America: a Polemic

Dear America,

I saw you at the Capitol on video, wild, gleeful in your unthinking symbolism and window-breaking.

I saw you on the steps and scaling the walls, your id on full display, your muscles on full display, your individual liberty and libertinism on full display.

I saw you, America, captured.

I saw you in your white skin and proud tattoos and I heard your taunts and war cries.


America, I thought of your origins in the men who arrived centuries ago, came to what they called a virgin land, so certain in their knowing it was their duty to settle it, to civilize it– their duty as Europeans and adventurers; their adventuring their birthright, they owned the seas, they owned their restlessness.

They were sea-drunk, land-and-sky dazed, knowing that the “savages” who lived and worked the land didn’t belong there.  

After a fight at sea these men brought back Africans in chains. They knew that darkness was evil, as their Bible said, darkness was foreign, these were the children of Hamcursed, they were meant to be slaves. Whites, meant to be masters, they knew themselves to be filled with the light of thought. 

They pushed further and further inland all that was not familiar, and they saw that it was good.

They slashed through forests and herds and flocks. They carved streets and sawed wood for houses, for churches on every corner, they used whips and stocks, and made sermons and finally. revolution because they wanted ownership, they deserved ownership.

Their revolution was built on ideas and theory, therefore it was bold and brave, the blood shed in it was holy.  

Pursuing happiness.


America, you are a city upon a hill, a beacon, an exception; the land of opportunity. An Eden. 

America, you are the worm in the apple, the greed of the worm, the sickness that causes the greed in the worm. 


America, you turn away from your history. America, you are lying to your children. You are brutal to your children. Your police carry guns, your police fought in wars, your terrorists have fought in wars. Your police bang on doors, fire.

America, you began with invasion, you were torn apart by those who mapped you, you are being torn apart by those who think they deserve to inherit everything. 

S.L. Wisenberg is the author of The Sweetheart Is In; Holocaust Girls: History, Memory, & Other Obsessions; and The Adventures of Cancer Bitch. She edits Another Chicago Magazine.