I am a generally happy and optimistic person. I’ve met challenges that might have broken me with determination and a sense that if I just keep moving forward I will find sunlight even in the most dire circumstances. I am a fighter, someone who is willing to walk through fire. When I do have worries or sadness I always believe that I will see better days ahead. I have tended to walk so quietly through life that I suppose that I am startling those who have known me for decades with my sudden willingness to use my voice. They are suddenly seeing an aspect of me that I mostly keep stored within my own heart.
I was browsing through some photos that went back through the years and the common thread of all of them was that no matter what challenges may have been taking place in the background I was surrounded by a mantle of love and loyalty and compassion. I have always and still do consider my life to be a blessing but somehow of late I am experiencing a kind of deep and abiding sadness that I have never before known. I am not as sure as I always have been that my life will encounter a few bumps and then smooth out for an even longer time. I am seeing things that disturb me in ways that I have never before experienced.
I suppose that I have mostly taken my good fortune for granted. I had good parents, a grounding in a loving faith, and I lived in a country where we mostly got along and allowed one another to have differing opinions without getting too bent out of shape. I realized that there were problems of all sorts but I felt confident that little by little we would iron out our difficulties and incrementally become better and better. I have had a very nice run.
When Covid-19 appeared among us I initially saw it as just one of those things that we would endure together. I was not frightened because I assumed that we would work to support one another just as we have always tended to do in this country. We try to be the good guys even as we know our flaws and attempt to fix them. It blew me away to see how divided we became over the pandemic rather than united. To me it was a simple matter of relying on the scientists and medical community to advise us but suddenly I saw the virus being weaponized as a political tool. Such a thing was unimaginable to me but I simply ignored those who were more concerned with demanding their rights than protecting one another. I did my part as many many people in this country did as well. I took precautions and supported businesses in my area and sent help to those who were in dire circumstances. It seemed like something that we should all be doing. I would not even have minded if I had received a tax increase to take care of the needs of my fellow citizens. I felt that we were all in this together, but evidence mounted that many did not agree with me.
When George Floyd was so egregiously killed by a rogue police officer I talked with my Black friends and recalled long conversations I had experienced with some of my Black students. I heard the pain in their voices as they recalled the fear and the injustice that they had endured almost as a matter of course. I realized that we had work to do to improve our systems of law and order. I cringed at the burning and looting but I did my best to focus on the real issue rather than being diverted by the bad actions of a few. I was saddened when our president chose sides rather than bringing everyone together. I felt that he only prolonged the riots by turning the cries for justice into a campaign for law and order. I was stunned that he seemed to simply ignore what our Black Americans were attempting to tell him. When he actually began to stoke fear among the citizenry I felt crushed and could only imagine how Black citizens were feeling.
When I began to pronounce my feelings in public I received yet another surprise. People that I have known and deeply loved for a lifetime began to question my motivations and accuse me of beliefs that I have never held. I was asked if I supported violence and communism. My Catholic faith was questioned. I was told that I was thinking and acting like a child. I was assured that President Trump was actually sent to us by God and that I was blind if I could not see that. I even had people that I thought I knew accuse me of be unpatriotic, hating veterans and even being treasonous.
Never in my lifetime have I seen such horrific divisions among the citizenry. I have known ultra left leaning people with whom I have disagreed on several issues but we always ended our discussions with a smile and a hug. I have known people who are ferociously dedicated to the right to bear arms and who believe in only same sex marriage and I have been content to allow them to believe as they wish and they have done the same with me. It seemed as though I truly lived in an America that was both able and willing to create a big tent that would hold all of our points of view.
Somehow I have seen in the past many months that far too many among us are totally unwilling to even consider the idea of freedom of thought. Thus the source of my sadness. I see an America that feels very un-American and adamantly determined to force feed a single way of thinking. Not even the health of our citizenry rises to the occasion of bipartisan cooperation. Not even the evidence that some among us are treated differently in the justice system unites us. Instead we quibble and squabble even in our presidential debates. There is a nationwide sound and fury that signifies nothing and it is being repeated over and over again even in our relationships with one another.
If I say that I will be cautious about Covid-19 I do not need anyone to suggest that I am just a nonthinking sheep. Perhaps I have consulted my doctor who has advised me to be careful. If I say that I understand what the Black Lives Matter movement is actually about I do not need to be reminded that sometimes the protests become destructive. Perhaps I am focusing on the heart of the problem rather than the outliers of violence. I can in fact support both the good BLM protests and the good law enforcement agencies while condemning either side that would devolve into destruction. If I have chosen to support Joe Biden in his bid for the presidency it does not mean that I want a communist country or that I am denying the tenets of my Catholic religion. It may perhaps mean that I have chosen from the only two possibilities and I see Biden as being a uniter rather than a divider which is what I believe our nation needs.
I have been told that President Trump only behaves the way he does because he is frustrated by the criticism that he has faced since he was first elected. I would ask everyone who says this why they did not seem to notice that Bill Clinton was accused of egregious things for eight years. George W. was called a moron and there was even much talk that he had stolen the election. Barack Obama was bombarded with ugliness that went beyond anything we had ever seen and reached into dark racist corners. In fact, every president, including our beloved Abraham Lincoln has had to face personal attacks as part of the job. Why should it have been any different for Donald Trump? I can only imagine how horrific the treatment of a President Hillary Clinton would have been if she had won.
I will try to keep calm and carry on and keep smiling but my confidence that we will be reunited as a nation any time soon is being sorely tested. I fear that no matter who wins this election our problems as a country will only grow and we will continue to push ourselves apart. This is what keeps me up at night and send a darkness into my mind. I long for the day when I might once again express myself without upsetting half of the people I know. Nothing that they say can turn me away from them. I am in wonderment that my thoughts have so enraged them. I want the good America back. It does not have to be great. It only needs to be kind. We only need to be kind to make that happen.