This is not the America I knew.
This is not the America I was born into. This is not the America that raised me. That taught me that I could do anything, be ANYTHING, if only I worked hard enough. That told me that I am not defined by the color of my skin, by the zip code I was born into, by the mistakes of my father, or by the kind of people I love.
This is not the America that said to the world,“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” That showed the world that we could overcome wars, depressions, slavery, bigotry and fear. That told me that justice will be served if only you are just.
This is not the America I know.
The America I know stands up. It stands up for what is right and it fights to the very last. It wasn’t always right, but it cannot be wrong. The America I saw tonight… that was wrong.
A great man once said that there is no such thing as a colored America. That there is no white America, there is no black America, there is no red and there is no blue; there is only the United States of America. These were words of wisdom, optimism, determination; but these words have found a different meaning tonight.
Tonight, America was united. But it was united not by all that makes us different, all that makes us strong, powerful, by what makes us incredible, nearly invincible. Tonight, America was united only by division, was driven totally by anger and fear and suspicion.
This night has shaken me to my core — the words on this page are no more than ramblings, a sad, angry attempt to find something that I’m not even sure is there. The country I loved, the nation that I knew. It’s dead. Maybe it was never there. Maybe I was naïve, or innocent or just plain ignorant. But what I saw tonight… I watched my country die. I saw fear and pain. I saw suspicion and division. I saw anger and I felt hate. I know how it happened. We all know how. What I want to know is why. Let me give it a shot:
We have forgotten. We have forgotten all that led us here, to this instant, to this singular point in time, to this singular decision. We have forgotten all that our people have fought for 240 years. We have forgotten that we are one people, that we are all building our lives and this country together. We have forgotten kindness and decency and industry and restraint. We have forgotten about the one reason this country exists. This nation was founded on the notion of better. Better attitudes, better this better that. We have forgotten better.
This was the promise of America. Sacrificed for, suffered for, killed for. That which we held most sacred – the promise of better.
America: WE have broken that most sacred promise.
This is the America we will know.
If the America I knew died tonight, it has been replaced by something that’s new and uncertain. A lot of Americans will wake up tomorrow exultant, proud that they have planted that fatal blow, proud that they have finally taken control. A lot of Americans will wake up less so. It’s tempting to simply blame others, apply to them words that put them down and elevate us. We could call them bigots and racists, nativists and know-nothings, sexists and homophobes.
But that’s not fair. Lest we forget, these people that have struck so violently and with such vitriol have for decades been shut out of the political system we champion as the epitome of fairness, accessibility, and equality. What we have seen tonight should not be a surprise. We have seen it across the western word, in Greece, in Spain, in France, in Germany, in Turkey, in the UK. These are signs that something is wrong with our politics. We have made it impossible to reject demagoguery, to reject the opportunities that are so easily exploited for personal, political gain. It is not just the “Establishment,” not just the way we govern, but the fact that we have embraced an egocentrism that has destroyed the communities that are supposed to make us strong.
In reflection, there are means of action. This is a time for us to keep fighting and to know that despite all that we have seen tonight, we are united. We must fight for reconciliation, for the right to keep up the struggle for better and we must do so with integrity and respect. We must fight for what makes our way of government great, and rebuild those communities we have lost.
Tomorrow will come. There will be other seasons, and there will be other years. Sometimes you lose an argument, and sometimes you lose elections. But now, now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division, and to work as we have always worked. We are in this for better. We are together in our struggle for it and cannot again forget that what defines us is not division or parties, or even elections. The tireless work for better – that is the definition of America. That is my America, that is the definition of us.