To Live and Grieve in America

A republic, if we can keep it.

Sara Benincasa


Photo by the author, South Carolina Lowcountry, April 2022

“I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps themselves up in the Constitution over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps themselves up in the flag.” — Molly Ivins

“So what, my dear compatriots? How will you label me now? Un-American? It won’t fit, I’m afraid. I’m even more American than you, only against the grain. Which, if you will think a moment, serves to put me in the tradition.” — Henry Miller, STAND STILL LIKE THE HUMMINGBIRD, 1962

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” — James Baldwin, NOTES OF A NATIVE SON, 1955

It has been my observation that people who most deeply love their country are generally the ones most sharply critical of its self-created mythologies. I think this is because their love is for the real humans among whom they live, not for the lies some of those humans uphold.

Because they never seem to shut up about what’s wrong around here, these tart-tongued perpetual complainers are often accused of being anti-American, as if there is or ever has been any one way to be American.

It is a bold thing to care more about individuals than about industries, and to recognize that not everyone can walk down the street, or into a grocery store, or into a classroom, and be guaranteed a nice day full of the free-est freedom in the entire free world.

It makes a lot of folks uncomfortable when a child says the emperor has no clothes. In this country, there’s a fair chance someone will shoot the kid before he gets the words out.

When did they start active shooter drills in your American public school? I was 17. This was months before Columbine. The American mass shooting tradition didn’t start on…



Sara Benincasa

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS & other books. Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast.