Monday, July 4, 2011

A Dear John Letter to Uncle Sam

Dear Sam,

I don’t know of any easy way to say this, but it’s over between us. I think we have both known it for a long time and just didn’t want to admit it to ourselves. We’ve been growing apart for years and the time has finally come to say goodbye. I would like to say that it’s not you, it’s me, but that wouldn’t be entirely true.

Sure, I’m young and idealistic; my expectations may not be realistic. I want someone who can keep his promises to me, someone who is always faithful not by happenstance but by nature. I need safety that isn’t transient and superficial, security that doesn’t understand economic crisis or “imminent” threats to “national security.” I need someone who has principles that run deeper than campaign promises and political expediency. I believe that there is someone out there like that. Someone who promises justice and delivers more than a reasonably high rate of accuracy for convictions and executions. Someone who doesn’t confuse liberty with libertinism. Someone who seeks peace through means other than bribery and intimidation. Someone like that.

As for you, I just don’t feel the same way about you that I did when I was young and naïve. I find that I am no longer willing to stand up and pray to your star spangled god. I am no longer content to sign my name to the roll and wait for you to call on me to rise up and kill, to lie down and die for oil or for land, for a confused notion of right or a vague and misplaced specter of exceptionalism, and certainly not for an innate sense of duty that I neither feel myself nor understand in others.

I know what you’re going to say. I’m just displaying the ignorance of my youth. Look at the sacrifices you’ve made for me. Look at how much better my life is with you in it. Look at the joy, the freedom, the strength, the protection that you provide. I’m not buying it. You’ve told those lies to others before me and you’ll get still more after me to believe them. But not me. I’ve outgrown you or, perhaps more accurately, outwitted you. I know that for you strength is synonymous with violence. I know that when you say protection you mean from other people just like you, weaker maybe but fundamentally no different. I know that for you freedom includes freedom for you to whore yourself out to every corrupt behavior and ideology that you can rationalize. I won’t buy into the lie that to be a good person, a good citizen, a good Christian means to surrender myself to you wholesale and slip silently into a fog of materialism, militarism, republicanism, pluralism, capitalism, and jingoism.

So you’ll excuse me if I don’t show up at your birthday party. I’m not sure if I know what there is to celebrate. Of course, you’ll see me around from time to time, and I’ll have things to say to you as a curious bystander might. Any time I come across something that belongs to you, I’ll gladly send it your way, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to ignore me altogether. I will, of course, be praying for you, but not the way I might pray for a parent or a spouse or even a brother or sister. I’ll pray for you the way a china shop might pray for a bull. With a little luck and divine intervention, you may do as little damage as possible, given what you are.

Respectfully (but not regretfully),
The Itinerant Mind

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