What makes a meme good is its ability to capture a feeling specific to an instance, a reaction to a circumstance, and only the greatest memes can capture a feeling you didn’t even know you had. I never realized how badly I wanted America to be the America I grew up learning about until I saw this meme, just a week after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Before Putin invaded, when the grownups said we couldn’t save Ukraine, I accepted they knew best. I agreed that we must look out for ourselves. But to the surprise of the entire world, the Ukrainians have acted in fierce concert to defend their freedom, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel my American spirit, my democratic soul, ignite with passion. I thought, “Surely, we will help now.” But no. We won’t.
I don’t mean to carelessly throw out my words, as if I have everything figured out. I understand the gravity of suggesting that America send in its own troops. I take the realities of war seriously. But when I was growing up, I was told above all else, America stands for freedom. I was told we were the greatest country in the world. I was told no one could mess with us, and that we could take on anyone who tried to.
As I’ve become more educated, I’ve learned the truth. The International Monetary Fund is a loan shark; the World Bank is elitist; and America is a bully. Yet foolishly, somewhere inside me, I still believed that we were the greatest country in the world–we lacked moral will, not capability.
The war in Ukraine has relieved me of my naïveté. If we cannot save a country of people who are actually in need– who want democracy, who are willing to die for the very fundamental beliefs America was founded on– then who the hell are we? We’re not the most powerful country in the world; we’re just one of many countries in this world.
Why lie? What administration and complicit Congress decided to infect public education with such hubris? How could Hollywood fill our childhoods with such propaganda? Young Americans live in a state of whiplash, as society reveals the truth behind every whitewashed story. Now the internet informs the youth of their inherited sins before they can even drive.
Everyday I see more and more friends taken by the plague of cynicism, unable to find any meaningful truths. We are constantly met with annoyance and dismissal, accused of being ungrateful. We’re not ungrateful; we’re heartbroken. We would be the first to say that our feelings are the least of our problems, as people are dying, and the numbers keep climbing.
But I have no doubt that seeing Ukrainians fight to the death, alone, in the name of freedom, will have a lasting effect. Memes such as this one, bits of cathartic expression that won’t draw too much attention, offer us a source of comfort, as we come to terms with the truth about our national identity.