I never thought I’d say this, in what I used to believe was the greatest country in the world, but I don’t feel safe in America. Will I continue to be stripped of my rights? When will it end? Should I get out now?
Am I still safe in America?
I realized the other day that I no longer feel completely safe in the United States of America.
I remember my father saying that “It could happen here…” I was saddened by his pessimism, his wounds. Now, as a gay, HIV+, almost senior man of Jewish heritage, I can understand his fear. I feel under siege.
I grew up in the American Dream; believing in my country; never doubting that I was fortunate to have been born in 20th century America–the best country in the world.
My grandparents were born in Europe and came here with virtually nothing as refugees from persecution. My parents, first generation Americans, fought for their beloved country: My father as a decorated paratrooper in WWII–my mother as a dietician in the Nursing Corps. They met in Fort Benning, Georgia in 1945–idealistic New Yorkers–eloping eight days later. I was born in 1951, their third son. I was raised in the post war boom years amidst progress of every stripe: Economic prosperity, the civil rights movement, landing on the Moon. It wasn’t all easy: American apartheid ended, we survived Vietnam. I graduated from an Ivy League university and embarked on a life of exploration, both personal and social. I had the privilege to travel the world, to participate in arts projects on three continents and then to see AIDS galvanize my community into activism and survival.
Today I am writing in the guest room of dear friends, newly married and gay.
Again: Why do I feel unsafe?
Because I have lived in a bubble of privilege—an illusion that 21st Century America can no longer sustain. Even as I gain further civil rights, I see the right wing and the Republican party trying to take them away. Health care, privacy, separation of church and state–these rights are neither sacrosanct nor secure.
Do I need to have an exit plan if Obama is defeated in November? Might I need to be one of the “smart” ones who got out before it was too late? Can I really be having these thoughts? I am not alone in these concerns, having spoken of them in the last week with friends of varied races and ethnicities I find that I’m not considered a crank.
Yet, I still have hope. I believe in the process of change and that, if re-elected, Obama might dare to continue fulfill his promise. We might yet hold firm to progressive development vis-à-vis human rights and access to social services. The Great Society might yet endure–and, if we legalize marijuana, ending the useless ‘War on Drugs’, we might even prosper.
Once again, I am reminded to take action and stay awake. We’ll see…
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