8 Years a (Proud) American

8 years ago I witnessed history. That was the year that President Barack Obama was voted into office. I felt such hope for the future and pride in my country even though the road to his victory was a rough one. It was a day like no other where the country seemed to band together and lift each other up and marvel in the progress that many never thought they’d see. It seemed like America had started a new chapter where truly anything was possible.

I made the mistake of watching the inauguration from my television, even though I lived less than an hour from the nation’s capital, because I didn’t want to deal with the crowds and traffic getting in and out of the city. Had I known about political and racial divide our country would be facing at the end of his second term, I would have shown up for that monumental day.

From the way I felt on that day, I never could’ve imagined the way the world would change following that day and how it would affect me personally. Maybe it’s because I didn’t want to see it, maybe there’s simply more coverage, or it could just be that people’s true colors are coming out. The country that called itself the “Melting Pot” was deteriorating right before my eyes.

I was raised to see people as people and it was more important to show others respect than to worry about what made them different from me. As I got older, there was more of a focus on labels. At every turn I needed to identity myself. Female. African American. Democrat. Straight. Income Bracket. Liberal. Single. I began to drift away from the naivety that we were all equal. If we were equal, we wouldn’t have classify ourselves all of the time. I also began to see the way that people were treated based on how they identified themselves, sometimes for the worse.

There was also a cultural shift. Goals began to shift from working hard, raising a family, and sitting on the porch catching up with your neighbors to excessive focus on material gains, obsession with social media, and admiring celebrities more than doctors, scientist, or politicians. Instead of being happy with a moderate lifestyle things needed to be bigger, better, flashier, and name brand. I began to aspire goals that weren’t going to make me happy and sought ways to change my appearance in order to be on par with the “American Dream”.

While struggling with the lack of authenticity and depth I was seeking, my eyes were opened to the danger and deterioration plaguing Black communities as well as other countries I didn’t grow up learning about. Black people were being imprisoned, sabotaged, and exterminated. Terrorism knew no bounds and spared no man, woman, or child. Gun violence senselessly took the lives of hundreds of people a year. People would talk about all of those issues, but never want to get close enough to help.

Even though the Black community was suffering even with a Black president I believed that he worked extremely hard against monumental amounts of opposition to invoke significant change in the country for all of those that were disadvantaged. Then it came time to see him go. I didn’t want him to go but that’s the way our country works, two terms and then another person comes in. I thought for sure that our country had done so much building and growing for the better that his predecessor would take the torch and continue forward progress.

That is not what happened when presidential candidates started seemingly crawling out of the gutter to put their bid in to be the president of the United States. Not president of your local food court, president of one of most advanced, diverse, and powerful countries in the world. A position that in the past held so much prestige and power was now being sought after by bigoted, laughable, inexperienced, entitled participants known more for being internet trolls than political powerhouses.

I saw some of the ugliest, disgraceful, and ultimately unbelievable behavior out of these candidates but that wasn’t the worst part. It is to be expected that there will be a few bad apples but when those bad apples reveal that they’ve been hiding several hundred other bad apples in the gutters that they crawled out of then I became worried. I was bombarded by comments and images that set the country back several decades. Racism was no longer something people discussed only with their close friends and family, they were emboldened to spread their hatred publicly.

Not only was I in disbelief but I was hurt. Hurt from comments about Black men and women belittling them and dehumanizing them but also comments made about Hispanics and Muslim generalizing them as criminals or terrorist. I was so disappointed in the country I had grown up in that I was no longer proud of it. I felt like I didn’t want to be associated with Americans because although they are not all bad, the overwhelming focus the media portrays to the world is the negative. Whenever I was in Europe, when someone found out I was from America, they would immediately ask, “How is Trump a serious candidate for president?” It pained me because I didn’t know how either.

That was a large part of the decision making process that led me to relocate to Berlin, Germany. I needed to get away from Americans and the materialistic, superioristic, and divisive culture associated with it. Germany has such a negative history that they’ve become the exact opposite and opened their arms and borders to everyone no matter what they look like or what religion they practice. It’s a place that focuses on tradition and building skills that provides a simpler way of living while not loosing focus on what keeps life exciting.

I am going to do my best to document my joys, discoveries, trials, and challenges while abroad because I know how incredibly privileged I am to be taking part in this journey. I would never have imagined 8 years ago I would be preparing to live in another country, learn another language, and feel so far from the “Yes We Can” attitude I felt. It may seem drastic but I am ready to learn a different way of living and get back to what makes me happy. I hope you follow along, share your stories, or are inspired to take risks in your own life.

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