Americans can get caught up in sentimentalism it runs through our sports, advertisements, social media, and at times politics. And therefore it can be used to exploit and manipulate the American people. Sentimentalism in America is the reason when a young white woman goes missing the headlines are everywhere. However when Native American women or Black, Latina women go missing there are very few Amber alerts if any. And if you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community forget about being looked for at all.
Sentimentality is what Donald Trump is running on and what Ron DeSantis is trying to protect, as long as the sentimentalism they champion protects the fragile egos of certain white males in America. Both of them want to be the ushers of the new white male supremacy where everyone automatically defers because they are just that white, male, and American.
When you consume sentimentalism constantly two things can happen or both, one you will always crave it. In moments of regret, guilt, fear, hope, even joy it will be an unfulfilled hunger. Norman Rockwell made a living on American sentimentalism and I remember staring at his paintings forever drawn in by the sugar of every stroke. However sentimental worlds only exist in our minds, even those of us who say we had great childhoods are amazed when we find out how much was hidden from us.
The one thing that has to also be admitted is how much we blocked out in our childhood’s to protect ourselves, and most of us would like to look back on our lives and like to feel sentimental about those moments, but most if not many of the time memory was protecting us from the painful.
Recently I had started to feel guilty about my past, disappointed in myself for not meeting the expectations of my parents. Feeling that if I had done better as a child then I would be “whole” now as a man. It is easy to be sentimental when your world is consistent, constant, routine. Not in the way that it is mundane but could almost be taken for granted. Of course many of us grow up in America where we can’t take anything for granted. Everyday is a challenge or a struggle, even if we are working full time. I went to numerous schools as a child, some on the East cost some on the West, one in the South, I was the perpetual new kid that had to figure it out each time. I had to adapt, adjust, hide. I’m not sure when I started feeling guilty about this as an adult but I started to psychologically beat my self up because my parents weren’t better planners. Yet at the same time I was sentimental about my childhood somewhat. The problem is or now I should say was that I started to feel guilty about not meeting the standards of my parents, yet for some strange reason they couldn’t meet the basic standards of mine as a child. My Grandmother raised me for a significant portion of my life. She took me in when my Mother couldn’t afford me or my Father had beaten me, so much so that the next day I went to school with marks on my face. The hidden ones were worse, being hit by an orange extension cord will tend to leave their mark. So with the impermanence and violence in my early life I began to ask myself why was I feeling guilty or sentimental about my childhood, blaming myself for not coming out of it more “successful”. I had begun to create scenarios of sentimentalities that didn’t exist or were not a psychological infrastructure that I had created. Still as children we tend to hold on to feelings, beliefs, that got us through any trauma however as adults we can sometimes blame ourselves consciously or not for not being where we want to be currently in our lives. So we tend to feed on sentimentality instead of actualization. Sentimentality is a hungry ghost, one that will never be satiated, it will make you feel anxious, depressed, guilty. For the simple fact that sentimentality needs memory. It needs you to fixate on the past instead of being present in the here and now. It can come in a song you listen to, or a movie you watch, the truth is we can never repair our pasts by not being present in our future. Any regret, fear, guilt, etc. that you are feeling about your past you have to let go of. Now I’m not saying if something reminds you of a great moment of your past, that you don’t appreciate it. All I’m suggesting is that you don’t fixate on it. Fixating on the past or the future will leave you in a space of feeling or thinking that just because there is activity that there is action. Action can only exist in the present, and if you are having difficulty as I have, find a way to love yourself now, find a way to enjoy yourself now, find a way not to consume yourself with consequences but instead present realities. Realities that you can enjoy in the moment and in the now. One of the traps of sentimentalism is the question “What would you tell your 10 year old self?” What’s past is past; you have to move forward without ever thinking about that. That ten year old grew up and all they want to know is what are we going to do now.