It started when Islamic terrorists were coming over the Texas border and training in camps to attack the locals. I saw the photos of black-clad baddies with questionable insignias on their outfits, and I knew what I was supposed to believe. This was what we’d been warned about, and here it was coming to pass. They were secretly invading the homeland, and those of us who couldn’t see it were sheeple, who didn’t have the courage to stand up to this aggression.
I seem to remember the rumors about these secret training camps were debunked, but I hadn’t been particularly worried to begin with. Why?
Well, because I’m a bad American. I truly am.
In my attempt to be playful, which isn’t necessarily appreciated in these sensitive times, I asked if people were actually worried about such nonsense. I’d made it a habit of reading sources from all edges of the political spectrum, so it wasn’t as if this rhetoric was unknown to me. I’d lived through the 90s and the fear of those pesky ‘Black Helicopters’ and the looming ‘One World Order’ that they promised was coming.
In response to my tongue in cheek humor, I got a full spectrum of responses all the way from ‘believe the threats are real’ to ‘this is utter nonsense’. I make a half-assed attempt at cultivating online friendships with people of various political stripes, so it didn’t particularly bother me. Well, most of it didn’t.
The one that got in my proverbial craw, though? Might seem innocuous, yet it was anything but. The gist of this comment was: ‘You don’t live here anymore. Things have changed. You don’t understand.’
Bad American. Remember?
Now, like I said – I try to read stuff from all sorts of sources. I understand the anti tyranny rhetoric, as well as the anti government thinking, and there’s so much of all of it I can and cannot get behind.
However, there’s one sort of fundamental thing on which I’m unwavering. Your right to say it. I’m sure this person wasn’t saying I had no right to my opinion, but the implication was that my perspective was lessened because I’d abandoned ship. You’re not even here anymore, goes this logic, so why do you think your opinion even has any validity?
Something was weirdly altered for me that day, which sadly affected me and the way I’ve been interacting online ever since. We all get to decide how we interact with one another in cyberspace, as well as the face-to-face, and I slowly resolved to limit my true discussion to the latter. I’d never been particularly outspoken online about my strongest thoughts, and my course of action was to play my cards even closer to my vest. In retrospect, I’ve noticed that this wasn’t the best course of action.
Not for a bad American, such as myself.
I’ve often been grateful social media didn’t exist when I was younger. If there’d been a platform for me to share some of the inane nonsense that passed for my attempt at reasonable thought, I’d have made myself quite a target for scathing criticism. Instead, the best I got of that was from my dad when he tried valiantly not to laugh himself silly at my half-baked pronouncements. None of this is unique, to be clear. Folly of youth and all that, I suppose.
Here’s the thing, though. Hopefully, I’ve matured and learned how to make a reasoned argument. Take conflicting information into account and make an informed decision. Weigh the value and reliability of sources and question my assumptions and biases.
You can question my patriotism, and I’d probably agree with you. I’ve already called myself a bad American. You can’t get me with that one.
Living so far from my countrymen has made me both more critical of what’s going on stateside, and weirdly more fierce about my right to say such things. By stepping out of my comfort zone, I’m well aware I’ll get a bit of heat. Maybe a lot, but I intend to take it in stride.
No matter how much I’m laughing at some of the nonsense that passes for political chatter, I assure you I’m still laughing wholeheartedly at myself. As I scratch out this resolution to be more outspoken via social media, I can still hear my dad chuckling. ‘Don’t take yourself so damned seriously,’ he’d quip. Yes, sir. You got it.