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  • Writer's picturec camp

America, What Have You Become?

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

Last Saturday, when the supreme court over-turned the Roe-vs-Wade ruling and removed the constitutional right for women to access safe and legal abortions – in other words, have control over their own bodies – it put the final crack in an already shattering veneer. The illusion America works so hard to maintain, that of power, freedom and democracy, came crashing down I gazed at a country warped by ego, intoxicated with power and deaf to reason. “America,” I whispered, “what have you become?”


I can clearly remember the first time I saw the USA swim team on pool deck: It was 2008 -Obama had just been elected as the first African-American president and a little website called Facebook had just started to take off - at the Beijing Olympic Games. Giants of the sport and lead by the soon-to-be GOAT Michael Phelps, they swanned around the pool deck, spangled in their red, white and blue, creating an almost magnetic field of charisma.

Faces turned towards them as they approached, and eyes repeatedly flicked after them as they left. The guttural chants of “USA! USA! USA!” emanating from their team area cut through the bustling noise of the pool deck, and wormed their way into their competitors’ subconscious. Team USA commanded respect, deference and admiration.


Not anymore.


The Team USA parading around pool-deck at the moment commands a different kind of attention. They are still proudly bedecked in their red, white and blue; still larger-than-life in stature and volume; however, the gazes directed their way are now tinged with wry smiles, and the eyes that follow them are accompanied by sad shakes of the head. The chants of ‘USA! USA! USA!’ still reverberating across the warm-up pool have lost their power - no longer seen as a proud sign of allegiance to the greatest country in the free world, but as mis-placed patriotism to a country steadily falling from grace.


The wry smiles and shakes of the head are not directed at the American athletes, who themselves still garner much respect and admiration, but rather at the country which was held up as the idol of democracy and freedom. A country which was built by the people, for the people. A country who fought for their freedom and therefore became the ‘freest country on earth’. A country to be envied, emulated and revered.


Not anymore.


The America of today should stand as a warning to all democracies around the world. A warning of what happens when greed is allowed to grow and fester. When tradition and patriotism is used to impede progress and change. When personal beliefs and egos become the metric for decision – and law – making. Above all, America is a warning of what happens when we stop listening to each other.

The first three words of the US Constitution – a document revered by some with near religious reference – 'we the people' is supposed to affirm that the government of the United States exists to serve its citizens. Yet those three words, ‘we the people’, stands in stark contrast with the thousands of citizens flooding the streets protesting the retraction of female reproductive rights.


‘We the people’ flies in the face of the Black Lives Matter protests which erupted around the country, ignited by the death of George Floyd.


‘We the people’ scorns the lawmakers’ cowardice in refusing to stand up to capitalism and greed and impose gun reforms.


‘We the people’ is begging, pleading for a national healthcare system to service the most vulnerable citizens.


‘We the people’ was the original American Dream. A dream exulting independence, individualism, nationalism and, above all, freedom.


Yet that American dream, has hardened, warped, calcified into to most extreme, unyielding version of itself. It does not recognise privilege or prejudice. It does not inspire empathy or compassion.


It is a dream which thrives on the misguided belief that if you are in a position of privilege, you must have earned it. And if you are in a position of poverty, you must deserve it.

It is a dream which perpetuates the widening divide between the rich and the poor. Work harder it says, be better it says – we all have the same 24 hours in the day.


It is a dream which prioritises the ‘lives’ of unborn foetuses above the lives of women, and the children they are now being forced to birth. Yet it is not a dream which will support the lives of these most vulnerable, protect them, nurture them, giving them the tools and opportunities to forge their own future.

America has become a country where cries fall on deaf ears, because money talks.

A country where personal freedom has blurred into selfish egotism. A country, on one hand, so focused on innovation, technology and progress, and yet also so shackled by archaic beliefs and government systems.

From the outside, we can only watch in horror, as America slides further and further away from the democratic homeland its forefathers imagined. Like a car-crash happening in slow-motion we are watching transfixed as America hurtles towards an uncertain and unsavoury future.


Encouragingly however, while some are blind to this descent, it is the youth of today who are looking at events of recent years with growing dissatisfaction. In a YouGov study, 65% of Baby Boomers still extoll the belief that America is the ‘greatest country in the world’. However, that number begins to slide with the subsequent generations with only 50% of Gen X'ers and 37% of Millennials believing the US is the best. When we get down to adult members of Gen Z (those born in 2000 or later) only 26% believe America is the greatest country in the world, while far more, 43%, strongly disagree.


This statistic is a flicker of light in a very long, dark tunnel. It must be nurtured, fed, inflamed if America has a hope of course correcting. The passion and outcry seen across the globe is a good start. In the 1700s the young people of America fought for their freedom from the British Empire, now, in the 2020s the youth of America are again fighting for their freedom, this time from government system which no longer serves them.


On Saturday, in despair, I asked “America, what have you become?”. Yet if there is one thing which Americans can rally around, if there is one thing which ignites a fire deep within them, it is a fight for freedom. Make no mistake, the overturning of Roe-vs-Wade was an infringement of freedom. So perhaps my question should be “America, what can you become?”



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3 Comments


obijohnkenobe
Jul 12, 2022

Do people not understand that the Dobbs decision did not eliminate the right of women to have an abortion? It instead recognized that the Court HAS no right to create rights out of whole cloth, that the original Roe decision was an improper abuse of judicial power... rule by fiat, removing a contentious political issue from the political sphere and deciding by judicial decree.


The Mississippi law being challenge by the Dobbs case restricted discretionary abortions for up to 15 weeks into pregnancy; after that there had to be a medical reason that continuing the pregnancy would have a significant chance of causing extraordinary harm (above and beyond pregnancy per se) to where the mother's life was threatened, as diagnosed…


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juliabot10oct
Jun 29, 2022

wow!! what an incredibly insightful read- well done and well said.

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laura.eyles
Jun 29, 2022

Beautifully written Cate - you have a way with words!

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