I went through the weekend in a stunned haze, trying to understand that which cannot be understood. The events in Charlottesville defy understanding because they are so closely related to events we collectively thought had ended in the past.
While this may seem insensitive, the Tiki Torch Rally, to me, felt more dangerous than the terrorist event of Saturday (when a car is deliberately rammed into a crowd, it is a terrorist event. That’s what we learned from Nice; That’s what we learned from London; That’s what we should know about Charlottesville). The rally reminded me of those black and white reels of lynchings in an earlier ugly era of American history. The rally reminded me of the Nazis marching against Jews in pre-WW2 Germany; The rally reminded me of hatred, purely distilled to its rawest form; The rally reminded me that for all progress, there is a fight.
And then, there was the presidential response to what happened. While much has been made of the “violence on many sides,” a clear move off message from the man who is supposed to unite us, the tone of the official statement was much much worse. It was a tone that harkened back to the dog-whistling era of segregation, a clear “sorry, not sorry” approach to dealing with the situation.
But going deeper, going further than the last weekend, and trying to understand what Trump means by sides, there is only one possibility: There are many sides. And it is true as long as you consider “many” to mean more than one: There is the side of hatred and bigotry that was clearly exemplified this weekend and then there’s the side of hope and promise that America has always stood for; There is the side of economic failure that has hurt people of all races, and the side of silence to historical wrong-doings; There is the side that turns a blind eye to the substantial imbalance in incarcerations and the death penalty; There is the side that makes it that much harder to get to the starting line if your color is less than white.
And then there is the question that has trumped me since the election: Why is it that poor white people vote differently from poor non-white people?
But this weekend, the answer became clear. The answer is that the solution to everyone’s problem is not one that is currently highlighted in polite political discussion (assuming there is still such a thing as polite political discussion). It is something that only a few month ago served as a beacon for what America was and something that president Barack Obama so clearly articulated.
THE AUDACITY OF HOPE
In our hyper-charged times, we have turned politics into a death match, where showing people below us is seen as a win, even as we are collectively sinking deeper and deeper into a hole.
THE AUDACITY OF HOPE
A term that not only speaks to building a better place but acknowledging that things are not as good as we’d like them to be.
THE AUDACITY OF HOPE
The very foundation of America. A term that has been the animus of the American revolution for so long and seems at risk today.
In our bubble-driven world, we have given up on talking to each other and this has allowed cynical politicians to use our differences as a wedge distracting us from the very things that are in front of us: poor people will remain poor not because of the color of their skin or the jobs they have lost but because they have been abandoned by a society that used to believe that a rising tide lifted all boats.
Where lack of support for things like the “war on poverty” arose, cynicism grew and old hatred re-emerged. And who is easier to blame than the other? The one that looks different?
Remember that the Nazi ideology was not created in a vacuum. It was born out of a substantial economic depression and a whole nation fell for the trap of blaming the other for issues they could not control. Back then, it was Jews and Gypsies, and now it’s Jews, Hispanics and African-Americans.
It is easy to blame the other and so it is the pattern that the downtrodden fall to. What is missing from the conversation, however, is a separate narrative: a narrative of hope.
I became an American citizen because I saw in America the very idea of pulling together to pull forward and this is what we need at this time. We need White, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and anyone else to join and say we all stand on one side: we stand on the side that pulls everyone up; we stand on the side that believes that it is not the color of your skin that makes you who you are but the willingness you have in doing the work, no matter what the work is; we stand on the side that says that if one of us falls, we all fall.
On the day the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin said “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.“
This weekend, we saw a country on the brink of hanging separately and as someone who took an oath to “defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” it is clear to me that those who stand against “We, the people of the United States” are enemies of the state and, as such, should be marked as traitors to the cause of America.
To fail to see that is to be on the wrong side of America.