I don’t recognize the country I left eight years ago.
I don’t recognize my home.
When I left, I never feared being shot over a parking spot or of my life ending in a pool of bloody popcorn kernels while watching a blockbuster onscreen. I didn’t have nightmares of my children being gunned down at school, brain matter spattered like so much chalk dust on the floor.
I didn’t think about having to raise my kids in a country where the unfortunate killing of a gorilla elicits more of a call for change than that of the slaughter of fifty human lives.
Home to me was never the right to buy and own an assault weapon, a weapon of mass destruction and killing power, a right which is fought and politicized more than the right to have the inevitable bullet wounds from those weapons stitched back together.
Home was never a place of such irony, where shouts for better mental health awareness and treatment are voiced as a means to curb mass shootings, but the outcry over a health care system to pay for those things is even louder.
Home was a country fifty years past desegregation, not a place when social segregation and demonization were once again being put forth as viable answers.
When I left, home was a country on the brink of electing its first black president, not a country on the verge of electing one who brags about the size of his penis, who spews hate, who objectifies women and thinks that calling a sitting United States senator “Goofy” is the way to make a country great again.
When I left home was still looking to learn from the nightmare of September 11, not collectively failing to learn from Newtown, San Bernadino, Lafayette, Charleston, or Binghamton, a country so afraid of protecting itself against what could happen, it is completely blind to what is actually happening.
Home was not a place where the right to kill superseded the right to live.
Eight years ago my home was not a country shored up on thoughts and prayers, because thoughts and prayers? They mean fuck all when you’re counting bodies.
Home may no longer want me. Home may tell me to stay where I am, good riddance, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
But I’ll tell you something. I am exactly the type of person my home needs. I, and the folks who think like me, the ones who teach your children, who look after your health, who research the way to cure your diseases. The ones who understand the benefit in paying taxes, of investing in infrastructure and health care and education, in inclusiveness, of compromise and equality, who are willing to stand up for all, not just a few.
Just like eight years ago, home is poised on the brink of another election, another historic possibility. An election which will set the tone not only for the next four years, but for the next generation, if they last that long.
I hope the choice is one which helps welcome me home again.