Today, I'm writing from a safe place. Safe in body. Safe in the knowledge everyone I love is safe. They're all safely enjoying themselves. and enjoying the relief that those they know are safe. Some, and I would hazard most, humans do not. They don't know safety, neither for self nor loved ones. They don't know independence. When they were born, everything was gray, as it was when their fathers were born. The concept of anything other than gray—that independence could ever be such a thing—is foreign to them, as foreign in their reality as tyranny would be ours.
I think everyone wants to come to America because of what they've always been told the nation represents. When we were observing our own principles, serving them, with fidelity, its effect was easy to see from far away. The poorer and more troubled nations on Earth, peoples beleaguered by darkness, would have been able to see that promise from far away, like a spotlight shining up from a dark vista. That shining city up on a hill bit? That's what America looked like from East Germany and Vietnam. Kosovo. Mexico. If a North Korean is somewhere snapping out of it and talking with his friends about how much bullshit everything is, someone safely smuggled that kid something from America, a culture comprised of opportunists of all shades. The black market provoked those revolutions.
If you were in the Soviet Union, living a gray life devoid of the color of potential, you could see how, despite our issues internally, from that distance, it was colors upon colors. No gray. Bright. Alive. One glimpse of verboten audio, video, literature, fashion and the grit gets in the gears a little bit, then a little bit more. Back in the 80s, every nation we feared would destroy us in our sleep with a nuclear strike was one bootleg copy of Michael Jackson's Thriller away from having to reboot their whole goddamn regimes. Be it sonically, visually, or literarily, something produced and expressed and consumed with joy made America look like the best place on Earth, and made those so far away from it challenge their leaders to have lives of deep colors and no more grays. Tore shit up for color, for independence, if they had to. Often, it was relatively peaceful because their leaders were even more tired of the gray and couldn't wait to take these rubles they pilfered from the people and buy up Miami Beach and drop anchor heirs and heiresses.
Folks knew they had it bad in their own nation because the light of America illuminated all the cracks and flaws at home. Didn't matter if they were loyalists to the cause. Some Soviet politburo higher up defects because he went to the US for a summit and he got a hamburger and milkshake from Jack in the Box and he just can't get back on that bus to Moscow. Those who weren't fortunate enough to have perspective? They had the black market. Their leaders tried to block out that light America cast upon the rest of the restricted world. Then Levis would sell for $500 a pair. Black leather jackets with symbols painted on them start turning up. You only need one contraband copy of any album from The Clash and/or Public Enemy catalogs and countless young people could dance to the music of change if they were willing to risk it all. And there is no risk in losing the gray. America cast the gray in color. When you experience color, ain't no goin' back to the gray.
Shine a light. Cast your colors. Happy Independence Day.
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