I can see myself, decked out in red white and blue, glitter all over my body, hair slicked back in bump-free pigtails... singing "Proud To Be an American" in an emotional duet alongside my dear friend, Jessica. A highly patriotic ten year old, I sang along to the good ole' boy America lovin' anthems of Toby Keith and nodded my head to Sean Hannity, memorizing blurbs of Fox News I would proudly recite to my surely bored friends on the play structures of Laurelglen Elementary. "The problem is entitlements... illegal immigrants and welfare moms and criminals and liberals and atheists... they're all just so 'entitled'. And that's not what America is about you guys.. it's about hard work and church and the Army and country music." I'm exaggerating... but I guess here my parents should have speculated I would passionately seek activism, as I've always chased opinions.
Vocabulary and rhetoric are charged entities I've come to learn, and reflecting on the way your words sound to others can inspire some serious personal revelations. The word 'entitlement' is defined as "the belief that one is deserving of certain privileges". In high school I became quite obsessed with the application of this word to my own circumstance.. as I heard its synonym thrown around in political debate and my own government class. What privileges was I born with? What privileges are Americans born with? And perhaps more importantly... do I believe that I am deserving of these privileges?
I concluded simply... I am insanely lucky. I was born in America, a land of relative safety... a nation founded on the principles of human rights. I realize that millions, perhaps billions, of people are forced to fight for safety from an early age, as their homeland provides them no such comfort. I was born to parents that planned diligently for my arrival, painstakingly insuring that I would always be fed, sheltered, and loved. I have seen heartache in my family, but have known the profound peace that comes with the realization that my parents would make any sacrifice for my happiness. I could get fired from my job... my house could burn down... I could be a drug addict... I could have a baby... but I can think of several people who would provide for me unconditionally. I cannot believe how crazily lucky I am. I did nothing to deserve this comfort... I inherited it. It's as if I was given the rarest gift on the day I entered the world. I've done nothing profoundly noble. I'm not a hero or a scholar. I make coffee part time to pay my rent and spend way too much money traveling to Malibu to visit my best friend.
I know few exceptions to this luck. Most of my friends were similarly born in America... to families that love them.. however dysfunctional. We sleep on store bought mattresses, drink clean water from our faucets, and laugh at dumb videos we watch on the Internet. Some of my friends live more luxuriously than others, but even those of us who live pay check to pay check know we can find an easy way to eat our next meal. We are so lucky. I am so lucky. And I have done absolutely nothing I can think of that could inspire me to say "I, Crosby Damron, deserve this."
The portrait of someone who deserves such a stress-free life is easy for me to paint. She wakes up at five to go to work. She works over forty hours a week in a crazy, loud, hot kitchen making food for picky customers who are rarely satisfied. She exits the kitchen for her break sweating, smiling, and laughing. She never complains, thankful for the opportunity to support her children. Her personality is magical, known for loving everyone and being beautifully open with her affections. She has seen far more than her share of fear and heartache, as she fled her home for the promise of a country that would keep her future babies safe. She has taught herself English piece by piece, and seeks opportunities that will make her speech more fluent. She lives in fear of deportation, hiding from the government that she hoped would protect her. Her children attend public school, and she pores over their homework every night, relishing in her own dream that her children lead the lives she blissfully imagines for them. She immigrated here from Mexico and manifests the ideology of the American dream in a way that puts my peers and I to shame.
If one of us has to be deported... I nominate myself. My merits for the inheritance of the privileges are painfully unfounded. If hard work and constant ambition for betterment are stipulations of the American Dream... those of us who have earned our privileges on luck alone have no more right to the entitlements of being an American citizen than those who have snuck across the border. We simply snuck into hospitals.
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
If this country can find in its heart to abide by its promise to the fearful of this world... I can possibly find it in my heart to declare once again someday that I am proud to be an American.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
However, the past few months I have been harboring a tangible sadness for something quite specific... and I'm grasping and clinging for this sign of temporary clarity. Whenever articulated fervency strikes I choose to absorb it as a sign of providence, perhaps a lengthy psychological obsession means I have found one of my soul's please.
80% of United States women claim they "do not like the way they look"
This may seem superfluous or vain, a far cry from my usual dream of cultural revolution; but self acceptance and learned appreciation for the divine mystery of life are dependent upon one another. As long as humanity continues to define itself by external stories, we will be forever asleep. How can we accept each other and learn to cherish the differences that make life on earth so amazing... how can we understand that we depend on each other.. when our culture so rampantly encourages the belief that our bodies, the amazing vehicles that allow our souls the very gift of life, are insufficient?
So from the deepest parts of me I plead: Women... it's time we stop hating our bodies.
I've never been one for intentional exercise or purposeful dieting. I like to ride my bike, do yoga, swim, and play outside but even the thought of running on a treadmill makes me experience phantom side pains. I've always loved vegetables and simple foods, but I also eat approximately a pint of ice cream a night. I smoke cigarettes occasionally. I'm far from the peak of fitness... I get winded running from my car to the front door. Hence... I don't mean "love your body" in the way society preaches... implying the conscious betterment of our transcendent souls' physical shells. I mean banish self hatred and fall in love with your body... now.
I am genuinely heartbroken by the realization of Western society's decision to weave learned dissatisfaction with the female body into our cultural story. I'm tall and thin and have wiry limbs, never one to struggle with weight or intense body image issues.. but even I... if standing in front of a mirror... choose things about my body to be unhappy with. Be it my thighs or my skin or my flipper like feet... I catch myself teaching the whispered lessons of society to my reflection. It's almost an obligation. I have NEVER had a female friend who is comfortable with every part of her body. Heart wrenching.
Fitness magazines, diet plans, low fat alternatives, skinny lattes, SO MANY CHOICES OF FACE WASH, trendy exercise classes, fat girls, skinny girls, cleavage, hair extensions, Pinterest boards for "body envy"... echoing the same tired sentiment over and over, louder and louder... "You as you are, mo matter who you are, no matter how much you weigh, no matter how beautiful you may be... you can be better. You must be better. The way you look now should be improved upon. It's honorable to never be content with your image. Your body is a temple.. so bettering it is noble work."
I propose this notion instead: Let's love our "temples" as they are. Now. Not in the future when wer're skinnier or "healthier".
If we're honest with ourselves... our obsession with fitness boils down to loving ourselves... just "not the way I look right now."
As for me I'm done hating the female body. I'm done with thinking I'm less than ambitious for not seeking to make my physical self "stronger". I'm happy enough with my ice cream, thank you. Let's stop thinking women who completely love their bodies are conceited. Let's stop being uncomfortable with the notion that we're allowed to love ourselves. Our bodies are miracles... capable of producing life and taking us on adventures all around the world. We swim, dance, laugh, and make beautiful stories in these beautiful bodies. I'm all for healthy living, but healthy living starts not with diet changes and working out... but with looking in the mirror and deciding to love your body as it is in this moment... in all its flabby, bony, bumpy glory.
Challenge yourself to never criticize another woman's body. The female body is a sacred and sexy miracle... and it's time we stop buying in to the lies that inspire us to do anything less than cherish every inch of ourselves.