Some years ago, my husband and I were driving down a manicured street in our city. There were mansions on one side and a golf course on the other. It was the type of street where someone driving by might just assume things are as they should be. Pretty. Neat. Normal. But, out my window on the passenger side, I saw a mop. A dirty mop with a broken handle. It was half in and half out of the road with it’s dingy white head of tangled fibers soaking up whatever was running through the gutter. It was so out of place. Completely incongruent with the surroundings. And, I have to admit, I can’t stop thinking about that mop.
Seriously. I find myself, at random times, obsessing about it. Why was it there? Did it come from one of the houses? Did an angry rich housewife lose her temper with that bedraggled mop and just pitch it out her front door? Did it fall out of the back of a pickup on its’ way to a cleaning job? Did someone throw it there to keep from having to deal with it? Like– I’m tired of you mop. I don’t want to wait until next trash day so land where you land. I don’t know. I don’t even really know why I care. It’s not like people don’t litter everyday in my city, but that mop bothers me. It sort of haunts me. Honestly, I have spent an unhealthy amount of time trying to puzzle it out. There was something about that ugly, broken, dirty mop in the middle of those beautiful surroundings that my psyche just couldn’t assimilate.
So, all these years later, I am writing about it. I think I am writing about it because I don’t like things I can’t assimilate. Things that, no matter which way I turn them, just don’t make sense. I think I am starting to feel this way about my country too. Things just don’t make sense to me anymore. How can we be such a good country with so many wonderful people and keep doing really bad things? Where are the wonderful people on the days those really bad things get decided on? Where was Bob, the guy who greets everyone at my grocery store with a smile and a hug, on the day that our country decided abortion was an ok thing to do? I really want to know that. How can I live in a country where both things exist? To me, they should be mutually exclusive. But they’re not. We have 4th of July picnics with little kids riding in parades with streamers woven into their bike wheels and at the same time our Congress won’t even allow a measure to make it to vote that would protect babies that survive an abortion and are laying there on the operating table alive. Future little parade riders. Red bikes with blue and white streamers fluttering in a morning breeze. It’s true. And, my brain can’t assimilate that information. It gets stuck on it. I keep going back to it over and over trying to understand. If I was a cartoon character there would be smoke billowing up and I would be making repetitive motions–you would know I was fixing to blow up from the effort of trying to make it all make sense. I just can’t. Which country are we? Are we a country populated with people who spend days glued to the TV when a little girl is stuck in a well? Or are we a country who chooses not to protect the most innocent among us? Are Americans those people who show up in droves to help after a national crisis? I’ve seen those folks in my own beloved Houston. Citizens who send messages on public boards telling people where to find hidden keys if they need a boat or trailer in the middle of the crisis. “Take it if you can use it,” they say. “I just want to help.” Is that who America is? Or are we a country who consistently elects people who vote against S.130. The Born- Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act?
How can we be both?
We are either an America that is humane. That protects the most innocent. That operates under a basic moral code or we are the friend from that famous scene in the Twilight Zone movie. Do you remember it? Two guys are driving in a car enjoying each other’s company until one of them says, “Do you want to see something really scary?” and rips his face off to uncover that he is a monster. That scene terrified me as a kid. Nightmares for weeks. Side-eye for everyone.
I’m feeling that way again. I’m cruising through life with my fellow Americans. I like them. We have the windows down and are enjoying the breeze. I’m smiling and laughing. These are my people. Then, some of those Americans vote against a bill that would protect a baby who makes it out of an abortion alive. And other Americans applaud for them and, folks, I am freaked completely out. How can this be? How do I square this with my country? Are the faces only friendly until the mask is ripped off?
I don’t know. I keep going back to it over and over trying to understand it and I just don’t. It’s another dirty mop stuck in my brain that I can’t make sense of. Something that makes me doubt all of my perceptions about us. And, by us, I mean Americans. Those folks that cheered for Chilean miners stuck in a cave for 69 days. Those people that believe that every man has a right to pursue happiness. To pursue life. To make it to their own bike parade on the 4th? Isn’t that who we are? And, not just as individuals, but as a country? As a unit.
Who are we America?
I don’t know anymore. Side-eye for everyone. Nightmares commencing. But, I still hug Bob when I go to the grocery store. I like him. I refuse to believe that sweet man with the smiley face and American flag on his vest would vote for S.130. We all do what we have to to survive these days.
Am I right?