America: We Have Been Asleep for Too Long


By Sher Maryn LeBay

America, we have been asleep for far too long.  

We turned away from the things that did not concern us (although they really should have).  We explained this by saying there was nothing we could do… 

About the fact we jail one out of every 110 adult Americans, that there are 270 million guns in our hands and on our streets, that living wages among the 99%  have gone mostly sideways for twenty five years.  

We slept.. as the gray men discussed cocktail mixes to execute American citizens including juveniles.  We were and still mostly are, quite sure of our crisp calls for justice, when most of the civilized world watches our national penchant for revenge in disbelief.  (I am sure there are stronger words for it). 

It took gunning down nine black people praying in a church in Charleston, South Carolina to lower the Confederate flag on the pole of the State capitol.  Nine. Black. People.

We have been asleep.

The other day I got an email from a man who stumbled on my blog here.  Here is a line from the note: The Canadians don't need losers from the USA to go up there and tell them fake indian stories or sob stories about mexcrements.  He concluded by telling me I should move to Israel.

Does anyone really think that Mexican Americans can move about our country free from fear?  Or Jews? Or now... Muslims?

We have been asleep too long.

I am one of twenty million Americans who will lose my health insurance next year.  It is 2016.  Every other developed nation has argued and settled the question about whether to provide health insurance for every one of its citizens.  Their debate is about how to manage and finance it.  We are the United States of America and we are still debating “whether”.  And the answer on the way is: “No.”

Canada has had national health insurance since 1966. Bahrain since 1957.  Great Britain since the end of the second world war. 

I am weary of hearing how we are the greatest nation on earth.  The hallmark of of a civilized country is how it treats the youngest and weakest and poorest and sickest.  Is it capable of the greatest humanity of all, namely the reverence of difference in all its varied forms?

We have been asleep too long.

I could say many things about women, how we are paid differently and how it is expected in many powerful circles that we will trade up with sex.  But saying this is enough:  it is possible to be rich (it is possible to be president) and say you can grab women anywhere you want and take any woman you choose. And it is possible for a great number of people to carry on with the presumption that so many accusers are lying or worse—are irrelevant. 

We have been asleep too long.

There are times, when the outer forces are so crushing and so relentless that we duck into the cave to wait for the world to brighten a bit.  While there, we tend the fire, throw sticks on the soft inner light, make soup, sit by the sea in Cape Breton and grow silent and strong for another day. 

That day has arrived.

 

 

Notes:  The first photograph shows the hands of a homeless man in Tucson, Arizona.  

For the last shot, I climbed thru a fence into a hidden alley in Tucson to find (and shoot) this mural. Painters and poets have been trying to wake us for a long time.  I find these messages wandering around the back streets of Tucson, in the barrios.

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