America Ain't Better Than This

Illustration for article titled America Ain't Better Than This
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I forget exactly how old I was. Maybe 9. Maybe 10. It was summer. A Sunday. Dad and I were preparing to spend the day at the hoop courts behind Reizenstein—him running full on the main court with the rest of the oldheads, and me doing Mikans and playing 33 on side hoops with whichever kids wanted to get clapped. We each had a thermos. Dad filled his with ice water. I thought water was lame and filled mine with the iced tea Mom made the night before.


“Lukewarm ice tea in the 90-degree heat?” Dad warned. “You sure about that? You’re gonna get sick.”

“I’ll be fine.”


By the time we got back home that night, I was sicker than I’d ever been. Sweats, nausea, explosive diarrhea—I felt like hot death. Mom gave me some water, some medicine and a mop bucket, and I went to bed. Before I passed out, I could hear my parents talking downstairs.

Mom: “Why’d you let him do that?”

Dad: “He’s hard-headed.”

Anyway, I ain’t watch that shit last night. Not because I’m so righteous or whatever. I fell asleep after putting my kids to bed at 7:30 and woke up at 11:30. I’m just old. Too old now to put iced tea in a thermos on a hot day. Older than my Dad was when he warned me not to. And, when people say shit like “America is better than this,” old enough—and alive in America long enough—to know it ain’t.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


The Thugnificent Pangaean

Undecided clowns:

1 - I think some people are genuinely torn. Like they have diabetes and are really worried about Covid, maybe even lost their job, but they also hate black people.

2 - I’m facing eviction, but the stock market is doing great. I just don’t know how to feel.”

3 - Restaurant owner: We have two options on the menu tonight. Chicken noodle soup, or a diseased squirrel carcass we found in the yard a few weeks ago.

Undecided 2020 voter: Wellllll... I’m really not sure. Let me think about it.

4 -“I don’t like Trump, but I’m happy about the conservative judges” is code for “I like the racism, hatred, cruelty, corruption, and vulgarity but I don’t have the courage to admit it.”