There’s a new popular song called “Sick Boy” by the Chainsmokers. I suggest reading all the lyrics as it is a powerful and poignant criticism of America. Here's a taste:
"And I'm from the east side of America
Where we desensitize by hysteria
And we can pick sides, but this is us, this is us, this is
I live on the west side of America
Where they spin lies into fairy dust
And we can pick sides, but this is us, this is us, this is"
The part of the song that keeps playing over and over in my head is the part that repeats “this is us, this is us”.
America, this is us.
As we watch in horror while immigrant children are rounded up into tent cities, we are reminded of the Native American children who were separated from their parents in an effort to force assimilation into white culture; of the tent cities that were built as internment camps for Japanese Americans; of mass incarceration of people of color which keeps extraordinary numbers of human beings locked up, ruining lives and families for generations. We are reminded of all the agreeing hands that it takes to create these horrors, all those who make the orders and all those who follow them. This is the underbelly of America, the America we like to ignore. It is also the underbelly of patriarchy, of a culture built on domination.
Having grown up with a liberal background, politically, culturally, and religiously, I was often taught to question the dichotomy of good and evil. Evil was a belief held by more religious people and often used to demean the very values and lifestyles and freedoms I hold precious. I dabbled in New Age spirituality where the thinking is that those who act with hate or violence are projecting their pain or fear and deserve our compassion. Though this is true in the sense that hate is a projection, it is untrue that it is acceptable, valid, or understandable to hate. I know personally and professionally many people who have suffered trauma, who have been through unimaginable situations and experience levels of fear and pain for their whole lives. Yet, they have never committed acts of hate or violence.
This is where evil begins to take its place in my paradigm. Evil comes from power and the self-serving hunger for power. Evil comes from heartlessness and the ability to look at another human being and think “worthless” or “mine”. Evil does not deserve compassion. It deserves moral outrage. It deserves accountability. It deserves to have power stripped from its hands until it is on its knees feeling the weight of remorse. What we see before us, my friends, is evil. And this evil is us. It is America. It has always been with us, though we have always preferred to see ourselves as better or different.
As we take to the streets, as we activate our movement in response to atrocities, we take stock of this shadow. We look and say, “this is us. We are this.” We can no longer afford to live with these blind spots. May we go down in history for being the movement that reversed the trajectory of power, that turned the tides once and for all. To take a chapter out of a shamefully misused book, as the Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
From the Author