Paul and I are about to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in the most wonderful way imaginable. We are about to jet off to Europe for a three week vacation, the longest we have ever taken.
We’ll start in Germany, spending a week with very dear friends. There will be laughing, eating, drinking, music and a lot of catching up on each other’s lives after two years apart.
From there we head South into Italy, my home country, where we hope to connect with distant relatives and learn about my family’s pre-immigration past.
I am SO excited that I can’t even stand it!!!
I’m wondering what I will say when we are asked about the current situation here in the US. I mean, I know that I’ll assure whoever it is I’m talking to that most of us did NOT vote for Trump and despise his policies.
But my bigger worry is how to explain the way Americans are behaving toward each other these days.
How do I explain that half of us think it’s absolutely fine to mock and berate the other half? What do I say about one side refusing to serve food or bake cakes for the other half?
Is there a reasonable way to explain the curses, the vulgarities, the insulting names that each side is using on the other?
Can “Well, they did it first!” be translated into German or Italian without sounding like the absolute lamest excuse given by any kindergartener ever?
What do I say?
I can imagine myself trying to explain. “Well, I know it sounds like we Americans absolutely hate each other, but……”
Do we hate each other? Do we really want each other to be humiliated, to be denied hospitality, to be spat upon?
How far away are we from violence in the streets, as rival groups hurl both insults and stones at each other?
How did we get here?
What do I say?
“I don’t know what has happened to us,” I might begin. “I remember when we used to argue at dinner, but keep on passing the dessert plate.” Maybe I’ll point to the obvious issues with corporate media, and how that has lead to opposing viewpoints replacing factual news.
“I remember when we used to turn on the evening news, knowing that we’d get the same information no matter which channel we picked, but watching our favorite news reporters.”
How do I explain the sheer ugliness and vitriol and rage that has engulfed us all over here in the “land of the free”?
I don’t know.
I share that rage, and in some cases that ugliness and vitriol. There have been a boatload of moments in the past two years when I’ve wanted to strangle the life out of someone in the news.
How do I explain that to people who have lived through the violence and horrors of fascism and World War? What do I say? How do I describe my fervent desire to oppose what I see as immoral, without losing my own moral center?
I don’t know.
I truly do not know.
But before our plane lands on distant shores, I promise that I will have learned to say, “I love my fellow citizens” in at least two languages.
Maybe we should all be memorizing that phrase in English.