Holy shit. What have I been thinking?

By Andrew J. Pridgen

There I was, going along, trying to do right by my family, friends, coworkers and neighbors. Trying to make sense of what this country is going to look like in a decade not only in the context of where we are now in the complex age of globalization and ever-shrinking economic opportunities even for the educated, enlightened and informed; but in light of all the upheaval we have been through already.

I have been wasting my precious time (because, fact: MY time is precious) trying to glean as much as I can from known, thoughtful, trusted and appropriate sources: the institutions that have covered the issues of the day for a century or longer, using voices unbiased. Trying to understand the why behind wars, market crashes, and this country’s disturbingly long list of imperialist crusades. Trying to to make sense of it and, you know, attempt to arrive at some kind of informed, not knee-jerk, opinion — based on fact, reason and history. And, most of all, trying not to make the same mistakes.

But then you just came along so strong with your memes and BAM! blew the fuck out of my mind.

Until I saw your memes, it never occurred to me that I was doing it all wrong. Silly me. What was I thinking thinking that engaging in a healthy, constructive debate was the way to go? I was stupid and naive to believe that there was value in trying to get the facts right BEFORE sharing my opinion and then, in turn, listening to someone counter with theirs that in a way that wasn’t taking personal swipes or jumping to conclusions based on biases or hidden agendas. So dumb of me to think that was a reasonable approach.

…That actually onboarding someone else’s world view — perhaps someone who had been on the other side of a bombing or an attack; perhaps someone with a different origin, from a different race, with different religious beliefs, different sexual orientation, different educational background, different work and home life — would be something worth doing. …When in reality, all I had to do was put the words “Fuck You (insert racial slur)” over a picture of someone whose looks, culture and life I haven’t taken the time to understand.

It was really dumb of me to try the more measured approach. This country wasn’t built on patience or tolerance or listening — or fucking reading — or setting aside a difference in opinion in attempt to grow something positive. It was built on taking shit that’s not yours and putting those down who stand in the way. And if they stand in the way too hard, well, suck it, here’s the end of my fucking gun you fucking terrorist. You can talk to the barrel. It’ll understand. #talktothebarrel.

And then there’s the memes talking about making America “great” again. My first reaction was to ask when was America so great? Was it when the people who founded this country bought and sold other people to help make it happen? Was it when we went ahead and destroyed all the indigenous folks who originally called this land home by spreading diseases like gonorrhea and the flu and alcoholism across the plains states — forcing them into the worst possible squares of scorched nothing cordoned off by barbed wire while we went ahead and fucked up all the resources that they’d lived off of for tens of thousands of years…in just over a century?

Was it when the descendants of the people who were bought and sold were told they couldn’t eat at the same counter or ride the same bus or go to the same schools or drink out of the same fountain?

Was it when things got so bad in those same plains states that people literally had to walk with all their shit plus all of grandma’s shit towards the ocean, drinking urine and collapsing in the dirt along the way? Was it when we decided to go ahead and fuck up the objectively unfettered paradise of Southern California by moving over its rows of verdant fruit trees and paving over its meadows and lakes so we could sit and breathe one another’s exhaust like stale farts on an airplane for our entire fucking lives in order to go to a job that maybe affords us a double bathroom sink and some strip mined granite on a center island?

But now I get it. Your America Great meme has a picture from a car ad from the late-‘50s where a white family with three kids and a purebred are loading into a giant wood paneled piece of metal and the mom looks like she’s still a virgin but is smiling like she isn’t is carrying a basket of food and dad with his Brylcreem sheen and his unlit pipe and hiked-up trousers is about to drive a station wagon getting fewer than five miles/gallon to a clapboard lakefront home where the radio will be on and the fireflies dance to the hum of the distant cricket’s love serenade. That America? You mean the America that never existed in the first place? You mean you miss some Rockwellian version of a time and a people that never were? What you’re saying is, you miss good marketing?

Oh, wait. Your meme explains it. “This is MY America.” Fuck it, you’re right.

You’re right about all of it.

Even though guns are machines that are designed to kill people, it’s a mental health problem. Even though there are more black people killed every day in urban areas than there are Panda Expresses, those who die are thugs who deserve it. Even though Hillary Clinton and her emails did NOTHING wrong in the eyes of the law, and nothing she wrote or didn’t write could have changed the outcome of an attack on an embassy (which happens all the fucking time during every type of regime, ESPECIALLY when Republicans are in office btw), she should be impeached before she’s even elected?

Oops, you’re right again, there’s memes explaining all that too.

My current favorite memes are from a man who has spent a lifetime getting kicked out of school, dodging the draft, squandering his family fortune, defrauding banks, lying to basically everyone, philandering, cheating wage-earning workers out of their pay, making such shady deals with such shady people that he can’t even get a gaming license in Nevada, going bankrupt five times, taking money from the unwitting — including veterans — in the name of a phony university, making fake charitable contributions, humiliating people on reality TV, imprisoning and raping 13-year-old girls…with a buddy, ignoring some of his children he believes are lesser than, making fun of the handicapped, solidifying mob ties, funneling campaign funds into his own enterprises, spewing white-supremacist-approved rhetoric, going broke selling shitty steaks, wanting to control exactly what happens with women’s bodies even though he can’t seem to control himself around them, insulting entire countries, races and religions, having no interest doing anything for the planet beyond killing it more swiftly, stirring racist and xenophobic and nationalist feelings like a gin and tonic and being so good at becoming the poster boy for everything that is against progress, tolerance, kindness and yes, even democracy — wait, what’s that — oh he posts some pretty cool anti-Semitic memes on his twitter?

Yeah, I guess that makes him alright in my book.

Anyway, this meme thing has actually got me thinking that it’s OK to no longer think, no longer believe and no longer feel.

Thanks to you (and your memes) I know this will all be over soon.

Andrew J. Pridgen is the author of “Burgundy Upholstery Sky,” he lives in California. 

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