Our American Song

You walk through the front door and you get a hug and you wonder if you detect some sort of hesitation, or if it’s all in your head.
Because you are the thing. The dreadful thing, the hated thing, the thing shouted about at television sets late at night and into the car’s radio during the day.
You are gay and Muslim and immigrant and liberal and feminine and socialist and black and atheistic and stupid and every pejorative that ever glommed onto the side of these United States and made it less great.
But they’re gonna make it great again, okay? Despite you. They’re gonna steam roll right over you.
Still, you get a hug. You don’t count. You’re family.

When the lie shimmers on the horizon, it’s hard to look at. It’s so trivial — crowd sizes, voter fraud, alternate facts. It’s like water. You can’t hold it in your hands; it slips right through. Slips in, and then it isn’t a lie anymore.
If you’re buried in garbage, it eventually starts to taste like air.
That air is news and it’s true when it’s all there is.
They can rewrite anything. They can just talk enough — loud enough, angry enough, forceful enough, often enough. Just talk and talk and they hope to wear you down to where you don’t know the difference, and your memory wears straight through like tissue paper, and then when something happens — anything happens — you’ll look to them. Because they’re the new truth. They gave you air, after all.
And no one remembers they were once just a little baby lie.

Get comfortable shoes — you’re going to be marching.
Rest your voice — you’re going to be shouting.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and stay alert. You’re going to need to know the difference between a lie and the truth. When to be irritated and when to be outraged. When to be proud.
When you know the truth, feel free to sing.

Proud people refuse to be silent.
Americans are proud and we talk. It is our crowning beauty. Our freedom of speech. It is worth more to me than I can say.
We’re at ground zero, where it’s being tested. The internet, where that freedom of speech sometimes becomes the freedom to lie. To offend. To inflict chaos and pain and burrow in echo chambers of exponentially brutalized narratives.
Those chambers are easy to find when there’s so much pain to go around.
To bristle at criticism and act like it is censorship. To mistake dissenting dialogue for violence. Sensitive leaders do that. You can hear all about their resentment when normal people talk out on twitter. The victimhood of the powerful is a powerful lie.
The constant noise in here sometimes aggravates wounds, even if it feels medicinal. It can create fake cures out of scapegoats. Things that are cheap and easy to produce and sensational masquerade as the news, and multiply like a cancer that looks like freedom.
The challenge for the future is to know the difference.
To remember that it’s worth it.
To recognize the point where words become ideas that become violence. Some conversations act like Trojan horses, sharpening the blades of erasure.
Be discerning and wary and use your First Amendment freedom to shout that down, before any blades have a chance to draw blood.
They can and they do, all with the power of an ugly lie.
Minds can change. But not with your silence.
And if any king tells you to be quiet, you should just talk louder. Much, much, much louder.
We, the people, don’t go in for kings.
We’ve always known their authority was a lie to begin with.

Speech is power.
So talk, baby.
Scream. Dream, shout, sing.
Let your truth shine a noisy light into noisy lies.
Don’t worry if it isn’t in one voice.
Our plurality is better than a straight line.
Our American mess, our American miracle. Our American song.
The harmonizing truth of our loud plurality is where the American dream lives and dies.
You’ll see it in the rockets’ red glare and it’s beautiful, really.
It’s why we’re going to get through this together.

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