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On saying goodbye to a dying America

I’m saying goodbye to America, the land that I love.

As I stand beside her, I realize that this goodbye is hauntingly familiar. So many of us have done this before. We say goodbye to those we love as their health fades. We look in their eyes and struggle to recognize the person we once knew, now occupying a body that is frail and weak. No longer powerful, but succumbing to a sickness that sadly has taken over.

We say goodbye, yet we are not the ones leaving. The mourning spent in reflection of what was and imagining what could have been. Gathering bedside with family and friends to honor our loved one’s memory by ensuring that their legacy survives. Crafting one that embodies the best of who they were and that will serve as a guide for all who follow.

My goodbye to America is like the death of a loved one that dates back to 2016. Grief that is matched only by the passing of my father ten years prior. His death far more rapid, yet equally unrelenting in its chaos, cruelty and staggering in its reach. So many lives impacted, far more than ever imagined. His death exposed to me the unwavering frailty of our lives and how the introduction of one sickness, one disease can disrupt the collective assumptions of stability, strength, and our future.

There was a silence at my father’s bedside the night before he died. I held him tightly and lay my head on his chest. There I felt the beauty of what was, longed for what could have been and thanked him for it all. And with each of our breaths I longed for one last whispered word of wisdom, love, and reassurance. I waited, only to realize that he’d given me everything I’d ever need to make it through his death and to chart a course forward when he was gone.

Tonight I stand at the bedside of America, in an all too familiar stance. One that portends the reality that death presents itself suddenly, without warning and in ways that challenge the long held notions of permanence and power that are interwoven throughout this nation’s psyche.

I look down and realize that the America I know is dying. Like millions of others, I downplayed the symptoms that lay dormant for generations, but that now aggressively and arrogantly course through its veins. A disease that has emerged for all to see. One that is manifest through the unencumbered actions of white nationalist hate, an illness that metastasizes through relentless lies and corruption, and is allowed to fester by the deafening silence of tens of millions.

These are the signs of a frail democracy and that of a dying America.

I’m saying goodbye to America, the land that I love. Holding on to what it this country meant to me and hoping to pass that on to those who are owed its inheritance. America’s children, who will know little of the America earlier generations knew, in much the same way my offspring will never know my father.

And while America’s youngest generation will not know of the America that is now dying, they must recognize that the sickness that is killing our country will result in a different nation. Left untreated the disease will spread and the illusion of exceptionalism will decay only to be replaced by the reality of an intentionally self-imposed pariah state. Our children bearing witness to the methodical, yet gradual creation of the other, the normalization of misogyny and the demonization of dissent and free speech. Their America will be different, but it is imperative that they know what America had intended, what some of us knew it could become. They must know this now, so that their humanity has a template and history to call upon when the time comes to save this country.

We must let our children know that the America that is dying was not created by one man alone, one billionaire or a cabal of billionaires, but by millions upon millions of people from all walks of life. They must know that it was not one group that made our country great, but every group from commoner, to slave, to immigrant and native-born, to rancher, factory worker, the destitute, educated and uneducated. In this America there was no idolatry of one, but a never-ending embrace of how, as one, we can overcome.

As I say goodbye to America the similarities are clear, but the finality of this goodbye is different. My father’s death brought not only a sense of closure but also a clear understanding of legacy and a guarantee that there would be continuity of a history that I witnessed and am now a part of. Unbeknownst to me at the time, like the death of any of our ancestors is the passing of the baton to future generations. It can be as subtle as our mannerisms or as intrinsic as our resilience, dignity and respect for one another.

The death of America has the same sense of finality. Sadly, this death comes without the guarantee of continuity. There may be no baton to pass as there remains uncertainty about what lies ahead. Nevertheless, in our homes we each must teach lessons of humanity, the timeless tenets of acceptance, compassion and true democracy to be handed down to all our children or any of those willing to listen and receive this gift.

Standing at the bedside of America I look down with sadness and at times shame for what it has become. I look around at those in the room and marvel at how some breathlessly clamor for my America to die. Hoping to expedite its demise so they can retrieve the ill-gotten, but short lived gains that hate has brought them. Bombastic shouts of greatness, “send them back” and isolationism that mirror fascism far more than the very democracy our nation’s colors have come to represent.

But even in such dire times, my patience and faith pays off. I push their hate aside and look in the eyes of America and am comforted by glimpses of who we once were. I see glimmers of hope through the actions of others marching for peace, registering voters and working on uniting our nation with love, and not dividing it with hate.

I listen closely, longing to hear whispers of advice or last words of wisdom from America. I listen waiting for guidance, only to realize that those words will not come from her. Those words must come from each of us. I back away from America and realize that I know what to say, what to do and what will be needed to save our country.

America meant something to me and as I say goodbye I realize that my efforts in the coming days, months and years will be about teaching my offspring what that means.

I am saying goodbye to America, the land that I love, but still hold out hope that she will survive. And should she pull through, it will only be as a result of the collective efforts of all communities joining together to raise their voice, lend a hand and lead the way. America will only survive if she emerges from this illness with humility and a clear recognition that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Humility and a deeper connection to the very principles that were there at its inception, and that ideally will pull her through when death knocked on her door.

But for now, it is easier to say goodbye. The America I see is unrecognizable. And as it stands I will work and fight to bring the old America back. One united by love. This is the America that I will stand up for and the one where I can proudly say, ”God bless THIS America.”

The land that I love.

About The Author

Kenneth Cole

Dr. Cole is a Licensed Psychologist who has spent the past two decades helping members of the community in developing the ability to bring about positive change for their lives, and empowering those individuals to advocate for themselves.

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