• Monica Harris

If You Love America, Fight For It

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Democrat or Republican, POC or white, it’s time to defend what’s left of our country

I’m hearing the same stories from everyone now.

Not just from outraged progressives in blue states or trigger-happy conservatives in red states, but from a wide swath of family and friends.

You see, I’m old fashioned. I haven’t filtered my social network based on voter preference. I haven’t culled my circle of “deplorables” or ditched people who “drank the Obama Kool Aid.” I maintain deep connections with friends of all colors and political persuasions, some who see the world more or less as I do and others who seem to live on a different planet.

But the calls, emails, and texts I’m getting from all these people carry the same desperate tone. The anguished cries from Americans watching their country fall into chaos:

Protests accompanied by looting. Home invasions in suburbs. Parents afraid to walk city streets with their children. Cars vandalized for advertising support of the “wrong” candidate. Family members who no longer speak to each other. People too terrified to voice their opinions or disclose who they’re voting for. 

We’re living in a country we no longer recognize and many of us desperately want to flee. We’re grieving what’s slipping away and fearing what comes next. It’s like the plot of some cringeworthy dystopian movie on Netflix — except we’re in the movie. We can’t grab the remote and turn it off. We’re trapped in this insanity.

How did we get to this place?

If someone wanted to destroy America, they couldn’t have asked for a better series of extremely unfortunate events. Yet the irony is that what’s destroying America isn’t the result of foreign “meddling.”

Russian operatives aren’t throwing rocks at store windows and setting fire to cars. Chinese hackers aren’t marching through streets and threatening to destroy police stations. Mexican rapists aren’t shutting down free speech and shaming opposing voices for being conspiracy theorists or whack jobs.

We have no one to blame for this madness but ourselves. We’re destroying our own country from within.

The general consensus is that we’re two months away from the most important election in our lifetime. There’s a sense that everything is at stake and our future hangs in the balance.

But regardless of who wins in November (or declares themselves the winner while we’re dragged through weeks of mail-in ballot drama), it’s worth keeping one thing in mind: America was built to sustain ugly, blistering times.

The men who launched this revolutionary experiment knew it was fragile and would be hard to maintain for fifty years — much less two and a half centuries — so they equipped it with tools they thought would give it the best chance to stay on course. In hindsight, they did a pretty damn good job.

The American experiment has overcome economic depression and world wars. It’s endured Red Scares, radical social transformation, and a pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide. It’s survived all kinds of presidential administrations and weathered Congresses and Supreme Courts controlled by a single party.

What America wasn’t designed to withstand is bitter, unrelenting, incited division among its citizens. That’s its Achilles Heel. Abraham Lincoln reminded us of our fatal weakness on the eve of the Civil War, the moment our country almost ceased to exist: “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”

And now our house is in grave danger again.

We’re more divided than we’ve been in 150 years, and this time it’s going to be a lot harder to keep our house from falling. Not just because we’re attacking and belittling each other for our values, the way we live, and the way we vote. We’ve done that before, and we’ve managed to keep our house standing.

This time, we’re facing more than just division. We’re facing an existential crisis. We’re losing our will to live.

We’re being taught to condemn the revolutionary minds who launched this experiment — because they were less-than-woke two centuries ago.

We’re excusing the opportunists who destroy our home and create chaos under the guise of civil rights. We look the other way as they wreck the cities and businesses we’ve built together and deride the men and women who risk their lives to protect them.

We’re encouraged to worship the demons that haunt us. We remind ourselves — day in and day out — that our country was built on the backs of slaves and the tears of indigenous people. We relentlessly shame ourselves for the ugliness of our past with no appreciation for the beauty of our present.

We've convinced ourselves that celebrating our flaws and ignoring our strengths is our only path to salvation. We loathe the people we once were and the people we’ve worked hard to become.

America hates itself. And to some extent, this self-flagellation is understandable, even inevitable.

As a black woman, I grew up seeing the stark difference between the country America is “supposed” to be and the one it really is. Without question, it’s a nation with a lot of karma to burn off. It might even be fair to say that it’s finally getting what it deserves and its self-loathing is justified.

But self-loathing has its limits.

Because people who are conditioned to hate themselves eventually lose self-respect and self-esteem. They stop caring about their country because they don’t think they “deserve” to live in a country worth caring about. Eventually, they turn a blind eye and disassociate themselves as it implodes. And that’s what’s happening to Americans now.

We’re losing our will to keep our house standing. Our self-loathing is destroying us.

No, America isn’t perfect, and it wasn’t built to be perfect. It was never “great” for everyone, and it’s a dim shadow of what it once was.

But it’s still our home. The one we built together. And like it or not, it’s the only one we’ve got.

We don’t have to be proud of the way we built it. We’ve gotten a whole lot wrong since the first bricks were laid. We’ve betrayed our principles. We’ve lost our way too many times and have struggled to get back on course. We’ve been hostile to others who’ve tried to enter our home and brutal to others born within our walls.

This doesn’t mean we should lose sight of what we’ve gotten right. It doesn’t mean this house isn’t worth fighting for.

We’ve made major improvements that allowed us to expand our family. We’ve made space for people who were once forbidden to live here. We’ve added rooms and wings our ancestors never dreamed of. We’ve raised the ceilings. We’ve even inspired others in our neighborhood to make changes to their own homes.

Like any family, we haven’t always gotten along. We’ve argued and fought about which improvements we should make to our home. Sometimes our ideas have worked, and sometimes we’ve made mistakes that weakened our walls.

But we've remembered the lessons from 150 years ago, the last time we almost destroyed our house. We’ve kept in mind that we all have the right to disagree and we all have the right to suggest changes. We’ve recognized that everyone in our family has an equal voice, and no one should be treated like they’re crazy or don’t belong here.

This is how we’ve kept our house standing. Not because we’ve always loved or even liked each other, but because we’ve respected our collective right to live here. And because we love our home.

But our house is in serious trouble now.

The roof is collapsing, the walls are buckling, and the floorboards are giving way. Unless we’ve resigned ourselves to die in the rubble, we’d better repair the damage before it’s too late. Unless we want to lose the roof over our heads, we’d better figure out a way to keep this place from falling apart.

It may be time to for us to come together to do major remodeling and change some things that aren’t working for any of us anymore. We may even need an extreme makeover at this point.

The architects of this experiment gave us the tools to do this— if we’re awake and aware, and if we care enough. They endowed us with the right to believe what we want and who we want; checks and balances to control those in power; the freedom to question and challenge our government; and the means to resist tyranny in any form. These are rights we’ve taken for granted for too long, but if we want to keep our house standing, we need to be prepared to fight for them — with our heart and soul, with everything we’ve got.

If we can find the courage to do this, my friends, then we have nothing to fear in November. If we’re willing to fight to keep this house standing and protect the foundation it’s built on, we can survive four more years of Trump. We can survive eight years of Biden.

But we can’t survive if we give up on America.

So when you cast your ballot for the man you think will “save” us, please keep this in mind:

If we treat other members of our family like they’re stupid or evil because they don’t agree with us, then we’re not living in a house worth “saving.”

If we’ve prepared to contest the election results before the first ballots are cast, then we’re not living in a house worth “saving.”

If we allow more cities and businesses to burn because the electoral college “fails” us for the sixth time in 250 years, then we’re not living in a house worth “saving.”

If we look down upon those charged with restoring law and order under our roof, then we’re not living in a house worth “saving.”

If we’re willing to spend the next four years attacking and undermining whoever leads us, then we’re not living in a house worth “saving.”

Yes, America is failing badly now. But an imperfect and ragged America is so much better than what awaits us if we give up on this experiment. It’s up to to us to decide how this ends. This is our country. This is our house. United, it will stand, but divided, it will surely fall.

And if that happens, who among us will “win”?

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