Americans had to ask themselves once more: Why?
Immediately after the tragedy of Las Vegas, the debate over gun regulation was sparked once more. Survivors of Sandy Hook and other tragedies were yet again reminded of how their government continues to fail them and their lost children on a regular basis. Day in and day out they must stand and observe as others lose their lives for the same reasons their loved ones did too many years ago and too recently. No change.
My Mexican friends and I are quick to judge these senseless shootings. While we agree that weapons regulation must be strictly set in place, another topic of conversation occurs…. “There’s definitely something wrong with Americans.”
My mother has said and will always say, “They are just such a loner based society. No family values. Too lonely.”
Others will remark, “These gringos are crazy.”
While I do believe in stricter and comprehensive arms regulations and a better mental health care system for my American friends, I believe there is something much bigger and heavier going on.
I recently got back from living in the United States where I was for 8 years. During my time there I noticed something peculiar about what being an American means. It’s not necessarily a type of character but rather an inhaling in of an endowed role.
Being an American is often in tune with being reminded that you are American. You live your Americaness on a daily basis. You are told to think of yourself as part of an exceptional idea. A part of a country built on the exceptional.
You sing the national anthem at sporting events, you recite the pledge allegiance at school, you hang your flags on the lawn. You praise your country and president alongside your spiritual and religious leaders. Your are, in every sense of the word, intrinsically American.
The problem is, no country is exceptional. I believe Americans are heart-breakingly realizing that.
In the recent events following the tragic loss of life during the September 19 earthquake, here in my country, Mexicans saw themselves, almost to their pleased surprise, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and support each other in a way that is not often seen in our country.
We are a people who cannot depend on anyone or anything for much, let alone survival. We are aware of what we lack and we understand the system in which we live in. Yes, we often protest and fight but it often leads nowhere and we collectively accept that. We are able to live relatively harmoniously because we have developed both the experience and good humour to do so.
It is that very same lack of faith in our governmental systems that gave us the strength to depend on, and lean on, no one but ourselves and each other. Expectations were not laid on an external system but on each and every one of us individually.
Our pride as Mexicans did not come out because we believe in Mexico. It came out because we believe in ourselves as a people. In observing our own acts, we became aware of our identity not as a nation but as a human collective.
Not only has this event caused an uptick in pride, Donald Trump’s attacks on our country since his candidacy unintentionally raised our self awareness and patriotism.
While the United States has undoubtedly been one great experiment with unparalleled achievements on the global stage, the increasingly self proclaimed exceptionalism became dangerous when the powers that be took it from the people and made it theirs. Politics and government became too intertwined with Capitalism and self interest.
Being an American stopped being a concept of and for the people but a facade for the rich and powerful to hide behind. A veil through which to take advantage and rip away from those who have simply been told that they have been given the gift of being American.
That facade, that veil, is being removed.
Now, it would be facetious of me to not clarify something. This is about a very specific kind of American. It is the white, male, American. It is a white and male veil and it is a white and male exceptionalism which has held the facade in place. It is not to say that this exceptionalism hasn’t been fed to all. It has and is. It is the only non discriminatory thing about this country. But it is that same very veil that has Mr. Trump, the president, tweeting about football players rather than doing, literally, anything else.
I don’t know for a fact that this is directly correlated with the non stop shootings. But I do know that there is a sense of disappointment. This disappointment is no small thing. It is the breaking of an image and idea of who and what it means to be an American. Even in the worst of times, Americans have always believed in that exceptionalism. But that high expectation is a heavy boulder to carry.
I am sorry for my American friends. You are a great country and you are a great people. I was honored to have lived in your country and in, what I consider to be, one of the world’s most brilliant cities. I believe you have been cheated. Cheated from the opportunity of figuring out who you were before someone else decided for you.
Now, take your rage and burn that veil.