Nottage literally saw "the communal spirit of Africans" at work, as opposed to the American individualism that decrees it's every man for himself.
For myself, I've witnessed the American Parental Countdown to Freedom here in the south as accidental parents count the calendar days till their children are eighteen and therefore legally, no longer their responsibility. An expiration date that might as well be tattooed on the baby's bottom limiting the liability of those who forget when they're ovulating. Sex education and condoms are too taboo but "sure as shit" (an expression we love to use around here), after the mobile home is-done-a-rocking and the Marlboros are smoked, there will be a miraculous blessing, a child. A child born into a world they didn't ask for, shackled to the socio-economic status of their parents and who statistically is unlikely to escape it. Meanwhile my counterparts in Europe often live at home far into adulthood until obtaining a foothold on life. Everyday I see the tragedy of commons play out in the rural community I live. A highly un-educated part of North Carolina where back-stabbing is common and neighbors commit to personally involving themselves in your affairs if they think the imbalance is in your favor. (The cliche: everybody knows everybody, in these parts.) Standing in the grocery store you'll hear people get upset at others who buy food on social assistance. "I don't get to eat [fill in the blank] and I work.", they'll say. Car registration past due? My neighbors will be happy to call the police on you. Is there a sale in town? Shhh.... don't tell anyone else. Buy it all, even if you don't need it. Altruism is not an American value.
There are, of course, exceptions.
Growing up I was told that if I worked hard that I could be and accomplish anything. Last July I completed a master's degree with high marks from what is practically an ivy league U.K. university. I did so because of my passion and love for the globalized world and it was this love for idealism that drove me to follow my dreams. However, after it was all done and I began looking for a job back in the U.S. I quickly became aware of my mistake in assuming that other Americans would perceive my ambitions positively. Au contraire, ma soeur. After numerous interviews, it became apparent via feedback, that despite all my hard-work, a "European" degree was considered substandard despite the university being globally ranked as one of the best. While my counterparts in Europe and Asia were eagerly hired, a sense of resentment could be heard over the phone as I didn't embrace that standard pathway for American entitlement. I was coloring outside the lines and that's never good in America. I see friends from Asia and Europe moving from country to country while job prospects that are merely out of my state, I'm told by the interviewers, are too far for anyone to possibly relocate to. Then there's that job I may have been offered in Canada by a U.K. company. A friend woke me up one morning with urgency to apply and I quickly did. For a brief moment I felt almost human. Call me an emotional sob but one does wonder what's wrong with them after a few thousand rejection letters. I was ecstatically (and prematurely) hopeful knowing I had NAFTA on my side. After all, it should be a cinch since the agreement was styled after the Eurozone free-movement provisions that make Europe so alluring. Of course, a Labour Impact Study accompanies almost any job in Canada and was described to be a "legal nightmare" by the recruiter.
Stupidly, I never took up any of my marriage offers while living overseas. Option one, was a tall handsome man from Columbia, who would have fit most women's ideals of sexy conquistador. Then there was the Greek girl, a good friend, who was so supportive of my wish to live out my dream (and needed a roommate in London) that she was willing to fake a marriage so that I didn't have to depart the shores of Britain. While in hindsight, perhaps I should have taken advantage of these loopholes, I undoubtedly chose the honorable pathway and returned Stateside in hopes that a proper path to freedom, my liberation, would be found.
Then November came and Trump was elected president. I saw my world closing in on me. I slowly watched American freedoms being stripped of myself and those around me. Toilet police for the transgendered, our president-elect is on the national news talking about groping women, Planned Parenthood is to be defunded and abortion made practically illegal. I watched the KKK march across a nearby town in support of white supremacy and I, like many minorities, now live in an ever growing fear of what's next. I live in a state that has rejected the Affordable Health Care Act, which puts me in the special margin of individuals who no longer have health insurance. A fearful prospect as just weeks earlier I fell from the roof of our home, breaking a rib and my wrist.
I have little recollection of the fall as to how it happened. I woke up in a hospital with a concussion that I can only describe as a metaphor for coming back to the U.S. this last year: painful. I'm told that I kept telling everyone I just wanted to go home during my unconsciousness. That home, was not in Kansas if you're wondering. There are days I see no way out, no safe passage home. I imagine whatever your dream is, the next four years under this Republican dystopia will beckon both you and I to return to that roof to finish the job.
A leap of faith is how it all began but hope is what keeps many of us going. I've heard that "We're going to make America great again!", when I thought, at least according to my critics in the past, "America's the best country on Earth... Goddamnit." How do you even argue with that? My response was to run to my room and to dig out my great grand-parents birth certificates to prove German Right-of-Blood. One problem, they chose to nationalize before having my grandmother which in some metaphysical irony severed German citizenship for any descendant thereafter. I've now drafted the majority of my ancestral lineage and despite having grown up with a great grandmother who spoke German, a Welsh surname and emphatic disposition that I don't belong here, I am undeniably imprisoned by the country whose claim to fame is freedom.
Recently, I found out one of my family members is unable to travel because they owe too much money and the IRS has revoked their passport. The individual, a second generation Mexican American can no longer leave the country that now threatens to erect the modern incarnation of the Berlin Wall between him and his extended family.
At one point I completely gave up. I accepted my life here in the U.S. and searched for months on end to find that American job to fall into line with and dutifully payback the $80,000 in student loans that I had accrued during my moment of weakness (going to university). A time when I thought I could find my way out and anything seemed possible. At least, that's how it was sold. However, in the U.S., student loans are never forgiven. There is no bankruptcy and many have associated such practices as indentured slavery. By contrast, in Belgium, my European "sister" from a home-stay during study abroad was paying about 500 Euros per semester for her graduate degree. One could argue such a comparison is a hyperbole and admittedly, I'm deeply grateful to have lived in a country that's allowed me the opportunity for education. However, if the system never actually provides the freedoms associated with such education, if the mouse realizes they're in a maze where there is an entire world that they're never permitted to participate in it, isn't that torture? Living in a literal Plato's cave, am I doomed to remain a shadow, mentally imprisoned in the inescapable cycle of socio-economic poverty?
I hope not. (cringe)