Friday, July 4, 2014

The United States of America

Not so united, any more, if they ever really were. A theoretical democracy sliding down an oil- and cash-lubricated slope to theocracy, an oligarchy draped in patriotic flags sewn in overseas sweatshops. A population trying to clothe themselves in lottery tickets stitched together with invisible bootstraps. A polluted landscape drenched in chemicals creating new diseases as well as an overabundance of non-nutritious food that is at least cheap enough to poorly feed the poor, in a nation that sells its harvest to the highest bidders, while the people who work to raise the crops watch as produce and profits float away, leaving nothing behind for them, sharecroppers without a share. A culture of bread and circuses without the bread. Of desperate pleas for momentary fame that will lead to a temporary break in the nearly-useless daily race to not even get ahead any more, but just to stay in one place. A country that is still a wonderland for those in other countries, whether it's because they too believe the dreams portrayed on television, or because their countries are even deeper into the morass, and scraping an existence out of the edges of what's left of the United States of America is marginally easier.

And yet there's still hope, or at least I hope so. It's impossible to completely describe such a vast country with one or two phrases, and there are places and communities in every one of the fifty states where people are working together to make life better for as many as possible. But I'm using this photograph that I took on July 4, 2012 for a reason, blurry as it is: the country I left behind is getting darker to me, with only a relatively few bright spots. I've never been patriotic, really, but I know that I could go back and try my best to help it change, if I really wanted to. I don't want to. I want to keep going on my wandering road around the world, exploring and helping people and taking photographs. I suppose I'm embodying the independent frontier spirit this 4th of July, or at least I can rationalize it that way, so that I don't have to feel guilty about leaving these words as my only contribution towards the fight to keep this one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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