A Love Letter to Middle America, or DACA Across the Nation
Lee Frankel-Goldwater • October 21, 2017 • Progression •
It was a great road trip. I told a dear friend ‘I love you’ and I got over some demons. I drove a lot. I saw “America.” My friend helped me to see new parts of myself, the parts that are still afraid, and the parts that could simply relax into what I want to do and be. I saw the heart of the chasm lying across the land. The “Barack Hussein Obama, WTF, yeah right” signs, the Trump-Pence political advertisements, the people who accosted my Mexican friend, verbally assaulting him for just being himself outside of the great Corn Palace of South Dakota.
I saw the whiteness, the ATV’s everywhere, the cute little towns, the joy of living what I perceive to be the Middle American country life. I see that it’s beautiful, and why people are fighting for it. Why it seems they have sold their souls to a wolf-in-wolf’s-clothing snake-oil salesman to try and hold on to it.
It makes me wonder who I’ve sold my own soul to. It makes me wish I could use the matrix to upload to everyone’s brains the experience of holding the hand of a naked fly-infested Nigerian child with no access to healthy food, or water, or medicine. To know of the global food-resource supply chain that directly links our own, American, privilege to this global hunger and suffering.
But this is not the fault of a singular color, caste, or creed. The small-town-gone-fishing life is not filled with endless pleasures. In “God’s Country,” a sign I saw many times, it’s tough, tough as anywhere. Jobs aren’t always available, access to resources and opportunity can be scarce, people might think you’re uneducated just because of where you come from, internet speeds can be slow… and yet it’s worth protecting.
For this New Yorker, a guy who grew up in one of the places so many try to escape to, I can understand. America-in-the-Middle, you live a beautiful and worthy life. You, America, have shown me what a good time can be, filled with patient fly fishermen, and kind ladies in a small town pub getting down with me to disco…. Driving 10 miles over the limit when the limit is already 80, overlooking the great plains, with purple mountains majesty, America, you are beautiful.
Your vision for this new world is inspiring, yet through these eyes it’s also the symptom of a pathology, one that I am guilty of in my own way. Yours I see as the manifestation of a 300-year-old daydream, propagated by the lie of American Manifest Destiny, the same dream that put Native Americans in reservations, and broke treaties time and again. Mine is the delusion of an immigrant child, landing in the big city from Europe on a boat about a hundred years ago, dreaming of an opportunity, dreaming that anything is possible, that I can be anything, dreaming that the world is mine for the taking…
The reality is America has been more of a problem in the world than a bastion, at least recently. The reality is neither of us can keep up our dreams and delusions without taking more from someone else than we’re due, and the reality is we have to stop.
We passed by a coal refinery in Wyoming, along with at least a dozen miles of trains rolling by in every direction delivering black golden poison across every part of the nation and perhaps the world. Here I saw gluttony, but also a marvel of technology and human ingenuity, a capacity to grow, and build, and accomplish and uncover facets of our dreams and realities.
But I can also see the eyes of Kenyan, Peruvian, Nigerian, Guatemalan, and Egyptian children asking me why… why do you have such a nice backpack, why did you come here to visit me, why do you have those green eyes?
I wish I could tell them. My nice backpack is pretty common, bottom of the shelf from REI. I wanted to see you because for some reason I’m still empty inside. My mom and dad gave me the eyes. But you’re giving me so much more. You’re giving me the broken delusions, the popping of bubbles… You’ve given me the gift of gratitude and fortitude and some precious memories, of your toothy smile peering out at me from your walled hut while boiling a sack of noodles. You’ve made me feel a bit of shame. You’ve given me a touch of peace.
I wish I could share this experience with everyone. I wish I could upload it to Mr. T. I wish I could know whether his soul is simply confused or if it is truly evil. If he’s human like me (and I’m betting he is, just really scared), then he’s some hurt child who believes he deserves more candy than he’s received, a fearful hungry ghost who’s thirst for repudiation will not subside until it’s excised. I’ve heard Trump doesn’t drink because his brother was an alcoholic. I wonder if that’s actually true.
This is why I love you America… Even though I saw a vanity license plate saying “Fuhrer,” on it. I love you because you’re beautiful, and, like me, are chasing some kind of dream. I only wish we could live it all out with some kind of shared vision in mind. I wish we could talk about it without yelling at each other. I wish that after going to your wedding and finding out you were a nut that we could still be friends on Facebook. I wish these alchemical daydreams would come true. You were my friend America, the idea of you, that kind of whisper you’re afraid to speak because it might break if you spoke it too loudly – and then we did. I miss you America. Please, come home.