What’s happening in the US these days is the breakdown of the body of American myths– about where we came from, how we made our lives here, what we did and didn’t do to form this nation. Truth finally is being revealed and acknowledged.
Some have always known these truths, but most of America, brought up on myths and lies that made us look better than we ever were, were nested comfortably in the school-taught beliefs that we were the Good Guys, the Nice Guys.
This process of dissolution of the myths embedded in our belief-systems and minds is the first step to real and positive change. It is true for an individual, it is true for a community: Reality has to be recognized, has to be accepted for a person or a community to actually see the need for change and to inspire the will to change.
This season of challenges, from dealing with an administration that lies and manipulates beyond anything we’ve ever seen in this country, to pandemic, to the war against people of color by white supremacists breaking out of the shadows… We are finally coming to understand in greater and greater numbers that a nation built on myths is unsustainable: Reality is that which, when it’s ignored, does not go away. Reality is the iceberg in the path of the Titanic, it is the coal fire in the hold that no one knows about. We have been working without enough information, with mistaken beliefs, taking those stories we learned in school to be all we needed to know.
Reality is staring us down, forcing us to face the deep roots of how and why we came to where we are today.
I believe in America. I believe in the essential good will of normal Americans. I believe that intelligence and compassion and an innate sense of justice is stronger in most of us, than the need to find false comfort within the lies. Our sense of getting right with nature and each other and the divine, whatever we conceive that to be, is stronger than our fears.
We–the everyday Americans–have been tolerating the stresses and strains of trying to shape Reality to our fantasies, and we are waking to how life, our communities, our nation can be, if only we stop tolerating and own our power to create the world we actually want. We have reached the limits of tolerance of injustice because finally, we are understanding that what happens to others is also happening to us. What our community loses when some of its people are not given justice diminishes all of us.
The Powers That Be are finding that lies can only support illusory power. The High and Mighty are having to remember whose labor holds them up at the top of the pyramid.
This, of course, is not just true of the United States. It is true of every nation led by dictators who want to be gods, creating myths of reality for everyone within their grasp. There are too many of those in the world today.
It reminds me of that term we learned about from the Prologue lecture with David Henry Hwang… Soft Power. The US has always been great about telling stories about ourselves that make us out as heroes, as fighters for democracy and freedom… and now the divide between that ideal and the reality of what we’ve been has been growing in our sight. I think, for many of us “regular every-day Americans” the ONLY way we can answer that sudden chasm in our worldview, to make it not have been a lie is to say: “We believe in that America. Even if it was never real… the only thing to do to live up to that ideal is to fight to make it more and more the reality.” The cowardly, unAmerican thing to do would be to retreat into the happy dream of American exceptionalism, no matter how false and undeserved. Of course, some are screaming our their delusion desperately. Some for the power it gives them, some because the fight to face the truth is so hard and so painful, and the don’t believe the world can really change.
I made that realization in high school when I was struck by the hypocrisy of the Pledge of Allegience, and finally realized that the Pledge is to an ideal that we pledge to strive for, not allegience to a thing that already exists. I still object to it being extracted from children, this pledge, before they are old enough to understand the words. It is nothing more but nationalistic programming.