The National Debt

By Shamika Ann Mitchell

My fellow Americans! There is something amiss here in the United States. It could be caused by the chemtrails in our atmosphere, or maybe the food fillers and additives we ingest and digest daily, or maybe the many poisoned wells and reservoirs that hydrate us (Flint is neither the beginning nor the end). There is something greatly wrong happening all around us, every day. Odorless, colorless, weightless, and terribly lethal, this elusive element is pervading the corners of every circle and the curves of every square. Despite the fact that we, as Americans, take great pride in nationalism, in aggrandizing self-narrative and prideful rhetoric, in the nostalgias of days so long gone (they never actually existed), we live in perpetual angst and distress, and often do not know the cause of our anguish. This great nation and its entire people are continuously caught in a cycle of distraction, disharmony and despair. We are nearly approaching a state of disrepair and irrevocable damage will continue to be wrought upon us all.

What is it that plagues us? What are the matters that rattle us most? Who can we blame for those secret shames and silences that prevent us from freeing sadness from our spirits? We have all been afflicted, and yet not one of us has sought any meaningful care or expressed an substantial concern for all that has gone wrong with everything we thought we held dear. We stare at our selfies and hope that we look OK, but looking in the mirror, it is clearer that we have lost our Selves. Who are we, really? What is America? What does it mean to be an American? From the very moment Las Casas actualized his idea that stealing and transporting people would benefit the Throne and the Church, the Original Sin took its grip. Is it possible to be cleansed from this Original Sin? Christianity teaches that the people’s sins should be cleansed with the Sacrifice of One, and that confessionals and repentances are the requisite cycle towards atonement. But what is it that we need to confess, and for what should we atone? From whom should we seek forgiveness? This nation was birthed in 1776, and yet, in 2016, we are still trying to renegotiate the sadistic sinful stains that have saturated our soil and all that has been harvested from these lands. There is no organic fruit or vegetable that is without a bloodied blemish. There is no Vegan or Kosher or Halal or all-natural item that is blessed by this bountiful blood. This is not amenorrhea; the United States is hemorrhaging.

Bloody America is now recognizable from any shore (from sea to shining sea), and we surely misremember how this America came into being: “Once upon a time, there was an explorer ______, and people left ________ and got on a boat, then came here, where there was a war…and here we are today, because we worked hard and earned it.” Is that really how the story goes? Is it really “happily ever after”? We keep telling these lies enough that we eventually believe the lie. The lies justify our existence and keep us complacent in our ignorance. We keep denying our complicity in the suffering of others. We keep refusing to take responsibility for our indirect roles in the madness and sadness that has spread all over the world. Americans want to proclaim individuality, enlightenment, and entitlement, but always at the expense of Others. “America is ALWAYS an exception to the rule,” is the delightful lie we keep telling ourselves as we profit from prisons, dispossession and bombardment. We exist in a society that resents itself; we hate who we are, what we have become, and why we are in this circumstance, so we self-medicate to lose the blues. The moral degradations and abominations of generations past are not passed; they have NOT been cleansed, and we are caught in a cycle of chaotic confusion. We are still too blind to see that we cannot legislate away these Sins. Instead, this Moral Debt continues to accumulate interest and America’s minimal payments are considerably past due. Residing in denial is desirable, and deflection is our rhetorical delicacy: “The debt is not ours. This was too long ago. Get over it,” are the nonsense pitiful mutterings of the ignorant and shameless who proclaim being blameless for the transgressions of their ancestors, and for their own apathy. Poisoned soil. Poisoned water. Poisoned sky. Poisoned tree. Poisoned flower. Poisoned fruit. Poisoned bee. And so on. And so on.

And so forth. Every July Fourth, we celebrate freedom in a nation with the largest prison population. We still want to believe the lie that there is truth and justice in a system that profits from imprisoning its Citizens. We need to believe the lie that working harder is all that is required to achieve and succeed. We want to believe the lie that forgetting will make the pains of yesterday’s yesterday go away, and that forgiveness is none of our business. We have withdrawn and overdrawn from our Atonement Account, and the amount due is insurmountable to replenish. What kind of future can America have without atonement? These institutions should encourage reconciliation, but they benefit from this nation’s burgeoning bankruptcy. History books keep lying to us. The media keeps deceiving us. Hollywood’s century of white lies keeps blinding us. Centuries of terrorism has traumatized us. Consumerism keeps us from investing in ourselves. If only money could buy happiness, we would not keep trying to swipe our sadness away. We have maxed out! The debts incurred cannot be waived between generations. America needs a payment strategy that emphasizes equity and legitimacy. We must not delude ourselves any longer; the American Dream was always a nightmare filled with despair and indescribable barbarity. The curses of caste remain a constant obstacle. Without equity, there is no genuine opportunity. Crimes against humanity do not have an expiration date. If we, the people, are going to form a more perfect Union, we must first acknowledge the wrongs committed, and then work towards an equitable solution that serves us all. As long as we profit from and invest in other people’s exploitation and oppression, the balance sheets will remain in the red. If we are ever to overcome this vacuous deficit, we must continue to remember the past, honor it, and commit to do better.

Dr. Shamika Ann Mitchell is an Assistant Professor of English at Rockland Community College, State University of New York. Her primary interests are Hip Hop, American literature, ethnicity, identity, and subjectivity theory. Her writing has been published in various texts, including College English Notes, Icons of Hip Hop and Women on Women: Indian Women Writers’ Perspectives on Women. You can reach Dr. Mitchell on Twitter @Black_Bootie. 

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