Living in My American Skin

Yesterday was the 4th of July. I wasn’t very excited about the holiday. It was a Friday that felt like a Saturday. I was busy getting ready for a road trip up the east coast of America; doing laundry, cleaning the house, emptying the fridge of leftovers and mushy red peppers I forgot to use in that pasta recipe I bought them for.

I’m excited to hit the road. Ever since I was a little kid I have loved traveling in a car across America. First it was in the back of my Dad’s car, always a Chevy. My Dad was a Chevy man, his brother was a Ford man. We never drove our Chevy to the levy because we lived in Rhode Island and didn’t really know what a levy was but every summer we traveled the U.S.A in our Chevrolet. Some of you who follow my blogs may already know that my Dad taught U.S. history  but I have to include back story because  you never know who might drop in for the very first time.

We visited U.S. President’s homes from Mount Vernon to Monticello, battlefields from Valley Forge to Appomatox, and Washington D.C. so many times I’ve lost count. My parents even honeymooned there. My childhood was steeped in the Constitution and American History and my flavor is blue tea. The liberal brand.

So yesterday I wasn’t feeling excited about the holiday. I’ve been watching my country approach the edge of a cliff since the 1980’s but this past week it seems we’ve finally stepped off that cliff and democracy is in free fall. Although I’ve traveled to forty-five states over the years and hope to visit the last five before I die, I don’t recognize my country anymore. This isn’t a recent development. It’s been unrecognizable for quite some time.

The Congress no longer does their job, representing fewer and fewer Americans with the issues they choose to pursue. Timothy Egan was apparently not feeling excited about the holiday either when he wrote Declaration of Independents in the New York Times on July 4th.

The Supreme Court seems to have lost its mind. Apparently they have forgotten those three little words, freedom of religion. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. Your religion can’t trump the rights of 50.6% of the population. My birth control decisions are between me and my doctor and if you believe it’s a sin, on judgment day God will judge my decisions. But in the meantime, you aren’t God, you’re a Supreme Court justice whose job is to uphold the Constitution. My employer isn’t God either.

Ladies, please stop shopping at Hobby Lobby and buy your craft supplies at Michael’s.

And the gun issue? What can I say about guns that would change anyone’s mind? We’re all entrenched on our sides, right and left. There no longer appears to be any common ground. People bring semi-automatic rifles to Target and children continue to die in schools and on college campuses. As Springsteen sings, “It ain’t no secret my friend. You can get killed just for living in your American skin.”

I don’t really watch a lot of news anymore. As I said the other day, I have my coffee with Charlie Rose, a news guy who asks good questions and listens, and I read the New York Times.

Tomorrow we head north, driving through Georgia, a state that has an open carry law. No, that doesn’t mean you can open carry your beer, like in New Orleans and some other places. It means you can open carry that AK-47 you might need while buying a burger at McDonald’s. This is the country we now live in and it’s not the kind of place I ever imagined or wanted to live in. I originally thought of driving straight through Georgia, but we’re spending the night in Savannah because it is a beautiful American city and I enjoy visiting it. If I happen to see a gun carrying individual in a restaurant, I’ll keep my mouth shut. Which brings us to freedom of speech. When the other guy is carrying the gun, he trumps my right to speak freely, if I were so inclined to discuss current events over dinner. Which I won’t be doing, in Georgia.

I don’t understand the hate spewing from my TV and radio. The Limbaughs and Hannitys shouting their brand of paranoia and intolerance. I know what they’re saying. My boss, a very nice man who I enjoy working with, listens to Limbaugh all day long. I turn my custom-made Pandora radio station up louder but I still hear ‘Obama this’ and ‘Obama that’. ‘They and Them.’ Limbaugh’s talking about people like me. Liberals. And my boss, a nice guy, a kind man, is listening to him. I can’t articulate how I feel about this.

When I think of Christians I think of St. Francis of Assisi. “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men.”

On this 4th of July weekend, as I get ready to travel once again along the roads of this country I love, I think about the words of St. Francis and my heart aches because lately there are an awful lot of days when I am no longer proud to say I am an American.





2 thoughts on “Living in My American Skin

  1. Although I can appreciate your sentiments Sheila, I think before you bemoan too much the state of the United States, you should reflect on how the country has changed in the years since you and John and Pauline were in that Chevy. By almost any measure, the country is much more liberal, tolerant, progressive, whatever phrase you would choose to use. Just a few examples:

    When we were growing up, homosexuality was barely acknowledged, something never to be discussed. A gay character on TV or the movies? Not very often and most often portrayed as a humorous sidelight. Now gay marriage is law in many states and will be approved in all others by the end of the decade if not sooner.

    Marriage and children out of wedlock, cohabitation…..perhaps the most underestimated societal change. When we were growing up, children out of wedlock were something to be ashamed about, now if not quite celebrated, it is almost as common as children from marriage. My personal opinion is children without two parents is the biggest cause of many of our societal problems.

    When you were in the Chevy and even later, a black figure on TV was an anomaly…do you remember Julia? The ground breaking nature of the Cosby show? Although race relations have a distance to go, the country elected and reelected a black president….could you imagine that in the 60’s or 70s? He was elected in large part because he was black…not because he was a supremely qualified candidate.

    Certainly the mass shootings are a concern. Guns are part of it, but I recall gun racks in pickup trucks in Western Pa. Mental illness of men in the 15-25 age range is a big common denominator as well.

    Religion….and I’m pretty much an atheist…take a look at a holiday magazine from the 80’s and one from today……no mention of Christmas on current covers, only happy holidays. By most measures, religion is playing less of a role in society than it ever has. Remember blue laws? Although the number of religious radio stations on my drive west was unbelievable, I think that religion plays less of a role now in American culture than it ever has.

    As far as the supreme court and contraception….my thing is why should insurance be covering it anyway? Insurance should be for the unforeseen health issues, not day to day things. Sort of like car insurance. Yeah, I know about the unplanned pregnancy argument, but birth control isn’t all that expensive and unplanned pregnancy seems to be an issue anyway. Shouldn’t cover viagra or fertility treatments either. (Not that I know about viagra, you understand). And not sure how employer coverage of a particular health insurance element is a “right”, but that is my opinion.

    So Sheila, my advise is to reflect on the last 50 years. The trend is overwhelmingly in one direction, despite the rantings of a particular radio personality or given political figure you may think about today.

    Your mostly conservative friend, Steve S


    • I had to laugh about your Viagra comment Steve and I course I assumed you don’t really know anything about Viagra.

      It just seems to me we take one step forward and two steps back. The talk radio and Fox news guys seem to stir up so much hate and vitriol. The atmosphere is much worse than it was when i was in that Chevy. The other day my boss called me in to watch a C-Span thing on a hearing in Congress about the IRS. He was ranting and raving about it and I told him I hadn’t been following it and had no opinion. I’d rather see Congress working on jobs. It seems Congress does nothing. People bitch and moan about immigration but they never propose a bill or a solution. The system appears broken to me.

      If I see any guns in Georgia I’ll let you know, after I have a heart attack. Ak-47’s are slightly different than hunting rifles. No one’s going to eat a deer after it’s been decimated by an assault rifle.

      Hope you’re enjoying Utah.


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