American Horror Story
Laurie Penny

The quintessential image of idyllic America used in every political campaign ad.

America Has Never Been Happy, or Good?

Nonsense, we have always been happy, we have always been good — we just haven’t been consistent, nor fair, nor inclusive but, the fact that we constantly try makes us more than the sum of our parts.

I get it, Laurie, you’re trying to illicit a response and thus the hyperbole — but you truly can’t believe in absolutes nor can you expect that anyone running for office, anywhere, at anytime can please all of the people all of the time. (Or maybe the subtlety of your article’s sarcasm is lost on me.)

Politics has always involved pageantry, it has always involved advertising — and advertising is not an art, it is persuasion. So forgive us if our conventions feel like Michael Bay productions and not backroom “parties in a local restaurant with the occasional glass of free buck’s fizz.”

America has always been the land of infinite possibilities. It has always been that country that others dream of emigrating to because of the freedoms available to it’s citizens, be they home grown or naturalized.

I know this first hand having come from a country embroiled in civil war, via a sponsorship of a Washington, DC church, into the arms of three successive foster families. For me, this is a country that has made good on the promise that if you work hard, watch out for yourself and make your own opportunities you’ll be rewarded. Tending bar, busing tables, Pell Grants and VELA school loans put me through university. And despite lost green cards and a lot of paperwork and 14 years of waiting, the same country that educated me accepted me as one of their own, two years after I graduated college.

Regardless of all our faults, we still lead the world in pure optimism. It is this optimism that allows us to believe in the infinitely positive and possible outcomes of railing against mediocrity, against racism, against misogyny, against the violation of human rights and injustice. We’re far from perfect and we often do more unintentional harm than good. But, as long as we keep trying to do better, we can continue to tip more into the “do good” column.