I voted for these two. And for their baby brother. I voted for the kids my sons haven’t had yet. I voted for the children my nieces and nephews haven’t yet conceived.
I voted for the kids whose parents were desperate enough to bring them across the border in search of safety.
I voted for the children of my children’s children. And for the children of people I haven’t met. And the children who will one day be the friends of my children’s children.
I voted for the future.
I cast my vote this year for the earth. I voted in the hope that we can still find a way to stop California from burning. I voted because I believe that humans are creative enough to utilize the power of the sun and the wind to heat our homes and power our factories.
I voted. I voted in tears, and filled with fear. I voted with my heart full of love for my sweet grandchildren and the future that I hope awaits them.
And now I wait.
I wait to see if my countrymen will accept the outcome of this pivotal election. I wait to find out if my country will turn itself around and move back toward a marginally democratic government. I wait, in fear, to find out if it will continue to move toward autocracy. I sit with my head in my hands, wondering if my fellow citizens have fallen for the lure of easy answers, the promise of magic bullets, the lies that promise no more sacrifice and no more worry.
I voted for the people I love most on this little blue planet. I voted for them.
I’m afraid that I have voted in vain.
I’m afraid that more than voting will be required of me in the future.
The night is dark. An icy rain patters against the roof.
I shiver as I scroll through the headlines.
Covid deaths are rising around the globe. Caravans of crazed Trump supporters are blocking highways and bridges. They nearly drive a Biden bus off the road. The polls sway back and forth, yanking me from hope to despair and back again. Gun sales are soaring. Grocery store shelves are frighteningly devoid of toilet paper and yeast.
A gust of wind scatters crumpled leaves across the driveway.
The candle in my Jack-o-lantern flickers.
I shift in my chair, trying to get comfortable. The kitchen clock ticks loudly in the silent house.
I. Feel. Every. Freaking. Second. Ticking. Off.
How will I get through the next forty-eight hours?
Should I make a huge pot of espresso and just plan to stay up until it’s all over? Or should I grab some weed butter and a cup of Sleepy Time tea and pray for oblivion?
I am torn.
What if Trump wins?
The mere thought of it has my stomach heaving.
What if he loses, but pretends that he wins?
A pounding headache joins the nausea.
What if he loses, everyone knows he loses, but he refuses to accept the final results? What if it goes to the Supreme Court? The Court Trump so recently stacked in his favor for just such an occasion? What then?
How can I maintain my sanity between now and the moment the polls close?
Is there enough chocolate left over from Halloween to see me through?
More importantly, is there enough vodka under this roof?
I am filled with real dread. Actual, honest to God, shaking in my boots dread. It’s the kind of feeling you get the night before a long, complex, dangerous surgery.
I am sixty-four years old. I have never lived through a time like this one. The surreal has become common. The unthinkable is suddenly on everyone’s mind.
Few Americans doubt that the next days and weeks will be chaotic and confused. Most of us believe that there will be at least some level of violence and civil unrest.
But how far it will go is something we cannot predict. There are moments when I fear that the US military will become involved in suppressing public reaction to the election. But that would mean civil war, wouldn’t it? How is it possible that we are even thinking that thought?
I take a deep breath. My heart is racing and I can’t find a way to stop my thoughts.
I dread tomorrow. I dread tomorrow night.
Most of all, I dread the thought that this sense of impending doom will continue on past the closing of the polls, stretching out into an unpredictable and bleak future.
Every four years I am reminded that election periods are magical chunks of time that stretch on for trillions of interminable seconds. During election periods, I remember that although my soak in the hottub with a dirty martini is a bit of time that lasts about one nanosecond, the same number of minutes on the clock can take four centuries if it shows a politician answering a question.
The current election period (also known as the “2020 black hole of universal suffering) is drawing to a close. For approximately 675 months, the country has been riveted by the sight of two grown man calling each other poopy face and engaging in a rousing game of “I know you are but what am I?”
We are tired. We want it all to just go away. We all made up our minds about which poopy head is the poopiest and which we will nauseously support. We’re ready to move on to more pleasant topics, like how to orchestrate a Zoom Thanksgiving.
For me, there are certain phrases and comments that I desperately want to disappear from the airwaves. I love the English language. I abhor the way it is tortured by every person who runs for public office.
Here is my list of key phrases that REALLLLLLLLLY need to stop.
“Let me be clear…” Oh, sweetie. We want you to be clear, m’kay? We always want you to be clear, concise and honest. You don’t need to tell us that this time you are truly going to try to make sense. Just be clear.
“The American people…….” Dear God, if I hear one more candidate trying to claim that they understand exactly what the mythical American people want/need/like/believe/deserve. There are hundreds of millions of us. We don’t agree on anything. Nothing. Ever. So stop with the bullshit of trying to convince us that you speak for the whole messy bunch of us.
“On day one…..” Jeez. If it’s your freakin’ first day at work in your brand-spankin-new job, this is not the day to jump in and blow everything up. Particularly if you’re running for President; day one is going to consist of you trying to recover from all those inaugural balls, learning how to find the White House bathrooms, and being introduced to the nine hundred bureaucrats who now work for you. You will not be saving the Constitution on day one. So just stawp.
“I will not rest!” Please. Nobody said we want to be out their running our lives while you’re obsessed and exhausted. We’re not looking for you to be a martyr. We’re just looking for you to do your best to accomplish the things we think are important.
As the slowly ticking time-bomb of the 2020 election crawls to a close, I am begging all future candidates to be mindful of the sounds that dribble out of your mouths. If you want to get our attention, try to say something original.
Something like, “I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to accomplish everything that most of you tell me you want. But I’ll do my best. I won’t try to speak for you. I won’t promise you that I’ll die trying to get that stop light removed from your street corner. I’ll just work with the people around me, learn from the ones who know more than I do, and listen to what you all have to say.”
At a time of such intense political and social stress, we hear the word “patriot” thrown around quite a lot.
“You aren’t patriotic!” people yell at those who disagree with them.
“A true patriot wouldn’t do what you’re doing, wouldn’t think what your thinking, wouldn’t believe in your beliefs!”
I don’t know if I’m a patriot or not. I’ve written before about the fact that it makes me uncomfortable to describe myself as someone who loves “my” country more than other countries.
What does it mean to “love my country” anyway? Does mean that I love the soil itself, the rivers and forests? Is it love of that which is familiar to us? Do we need to feel separate from others, and superior to them, in order to feel comfortable in our own place?
Or is patriotism a love of those who share our national community? Is it about loving and defending other Americans?
I don’t know. I’m not sure what other people mean by the word, and certainly have no clear definition myself.
But these days we are watching our President set himself up to dispute the results of our national election, should he lose. We’re hearing people vow to take up arms to protest the election results, or to defend them. Americans are already carrying loaded weapons into our cities to murder those on the “other side” in name of “patriotism.”
It seems likely that violence and disorder are facing us in the next few weeks and months.
So I’ve started to ask myself, “What am I willing to do in the name of my country? What would I risk in the name of patriotism?”
I’m not sure. But this is what I think.
I am sure that I will buy extra food, medicine and emergency supplies so no matter what, my family will have enough. I’m willing to can tomatoes and freeze batches of veggies and fruit.
If things get tough, and supplies become scarce, I’d be willing to share with my neighbors.
If it really gets bad, and people are hungry, I think I could manage to kill a dove or a duck or even a turkey. I’m not sure about my ability to kill a rabbit or a deer. But I don’t know; I’ve never been hungry or seen my family starve.
I would be willing to march in the streets with signs to defend a person or a group that was under attack. I’ve done that more than once already. I’d be willing to occupy a park or a building in the name of protecting other Americans.
But what I would not do is hurt or kill another American. I can’t see myself ever coming to that point. Not to prove my “patriotism” or to defend a political idea.
Because for me it isn’t important to love the dirt on which I live. I don’t consider democrat lives to have more value than republican lives. I will not hurt or kill any person who thinks differently than I do. I will not take up arms in defense of “America.” Not on the streets of Portland or Boston or this little town.
I believe that I could kill if I were forced to protect my family. I hope that I would be willing to do anything to save the life of any child.
But to use weapons against others to protect an abstract idea of “my” nation, or “my” party?
I wouldn’t do it.
At least, I fervently pray that I wouldn’t.
Now I just need to pray that most people feel the same way.
The global pandemic of Covid-19 continues to rage around the world. The entire west coast of the US is in flames. Protests continue in cities across America, and the violence is slowly increasing.
But that’s not why I am so afraid.
I’m terrified, my friends. I’m really scared right now, more than I have been at any other point in my life. What has me so frightened?
I’m afraid of my fellow citizens. I am afraid of a second civil war.
You gotta give it to Donald Trump. The man has managed to create his own reality out of thin air. He has grasped control of the facts and twisted them around to support his own narrative on every subject.
And he has made it impossible to argue effectively against him.
He’s done all of this with two simple, powerful words.
No matter what facts are presented to Trump’s followers, they are able to easily wave them away. “Nah, that’s just the corrupt media making stuff up!”
I see this over and over again on social media, and on news reports. I have had my own relatives and friends say it to me. When it’s pointed out that the raging wildfires are tied to global warming, Trump’s people respond with claims that “antifa” is setting the fires to create chaos. People believe it, because when you try to tell them the truth, they answer that the media is creating “fake news.”
There is no possible way to refute this kind of thinking. For instance, out there in Oregon, the FBI (THE FREAKIN’ FBI) has publicly stated that there is no truth at all to the antifa arson stories. NONE. And they should know. They have investigated it at LOT. They found nothing!
Pretty official. Pretty convincing to the vast majority of thoughtful and intelligent folks, right?
But look at a few of the responses that this one tweet got:
See what I mean?
If these people believe that the FBI is in the hands of the radical left, then what hope is there of convincing them of the truth? Reality has lost all meaning. Facts have no power.
So I am truly afraid of what is going to happen on Nov.4th and beyond. I’m afraid.
Fox News and other right wing outlets are claiming that Democrats, the left, and antifa are all threatening violence if Biden loses the election. They claim that they need to grab their guns so they can defend the country from the raging angry leftists.
And left wing media outlets, like Forward.com, predict that if Trump loses, the far right and it’s militias will engage in violence to protest what they will see as a “rigged election.”
And so left leaning militias are promising to take up arms to stop the right.
You see why I’m scared?
I’m scared because the one thing that Donald Trump truly excels in is controlling the national conversation.
He is a master liar. Perhaps because of his deep seated psychological disorders, Trump is able to lie without a hint of remorse. He can repeat the same lie over and over again with no qualms. He tells us that the election will be rigged. He repeats over and over that the election results will not be legitimate. He warns of violence. He talks about rioters and looters as antifa. He successfully whips up his followers and he does it by calmly stating over and over and over and over and over that any statement with which he does not agree is a lie.
Do you see how terrifying this is?
He can tell people literally anything, and they will believe it. As you read these words, there are people in the inferno of the American Northwest who are refusing to evacuate their blazing neighborhoods. They feel compelled to stay at home to protect their property from the “antifa hordes” who have set fires in order to loot property.
Even as I write this morning, people are walking around in stores without face coverings because they believe that “There is no Covid. It’s all a hoax to take down the United States.” Or they believe that it was created by the Deep State to control citizens.
This is, of course, beyond delusional. It’s outright crazy. But they believe it. Because Trump has gotten his followers to disbelieve the press. He has convinced them that his own FBI, CIA, Homeland Security are not to be trusted. He has told them over and over that our own CDC is lying to us.
And if facts are presented, all he has to whisper is his favorite motto.
The year was 1980. I was sitting in a dimly lit hospital room. The pale yellow walls were streaked with cigarette smoke. A woman sat on the edge of the bed, her arms pressed against her middle, her eyes fixed on the floor.
She rocked back and forth, a rhythmic self-soothing motion that was somehow both sad and frustrating. A lit cigarette dangled from her dry lips.
I was in the room with a young and eager psychiatrist, newly minted and ready to help. His questions were asked in a gentle voice, in perfect American English. I was there to translate them into the Russian spoken by our elderly patient.
She was a recent immigrant to Boston from what was then the Soviet Union. She was one of a wave of Russian Jews who were coming to the US with the help of the aid organization HIAS. I was one of a handful of young interpreters who helped with their resettlement. Today I was interpreting an intake assessment for a severely depressed older woman and her psychiatrist. She had been admitted to the hospital the night before when her son found her unable to settle, to stop pacing or to be calmed.
The assessment didn’t take long, because the patient failed to answer most of the questions. Instead, she repeatedly mumbled about strangers in black jackets who she feared would break down the door. She stood up a few times to peer out the small window, scanning the street for the “black cars” that would come to take her away to an unknown prison.
After the interview, I sat with the psychiatrist, another doctor and a psychiatric nurse to review and clarify what had been recorded. As we finished, the young psychiatrist turned to his supervisor and said, “It certainly seems like paranoid delusions. She actually believes that strangers are going to come and take her away in the night.” The team was planning to treat her for psychosis.
“Wait,” I said. I didn’t usually say much in meetings like this, because I was only a 22 year old Soviet Studies major with no medical training. But this time it was different.
“She isn’t making this up,” I told the team. “In the 1930s, under Stalin, the secret police broke open her door in the middle of the night. She and her husband were taken away and put in prison. He was sent to Siberia and he never came back.”
I looked at the frowning faces in front of me. They didn’t know the history of the Soviet Union under the dictator Josef Stalin. In the middle of an American summer day, the idea of unmarked secret police taking people away without any evidence of a crime seemed improbable enough to make them doubt my story. This was the United States. There were laws protecting citizens from this kind of illicit action.
They couldn’t believe that such a thing was possible. But I knew it was. I had studied the history, but I had also spoken to the survivors. This frail woman, rocking and smoking and living in constant fear, was not the first survivor of Stalin’s regime that I’d met. I head heard her story from her son, and from her current husband. I had heard similar stories of men going out to work and never coming home. I knew one man who had been snatched off the street and sent to a labor camp where he was held for five years, never knowing whether his family was still alive.
I finally convinced the team that what I was telling them was true, and they verified it through the patient’s family. Her treatment was adjusted and within a few weeks the worst of her severe depression and anxiety was eased.
I think about her sometimes.
Lately, though, I think more about that medical team. If they are still alive now, what do they think of what is happening in the US today?
Do they realize now how easy it is for people to slowly lose their rights? Do they understand how an autocratic leader can convince people that in order to be safe they need to give up some freedoms?
I hope that as they watch the news unfolding in Portland, they recognize the incredible danger facing the US at this moment. I hope they speak out, loudly. I hope they share the story of that one old survivor and what happened to her family.
Here we are in the United States of America, in the year of our Lord, 2020. We are in an election year. We are in a year of record high temperatures around the globe.
And we are in the year when the world is grappling with a new and deadly disease for which there is neither a treatment nor a cure.
I wonder why our conversations online don’t reflect these facts? I wonder why the headlines aren’t focused on how to address any of these concerns?
Today I read about whether or not we need masks. I didn’t see a lot of factual information, and I didn’t see any ideas about how we might make the wearing of masks a more positive experience. I didn’t read much about making masks free or affordable.
What I did read is that people who wear masks are weak snowflakes who are buying into Bill Gates’ attempt to take over the world. I read that people who won’t wear masks are ignorant, selfish rednecks who want to kill all the old people.
Today I read stories and posts about whether or not Black lives matter in this country. I read about the question of whether or not racism exists. I read that the Black Lives Matter Movement is a Marxist attempt to take over the country. I read that every person who timidly states that they’re not racist is a history denying, ignorant self-centered privileged “Karen”.
We’re furious at each other about statues and about pieces of cloth and about words painted on city streets. We’re pouring all of our famous American ingenuity into meaningless memes that make the “other side” look stupid.
Fellow Americans: What the HELL are we doing???????
Here’s what I know.
A lot of radical lefties are in the ICU with COVID-19. They are in the same unit with a lot of right wing conservative MAGAs. They’re all on the same oxygen that keeps humans alive.
I know that a bunch of completely apolitical people have lost their jobs and their insurance and are scared to death of what’s coming next. I know that a bunch of political activists have lost their jobs and their insurance and are scared to death to think about next month.
You know who is at risk of COVID? White people. Also brown ones. And Asians. And dark black recent African immigrants. And Europeans. And Pacific Islanders and red heads and Puerto Ricans and Japanese and Bahamians and New Zealanders. Don’t forget Russians, Poles, Italians, Greeks, Egyptians, Tunisians and Siberian residents. People with glasses and people who run marathons. Singers and accountants and engineers and teachers and Grandmas and babies.
Every. Human. Being. Is. At. Risk.
Why aren’t we focused on how to make it better? Some of my very conservative family members are businessmen. They are creative and efficient. Why aren’t we seeing them come up with efficient solutions to help businesses stay open and stay safe? Is it because they’re too busy finding and sharing memes about “owning the libs”?
Some of my very liberal friends and family are artists and therapists and teachers. They are creative, imaginative and flexible. Why aren’t they publicly sharing ideas about how to maximize our human talent in ways that will support the community? Could it be because they are getting some weird pleasure out of finding and sharing memes about the stupidity of conservatives?
I don’t know.
I’m as guilty as anyone else, though, that I will admit.
Today I argued with my Uncle about the definition of “antifa”. My Uncle, who I have known and loved my entire life. My uncle, who is one of the funniest, most clever, most intelligent guys in the world. He is informed, he is smart, he is articulate. We completely disagree on political and economic issues, but so the hell what?
Why am I not asking him how he’d approach the reopening of businesses in this climate? Why am I wasting my time pointing fingers and arguing about which side’s vandals desecrated a truly sacred memorial?
I don’t know. I know that I’m scared. I know that I want this to be over. I know that I want to be able to hug my mom again, to kiss my sons again. I want to be with my friends and I want to know that this blessed earth is a safe place for my children to raise more children.
I’d like to find a way to remind my loved ones, conservative and liberal, that everyone is in the same boat and that the storm is raging. It doesn’t matter who is captain right now. It matters that all of us mere sailors start working together to bail her out, keep her steady, and get her back to shore.
The D’s and the R’s can call each other names all they want. Nancy and Chuck can point fingers at Mitch and Donnie all they want and vice versa.
But we, we Americans, we the people, we damn well better find a way to work together and stop our stupid bickering. If we don’t, this old boat is going to crash itself on the shoals and we are all going to go down into the endless deep together.
It seems more than a little bit odd to me to hear people out there arguing about what is offensive and what isn’t.
It’s especially strange to hear white people, who make up pretty much my entire social circle, arguing about what makes something offensive to black Americans.
Is Aunt Jemima’s image on the syrup bottle “offensive” or is it just a meaningless picture? How about Uncle Ben? Is a statue of General Lee offensive? Or is it a monument to a cultural history?
As is so often true, when I think about the big questions that trouble adults, I turn to my experience as a classroom teacher to guide me.
I’m remember one particular year of teaching fifth grade. My students were a sweet combination of innocent and sassy. As ten year olds, they were still gentle and tender. They liked me, I liked all of them, and we had a good rapport. But as almost-adolescents, they’d begun to test some of my limits. A few kids had tried out “bad words” in the classroom, and we were discussing why some words were offensive.
One of the best parts about teaching kids this age is watching when one or two of them get that glint of mischief in their eyes and try to push the envelope a bit. In this case, a few of the kids wanted to experience the thrill of saying the forbidden words, so they started to ask me, in whispers, which words to avoid.
“Is ‘shit’ a swear?” (Giggle). “Can I say ‘dammit’?” (Giggle)
I realized pretty quickly that it was time for us to regroup and talk. I gathered the kids on the rug in our “meeting area”.
“OK,” I began. “I am not going to give you a list of acceptable and unacceptable words. There are millions of words in the English language and we aren’t going to check each one.”
I looked around the circle at all the eager faces and bright eyes.
NOTE: If you ever want to capture the attention of 25 ten year olds, tell them you’re going to talk about swears.
“A swear is a word that hurts someone. It’s a word that makes someone feel bad, or makes them uncomfortable. Even if it’s a word or a phrase that you don’t mind at all, if it hurst someone else, you don’t say it.”
They were thoughtful for a minute. A hand was raised.
“So is ‘stupid’ a swear?”
I let the kids talk about it. They realized that they knew the answer. If I say, “This stupid shoe won’t stay tied,” then it isn’t offensive. If I call my classmate “stupid”, then it is.”
I’m sure they were a little disappointed that we weren’t going to try out various spellings of the f- word, but my point had been made.
Next I asked the kids to do me a favor. I told them that sometimes we say or do things that offend others and we don’t know it. I told them that I would appreciate it if they’d tell me any time I said or did something that hurt them or offended them.
One sweet, kind little girl raised her hand. I was surprised, because I couldn’t imagine what I might have done to offend her. I asked her to tell me what was wrong.
“Could you please not say “God”? My family goes to church, and my mom says it’s wrong to say “Oh, my God”, but sometimes you say it.”
She was right. I said that phrase a LOT.
But I looked into the deep brown eyes of my trusting student, and I promised her that I would do my absolute best never to say it in front of her again.
“God” was an offensive word to this religious little girl, when I said it in that phrase.
The kids understood the lesson and we never had to revisit the question of what words were offensive.
If your action, your logo, your statue, your language, your clothing hurts someone else, you can’t keep using it.
You know, I used to be a teacher. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the different learning styles that people exhibit as they go through life. There is all sorts of research into the whole right brain/left brain approach. There’s the math/language description and the sequential vs. gestalt learner approach.
I’m fascinated by all of this. And the neurology that underlies these learning differences.
I used all of these different perspectives as I assessed and taught kids over the years.
I’m also very interested in the different “leadership styles” that are exhibited by those who take positions of authority. I have done a lot of reading, research and rumination on this particular topic. I became fascinated by the idea of leadership styles when I experienced a wonderful leader, a very good leader and an absolutely appalling leader within a five year period.
What I have learned through my personal experiences and my study is that we can often break leadership style down to two distinct patterns.
PATTERN #1: The micromanager. This is the supervisor/leader who double checks the number of paper clips that each department is using. It’s the school principal who wants to see which color sticky notes the teacher is using on her teaching charts.
PATTERN #2: The laissez faire leader. This administrator may very well set the tone for what the staff should do, but they will let everybody take responsibility for their own decisions. When things go really well, this leader points to the staff member who created the success. When things go wrong, this leader justifiably denies any responsibility. “I let them fly, if they crash, it’s not my fault.”
So what am I to make of the “leadership style” of our current president?
All I can say is……I dunno. I got nuthin’.
Every time I try to listen to Donald Trump, I find myself confused. Not only does he continuously torture the English language, he also constantly shifts from foot to foot in terms of his leadership.
Sometimes the President insists that he is the micromanager. “No one can handle this the way I can.” “No one knows more about XXXX than I do.” “I alone can fix it.”
But in his very next breath, he insists “I had no idea” about what was going on. “I take no responsibility.”
My head swims.
Today is a perfect example of Trump’s bipolar approach to leadership. First he seemed to state that he was the man-in-charge, the decider, the capo-di-tutti-capi. But almost immediately after that, he took the position of “I didn’t do it! I know nothing! Don’t blame me!”
It made me picture all of my elementary school students, who were so quick to place a forefinger on their nose when I asked, “Who dumped the paint into the toilet?”
Let me point out the actual quotes from the leader/notleader.
Last Friday evening, the District of Columbia was roiled by loud, sometimes violent protests. People were marching in the streets, heading for the White House. The DC police responded to the anger of the crowd. Tear gas was thrown, rubber bullets were fired, bottles and bricks were hurled. Fires were set not far from the White House.
In the midst of this scary outburst of rage, the Secret Service apparently did their jobs, and brought the President down to the safe room (or “bunker”) in the White House.
Of COURSE they did. For good or ill, he is the actual POTUS and his life has to be protected. So down to the bunker he went.
Naturally, his critics laughed and made fun of him. #Bunkerboy and #Bunkerbaby were trending on social media. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Then on Monday evening, Trump and his staff cleared out all of the peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park outside of the White House so he could stand in front of a historic Episcopal church and hold up a bible. The whole thing was horrific at worst and incredibly awkward at best.
So here is what the nominal “leader” of our country had to say.
In terms of having been taken to the bunker, to insure the safety of the President, Trump claimed that he only went down to the bunker “during the day, when there was no problem!” He claimed that he was there for only a “tiny bit of time”. Best of all, he is trying convince us that he went to the bunker just to “inspect” it.
As in, “I am a micromanager as a leader. My hand is in everything. I would never allow a room in the White House to just sit there unless I personally inspect it to make sure that it is up to my very high standards.”
But here’s where I get confused.
Today Trump was also asked about the way that his staff (our Attorney General, our Secretary of Defense) used tear gas, metal shields and flash-bang grenades to clear a park of protesters. Those peaceful protestors included several members of the local clergy. It was a full half hour before the curfew was set to begin.
Even so, police marched into Lafayette Park and forced out every single protestor/pastor/civilian. They did this so that Trump could march across the street from the White House, hold up a bible, and claim the moral high ground as our “law and order” president.
Naturally, since peaceful protestors and religious leaders dislike being shot at and pepper sprayed, there was an outcry against what had happened.
Yes, this is the exact opposite leadership style from what Trump showed us when he claimed he was inspecting the bunker.
I mean, really.
Is it actually possible that one man, one leader, could simultaneously be inspecting the room where he might someday be sent for safety, and yet not know that right outside of his window hundreds of protesters were gathered?
I don’t buy it.
What I think is this:
This man has no leadership style. None.
What he has is a self-preservation style. He finds it perfectly plausible to claim that the nation is under so much threat that he needs to call out the military to restore order, while at the same time claiming that he is totally unaware of the huge crowd chanting and singing right outside his window.
What I think is that Donald Trump has no concept of truth or fact. He pulls and shapes reality to fit his personal needs and denies the existence of any event that he dislikes.
The picture above is not a picture of me. I’m a chubby, grey haired white grandma. The picture above is not one of my sweet grandchildren. They are three little white kids, with white skin.
But these two are the people on my mind today. Everyone who shares the same tone of skin has been on my mind. Every fellow citizen of mine who shares the same curly hair has been on my mind. Every American who wakes up in the morning as part of what I’ve grown up thinking of as “the minority community”, that’s who is on my mind.
Last night I watched the news. I saw people marching, shouting, protesting in the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I saw fire and tear gas and glass breaking.
“Oh, no,” was my first thought. “Oh, no.”
I’ve seen this scene before. I’ve seen an unarmed black American dying at the hands of an American police officer or at the hands of a self-appointed patriotic vigilante. I know what happens. It’s a repeating playbook. At first white America reacts with outrage at the death. We shake our heads and tell ourselves with great sincerity that “something must change.”
Then the friends, neighbors and family of the dead black American take to the street. They are joined by other angry, horrified, sad, terrified black Americans. They are loud. They are profane. Someone throws a rock, and tear gas flies. A fire is set, a building it breached, people take things, damage is done.
And the reaction, every damn time, is “I understand that rage, but rioting is not the way to make change.”
I’m a nice, middle class retired teacher lady living in a small, rural town. I don’t think burning buildings is a good idea. I don’t think that violence is a healthy choice.
But as I lay awake in my bed last night, I tossed and I turned and I pictured beautiful young Americans like the two pictured above. And I asked myself,
“If violence isn’t the right path, then what is?”
Should our black fellow citizens stage sit-ins in public places? Just some quiet, passive actions to show that people are unhappy?
I realized that those actions have already been taken. Some half a century ago, brown skinned Americans sat down on busses and at restaurants and in public offices to show that they wanted to be treated equally. That held sit-ins. They were entirely peaceful, even when they were dragged to jail.
Black Americans are still being murdered in public by the police and those who wish they were police. So that technique doesn’t work.
Maybe, I thought, we should find some highly educated, highly successful, brilliant brown skinned fellow citizens to speak up and express the unfairness of our racial situation.
Ah, but that, too has been done. Over and over and over again. Martin King, Malcolm X, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, Angela Davis, Medgar Evers, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and on and on and on. Great artists, great leaders, great orators, true American treasures.
But dark skin can still get an unarmed American shot to death for jogging.
So what could our African American brothers and sisters do to express their pain? We don’t want violence, but….what?
Remember when this young athlete decided to peacefully and silently protest the deaths of so many black Americans?
I do. I remember the reaction when he knelt during the National Anthem. The President of these United States of America went public in his attacks. He said that the football player should have been suspended for quietly protesting the deaths of his fellow Americans. The Vice President walked out of a football game when Colin and some of his teammates knelt in gentle protest.
Peaceful protest has achieved…..nothing.
There were “Black Lives Matter” marches and signs and protests. The answer was a rush of “Oh, yeah? Well, Blue lives matter!” and “All lives matter!” Both of which completely missed the point, and neither of which did anything to stop the flow of blood on our streets.
George Floyd was still murdered right there in broad daylight on an American street, surrounded by American citizens who watched in horror as his life was snuffed out by an American white guy in an official uniform.
I tossed last night, and I turned. I found no answers.
I don’t know what it will finally take for this country to break out of its racist history and begin to move forward toward a just and loving place where every single American life is treasured and valued and protected.
I pulled the sheet up over my shoulders last night, looking for some comfort on that steamy night.
Suddenly I saw the face of Tamir Rice in front of me. I saw his smiling, little boy face. I thought about my white sons playing guns one sunny day at Universal Studios, with none of us giving it a thought.
I saw the face of Treyvon Martin, walking on a rainy night with a pocket full of skittles. I thought about the days when my teenaged boys and their white friends would walk the streets of our little town at all hours of the night, and how once in a while the police would pull up beside them and urge to go on home to bed.
I thought about how I’d feel if they had been killed. I thought about how I might feel if I’d spent my lifetime asking, begging, praying and working for justice for people who look like my children.
And I realized that if I had done all that, and yet my sons, my nephews, my friends, my neighbors were still being recklessly killed while jogging, shopping, sleeping, sitting in a car or committing a misdemeanor?
Well. You can be sure that even with my creaky joints and fading eyes, my grayhair and my wrinkles, I would absolutely, positively march my old white ass out there and set the world on fire.