The Foundations of our National House

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I come from a family that emphasized learning and doing. Learn to sew. Make things with your hands. Study. Read. Communicate. Write. Everyone assumed you would go to college. All the grandkids graduated with college degrees, some with more than one. Then I spent the last several decades around people with similar hobbies and interests. Our homes are overflowing with books, crafts, new projects. Some study the history of textiles, from sheep to thread to garment. Others can forge a blade from ore that they smelted by hand with friends. And all of them seemed to value staying informed and participating in our civic duty to vote responsibly.

During the Obama years, there seemed to be a lot of optimism. Things must be improving in this country, right? We’re recovering from the recession, we gathered around to watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, we got married and had kids or helped our friends with their kids. We believed in establishing “intentional communities” that supported one another emotionally, financially, in ever-loving “chosen” relationships. We tried to be thoughtful, even when there were divorces. Sometimes we were successful, sometimes we failed. But we kept trying to improve. And we grieved together as our elders, our mentors, and even our cultural icons died.

But as much as we rejoiced that a Black Man had been elected President twice and then Marriage Equality was finally the law of the land, it was hard to ignore that not everything was fine. Women spoke up about #YesAllWomen and shared their own abuse stories. Men learned their sisters had all experienced misogyny--ALL of them had. Those with white privilege started to hear about how they needed to be aware of that privilege. Black friends pointed out the realities of #DrivingWhileBlack. And they explained why #BlackLivesMatter is not just their cause but something that should matter to everyone.

Then the Election Season hit us with something out of our worst nightmares: Watching and listening to Americans shout hateful slogans at rallies. Americans punching protestors. Americans screaming racist epithets and isolationist slogans.

At first, you might be tempted to blame the ringleader. But I am beginning to think that the ringleader has simply stomped hard enough on the floor to break the rotted floorboards and reveal the infestations that were already there. The foundation of this nation is not entirely stable. Some of these floor boards have toxic mold, thousands of cockroaches underneath, and are completely compromised by dry rot. And the temper tantrums of a candidate behaving like a toddler have revealed the weakness of our national house.

We are not a nation of just intellectuals and white collar, upward-moving, college graduates. We still suffer from extreme poverty, classism, racism, misogyny, ageism, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, religious bigotry, and fear-driven anger. And no simple coat of paint will fix this. The very foundation of our national home needs major renovation to root out this rot and disease.

It’s not going to be fixed in one election. And it’s not going to be fix in just a few years or even a decade. But we are going to have to do some very painful demolition and reconstruction, if we want to save this house.