Proud to be An American
When I first auditioned for Americana, I thought of it as “a show about gun violence.” It was originally created to be “a show about gun violence.” Now, I’ve begun to see it as so much more than that.
An act of gun violence in America is not where the violence begins. Violence begins in the home, in our society, and in our culture. Americana explores the idea of where gun violence comes from, but also challenges our notions of the “kind of person” it takes to be a shooter. As each shooter’s story is told in ballad form, it explores their life and the violence they have experienced in America. From domestic violence to violence against LGBTQIA+ people to violence against women to violence on TV, Americana is not a show about gun violence: it is a show about American violence.
These thoughts feel particularly poignant right now as I watch the recent political events of America unfold while I am thousands of miles away. The Supreme Court rulings in overturning abortion rights, limiting the authority of indigenous courts, restricting the EPA, lifting conceal carry restrictions, and the possibility of ruling against gay marriage stand against all my values. Of course, these are partisan issues. I’m sure my conservative father would disagree with most of my pro-choice, pro-indigenous, eco-warrior, gun-restrictive, LGBTQIA+, liberal stances. Many members of America’s older generation would disagree with me. But the slew of shootings and riots and violent outbursts that pour out of every media source is not partisan. This cycle of violence is happening, whether we pretend it’s real or not. And what we are doing right now, left or right, liberal or conservative, is not working.
In one of our discussions about the play, the topic of American pride came up. The lyrics
“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free” float into my head. Many people in America are so proud of our country that they are blind to its problems. They stand immovable, obstinate, plugging their ears against the pour of criticism against America for all it has done to remove freedom. And then there are those people who feel no pride in our country at all, who hate it. I’ve heard the joke “get out and move to Europe while you can” several times. Because how can I be proud when all I have to do is turn on the American news to see violence everywhere I look. It’s easier to switch the news channel to the one you agree with. It’s easier to run away to somewhere else where we don’t see these particular issues every day. It’s easier to turn off the TV. It’s harder to fight.
But through this show, I’m starting to realize that American pride is that fight. I am proud enough to stand against the cycle of violence I’m seeing play out in America every day. I am proud enough to face the truth of my country’s violence, rather than dumbing it down to make it easier on my conscience. I am proud enough to say I’m done. I’m done watching the land of the free strip freedom from women, children, immigrants, veterans. From people of color, people of different faiths, LGBTQIA+ people, indigenous people. From the marginalized and non-marginalized alike. The land of the free does not mean freedom terms and conditions apply. It does not mean freedom but or freedom until. It means freedom and equality and tolerance for all.
It makes me laugh to think that it took Morna Young, a Scottish woman, someone who is not even American to look at America and say “I’m done watching this cycle of violence—I’m going to say something about it.” This play Americana doesn’t have the answer. I remember asking that in rehearsal one day: “We bring up the question of American violence, but we don’t say how to fix it.” I like having all the answers. But Morna told me that she doesn’t necessarily know how to fix it. Her way is different from my way is different from every single person’s way. But we’re sharing the story and showing it to the world and asking the question Why is this happening? And the hope is that this story gets us talking about that question and those answers. Because we are proud enough to fight for a land that is free for everyone.