My name is Em Dehaney, and I have never been to America.
I’ve never been to America, but I have walked the steam-vented mean streets of New York, ridden in the yellow taxis and tasted the mustard covered hotdogs. I have gambled with gangsters and seen a city grow from the blood of immigrants, all thanks to Martin Scorcese.
I’ve never been to America but I have stood under endless Yosemite skies and seen the moonrise through the lens of Ansell Adams.
I’ve never been to America but I’ve felt heat from the sunbaked alleys of Compton and learned the poetry of oppression and violence through the words of Tupac and NWA.
I’ve looked inside myself, understood my depression and my fears and anxieties through the prism of Sylvia Plath.
I’ve seen the beauty of street art through the eye of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
I’ve heard the rhythm of survival, courage and freedom in the writing of Maya Angelou.
I’ve listened to Motown and Lou Reed and Patti Smith and The Ramones and Nirvana and Hole and the whole soundtrack to my teenage years on cassette tapes recorded in basement studios in Seattle and New York and LA and Detroit.
America has given us blues, jazz, hip-hop, graffiti, punk, grunge. It has given us art through adversity, it has given us beauty through struggle.
And continues to give us Saturday Night Live, regularly lampooning the shit-show that is the Trump administration, and Teen Vogue, the surprise bastion of intelligent resistance, and thousands of voices on Twitter, and gives us Beyonce and Lady Gaga bringing race and gender politics into the homes of millions of Americans watching the Superbowl. Gives us the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests and The Pussy Power March. Gives us films like Get Out and Moonlight.
America has seen the darkest of times; colonialism, slavery, segregation, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy. America is the only nation to have used atomic weapons in war. America has a list of crimes against humanity as long as it’s troubled history. And now America seems to be run by an embarrassing coterie of ignorant bootlickers, Holocaust deniers, racists, bigots, misogynists and religious fundamentalists.
But there will always be American artists telling their stories through film, music, comedy and poetry. Fighting the power. Bringing the noise. Singing from inside the cage. Raging against the machine.
I’ve never been to America, but it will always be in my heart.
You can hear Em read this piece on our podcast titled Fight The Power.