorougly ignored for another four years. I wrote about wanting to leave the country, like a lot of people did when post-election despair was strongest, but then I found, to my surprise, that some parts of me actually identify with you after all.

I've always been something of a foreigner here, from the fact that I was born with dual nationality and grew up speaking two languages, to the fact that my family didn't go to church. On the other hand, I always had the reassuring knowledge that there's another country I could easily call home if I so chose, even if as I got older I gradually learned that the Netherlands was not the land of gifts and unconditional love --- that was just my grandparents' house, which happens to be in the Netherlands. Still, the growing-up realization that I would probably never fully fit into either country didn't particularly make me like the United States any better. So why was I suddenly discovering in myself this sudden refusal to leave?

Part of it was just stubbornness, and the knowledge that if everybody like me left the U.S.A. it would make the administration's job that much easier. Part of it was the fact that damn it, my house is here. But to my everlasting surprise, there was more.

Dear United States of America, you're my country, too. I may be a second-class citizen in a lot of ways: I'm a woman, sure, and to make matters worse I'm a woman who's had an abortion. I'm an atheist, I'm a foreigner, and I'm a queer. But despite all those things, I was born here, and that makes this my country even if I don't always like it, and I'm not going to cut and run just yet. I've made a list of things that would make me leave: another war, one that threatened to draft my partner; a national law against same-sex marriage; a national law making abortion illegal. Even the reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court might not be enough to make me leave you, U.S.A., because if Roe went down I'd have work to do, making sure that women in states banning abortion had ways of getting to free states. I might join a new Underground Railroad if that's what it took to help keep women from dying from unsafe illegal abortions again, okay? And (I know this is getting off topic and it isn't even addressed to all of you) shut the hell up about abortion being dangerous and traumatic, because 1) it's still safer than childbirth and 2) I for one am living proof that they're not going to leave every woman who has one crying and wishing for the child they could have had, assuming they stayed safe and healthy and didn't miscarry. Okay, I can get back to my main point now.

Long term, I'm worried about my ability to keep living here, United States of America, because the writing on the wall seems to be that we might soon be paying taxes only to support international imperialism instead of to take care of our citizens. Call me a socialist if you want, but I'm not particularly interested in being ruled by a government that thinks guns are more important than feeding and sheltering and providing for the health of its citizens. Maybe that makes me an anarchist, too. Whatever. My point, United States of America, is I'm still a part of you, even though I'm not a rich white Christian male imperialist capitalist bastard, which seems to be what we're stuck having in charge today. And for your information, I'm by far not the only non-white, non-rich, non-male, non-heterosexual, non-Christian, non-capitalist, non-imperialist motherfucker out here. I'm pretty sure we're the majority, even if your last election's popular vote didn't reflect that too well.

Have you noticed that I haven't once yet called you America? It's tempting, don't get me wrong; I want to quote that Ginsberg poem with all my heart, but that abbreviation happens to ignore the inhabitants of all the other countries on this continent and the one to the south, and that's pretty poor form if you ask me. Just a thought.

I'm running out of steam, so I'm going to finish this letter here and send it as is. Long story short, U.S.A., is "Howdy. I'm still here." For now, we're stuck with each other --- I hope we can play nice, because it turns out I don't want to take my ball and find a new home.


Started 2 November 2004, first posted 20 January 2005, last updated 6 June 2014.