America seems to be that girlfriend you can't stand but will never leave.
We've all seen one of those relationships. Your best friend or co-worker is in one of those toxic love/hate dynamics with someone that's terrible for them. It's like the man that beats his woman and she keeps coming back. Dave Chappelle talked about it in his last Netflix special. He detailed a story by Iceberg Slim that depicts a woman turned out so bad, that she could only be grateful to Slim when he "saved" her in a bad situation.
That sounds like.... an economic, judicial, educational, nutritional, historical system that short-changes you continuously throughout your journey, threatening your well-being from time to time, while you remain grateful for a million second chances.
Growing up in such a small place, Kansas City was like New York to us. You really couldn't tell a small town kid much different when that's the only city they might have seen. Hollywood always struck me as it was presented, the place of the rich and famous, the everything that my family and I wasn't. There's no need to embellish when I say a Friday night for my family was likely a trip to Wal Mart. If there was more money in the pockets then perhaps a whole Saturday an hour and a half away in St. Joseph, MO where the Applebee's next to the mall was nice to us. We lived in a simpler world.
Like the rest of public-schooled Americans, we too, were not educated on taxes, banking and investment options, the risks in ingesting our food supply, Latin or law. Jesus Christ.... I say with an ounce of shame that when the Twin Towers dropped during my sophomore year I didn't know what they looked like. Not until we got out of school early that afternoon and I watched on the console TV at my friend's house. I was in my head thinking, "What's the World Trade Center?" As much as we watched TV, never heard of that. We stayed dedicated to our movies and sitcoms, per the regular scheduled programming.
I had never bought in. My earliest memories of life were around 1988 or '89. If not simply bad, those memories were unfortunate, and I say unfortunate in the sense that we were a family of no fortune. My oldest sister was adopted out of the family. She re-counted to me around 1999 when we first connected how she would see us walking around town when she was a kid. Us is: me, Mom, my brother and sister. We walked to church, to the grocery store, to the department store, to our friend's houses, and to the other side of town for the pool in the summer time. When you walk and run the streets as a kid, the smell of black asphalt will always touch your nose differently, especially in the summer.
I recall donated toys from the local radio station during the holiday season, and the huge kitchen and cabinets that were such to accommodate the commodities that any given tenant would be receiving. We were either on HUD or in a subsidized apartment for the first 6 years of my life. After that, it was under the roof of our step-dad's house, him being your status quo Midwest, American, union-associated, factory worker. To make a cliche Midwest American story short, credit cards crashed the household accounts and we made do with what we had. I never starved, and I'm grateful for that. I've hustled for coins since I was eight years old, and I cherish the art work of the hustle. By the time I graduated I had 3 bowls in my room catching the water leaking through our unfit roof. That will keep me humble, yet always grateful for any roof and walls to block the wind.
When we were walking to church back in the day I didn't know this was a "problem." It's like anywhere in America, you learn about your economical situation more clearly when you touch middle school. That's when those who couldn't afford Doc Martin's wore Skechers and shell-toe Adidas when they went on sale around the holiday. Other kids went to Aspen with their dad, while you sat in your room with your new Adidas and anxiously awaited going back to school looking good because home was boring after two weeks. It was when we all wanted our dad more than ever. I'm speaking for my siblings when I say that, but I'm sure they felt that during those years just as I did.
I'm not writing these essays with an outline, just with various thoughts that have been snow-balling in my brain for years. By the sounds of it, I could take a left right now and make this a piece about privilege, typed by the fingers of a white man. That piece can wait, however, as my point is greater this morning.
Somewhere along these years and into high school we got a lot of history lessons. Mind you, we were taught about Christopher Columbus like everyone else. For fuck's sake, I recall the construction paper headwear we were instructed to design and wear to "commemorate" the spirit of Thanksgiving. I'm saying... look at what they did to all of us.
We've been bam-boozled, hood-winked, played on. When they taught us about the Three-Fifth's Compromise and poll taxes, I didn't jump out of my seat, but those mentions stuck with me. When spending a lot of time in in-school suspension I would read TIME magazines, the first I ever really learned anything of Muslims, Palestine, the Gaza Strip and Israel beyond the constraints of Christianity's context.
Growing up in that simpler world it was beyond my imagination to really see myself touch places outside of here. It was something to see Kansas City, you know. I never felt attached or invested in this country as a whole. I had a large chip on my shoulder by 17 years old, feeling marginalized since as long as I could remember.
I'm a Navy veteran, my experience ultimately only highlighting that sense of detachment from something bigger than me - and it was attending university as a vet along with the curriculum that I encountered in a philosophy course that essentially sealed my stance on where I was here. Not.
This is a question I pose to myself, and to everyone else here. Family, friends, and sentiments aside: What keeps you in a place that it seems you have to fight to survive?
Every time my stomach aches, and that ache reaches around to my kidneys, then creeps up my back, and I take a yoga stretch time out, I ask myself such a question. I also ask myself questions such as "who's got my back on this?" Can we ever expect more from this place than what we've gotten to date? Who started gardening back when I was trying to get everyone to garden? Who around here believes in themselves still? Who isn't living defeated while entertaining all things trivial in our society? I know it takes a village, but I do nearly everything alone. Send me no pity for that last statement, as I find great strength in it even as I mildly manage this sickness.
My intuition has carried me through many situations to date and I'm faithful to the idea of it carrying me on through the next. I know the vibrations can't be the same everywhere, and while many tout the states as the greatest on earth, yada yada, etc,
Personally, I have yet to find a foreigner interested in coming to the states for anything more than to visiting cousins or polish off a degree to take back home. I know many are eating better, and keeping things simpler.
My imagination began taking me overseas around 2011 as my photography started to spread through social media. You don't have to twist my arm.. and I'm not interested in the typical American's tourist version of being overseas on a resort with first class accommodation. I'm interested in the vibration of another social structure and lifestyle. Maybe unique foreign travel will be a balance to the madness of America, or maybe it could be a step forward to a new home life for you or me. It's worth a passport investment and visit if nothing else, yea?
As I look at my daily social media, I'll venture to say one thing is a fact. Even with a man like Trump in office, no matter the Compromise, no matter the taxes for taxes, the racism, the food, the servitude of corporations, the unpaid dues, the petty lies and the big ones... Many of ya'll love this girl and ain't ever gonna leave her.