American flag flying at home

Love it or leave it?

The news from Uvalde is too painful to bear. Instead, I want to talk about termites.

We have a termite problem at our house because it has a wood frame and exposed beams. This is one of many genius decisions the builders of our house made 50 years ago. Normally, homeowners only deal with termites when they sell a house, because it’s required by state law. So, they throw a tent on it and pump it full of Vikane because they’ve already packed things up to leave and don’t have to deal with cleanup. Since we still live here, we have to look at different options for dealing with the problem. It’s annoying, expensive, and inconvenient. It’s also important to deal with it now to avoid more serious problems later on.

That’s how I feel about living in the United States.

I learned as a teenager that America is not The Greatest Nation on Earth™. We have serious problems based on fundamental flaws in our foundation. People on both sides of the political spectrum can quickly point out our country’s many imperfections. But when people call these out, we hear a common refrain, “If you hate America so much, why don’t you leave?” It’s a sentiment I saw on bumper stickers in the 1960s, “America: Love it or leave it.”

But America is my home. It’s where I grew up. It’s where I built my career. It’s where I formed a family. It’s my culture, heritage, and identity. And I’ll be damned if I leave.

Going back to our termite problem: Of course, we could sell our house and move somewhere else. But it would mean a huge dislocation for our family, and the place we would move to would have its own set of problems. Given today’s housing market, it would be much cheaper to fix the termite problem than deal with the expenses and large mortgage involved with moving to a new home. And we would lose all the investments we’ve made to our house—as well as all the memories our family created here.

Now, imagine how much harder it would be to move to a different country. It’s a difficult decision made by many around the world. They must face the dangers of going to another country where they won’t be welcomed, and then start their lives over again with a different culture and language. It’s not a decision made by homeowners with termite problems. It’s made by those whose homes have been shelled into rubble.

We are not at that point in the United States. As serious as the problems are in our country, they are not unfixable. As flawed as our foundations are, it is possible to work around them. It’s like when we had to reroute water lines through our house when the copper pipes in our concrete slab leaked. We can’t erase our history or scrap our entire economic and political system and start over. (It would be like solving our termite problem by burning down the house.) We can make our current structures more just and inclusive, address systemic issues and the widening wealth gap, and become the more perfect union our Founders intended.

America is my home. I intend to stay and fight to make it a better place for all of us to live.