politics

If “America is Family,” What Does That Mean for Me?

This week has been a strange mixture of happiness, contentment, and hope, as well as one filled with fear, sadness, shock. I am still processing.

A few days ago, I experienced the joy of receiving two care packages for our family; one was filled with homemade food (vegetarian soup, sourdough bread, and chocolate chip cookies), books for myself and Blessing, and a game for him to play while we are housebound due to Covid-19 in our home. The other delivery was a gorgeous hamper from Manning’s Emporium with all sorts of foodie delights! Then the postman delivered a letter from Ohio, handwritten by a high school friend I haven’t heard from in a long time. The thoughtfulness, generosity and love were deeply felt and much appreciated!

I also received sad, unexpected news. Someone I once lived with passed away. We weren’t blood relations, but our connection was still familial in nature. His parents cared for me when I was a baby and also when I was in third grade. I also lived with his mother for half of my senior year of high school.

At that time, Charles went with me to buy my first car, a secondhand Toyota Camry. He taught me to drive the stick shift. He was a musician and helped me to pick out my first high quality sound system. I kept it until I moved to Ireland in 2001. Charles was as close to a brother as I’ll ever experience.

We weren’t close as adults, and our contact in recent years was limited to Facebook. The last time we met was 10 years ago at his sister’s funeral. Still, his passing came as a shock. I’ll always remember him as a young person: his long hair and guitar, his easy smile, and down to earth demeanor. He was fun, always up for a party.

My feelings are conflicted though. His younger brother R is still a Facebook contact of mine, and I’ve always been fond of him too. They were close and played in a band together. When I was a kid I looked up to them and enjoyed listening to them practice. It’s crossed my mind that in some ways I’ve modeled after their family. (My first husband was a guitarist too, his brother is a drummer, and coincidentally they also played in a band together).

Their mom was a nurse and would knit in her free time. She introduced me to crafts at a young age. Their dad was a war veteran and once took me to the shooting range. They had dogs, a vegetable garden, a detached house in a quiet neighborhood, and a secure middle class life that was so far removed from the inner-city upbringing my single mom provided for me. Even when my mom recovered her health and I returned to live with her, I continued to visit my other “family” through much of my childhood. What we all had in common was Catholicism. That’s how we met- through church connections.

I’m grateful for the care and love I received as a child, but we no longer agree on many issues. After the events last Wednesday, I was disgusted to see R copy and paste a pro-Trump rant filled with lies. (I’ve been checking my account since Christmas, but plan to limit my use of Facebook again soon). Apparently R can’t stand liberals and is very vocal about it. He dared anyone who disagreed with his views to delete him. I was very tempted. The resemblance between R and the men who stormed the Capitol last Wednesday is becoming impossible to ignore.

Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope. -MLK

I woke on Wednesday feeling so hopeful about the Georgia election results. Though the Senate races hadn’t been officially called yet, it looked favorable for Democrats. Thanks to the efforts of Stacey Abrams and other community organizers, many Democratic voters are finally having their voices heard.

After decades of political neglect, emboldened rural Georgian voters are turning out in droves and forcing themselves into the political conversation. Rural Black voters played a central role in helping Biden win Georgia, and now have the chance to decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. 

Black Georgians have come out and said we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. The COVID pandemic only heightened this feeling. Between painful job losses and disproportionate death rates among Black rural Georgians, voters were willing to put everything on the line to vote, even if that meant putting themselves at risk during a pandemic. The same Georgians who grew up fearing what would happen if they cast a ballot, are now scared of what could happen if they don’t.

Takeo Spikes is a former NFL linebacker and a Georgia native.  Follow @TakeoSpikes51 on Twitter. Further reading: Georgia’s rural Black voters were ignored and suppressed. Now they might flip the Senate

As the election results were coming in, I turned on CNN while I continued to knit my current WIP. Since we’re housebound anyway, I thought a day on the couch was in order. I planned to watch the electoral votes be counted and hoped there wouldn’t be any disruption. Like many viewers worldwide, I was shocked as events unfolded. Since Biden’s victory, I had feared something like this would happen. However, I didn’t think it would be quite so easy for a mob to waltz right in and stroll through the Capitol like tourists. Nor did I expect Trump’s vigilantes to appear in what looked like Cosplay.

Glued to the TV, the hours passed in a haze of horror until I fell asleep around 2 am Irish time. I watched the entire insurrection, as well as some of the electoral ceremony before and after the Capitol was invaded by domestic terrorists. It was hard to believe what I was seeing, and I’m still processing it. I’ve read a lot of commentary since then and will recommend some further reading at the end of this post.

Where do you begin? The awful images and disgusting details continue to churn in my mind, upsetting me to the core: the noose that rioters erected as a makeshift gallows, the Confederate battle flag waving through the government halls (see Sen. Cory Booker’s moving speech), the intercepted pipe bombs, the harassment of the press, Congressmen and women in gas masks as they were evacuated, police posing with rioters as they took selfies, excrement smeared through the halls of the Capitol, the mob shouting and vandalizing the building, masked armed men carrying zip ties intended for hostages (otherwise known as lawmakers) as they chased and maced the police. I never expected to watch live scenes of an attempted coup within my native country.

How will we confront this shame?

Booker’s words still ring through my ears. The shamefulness of the last 4 years culminated on Wednesday in a hideous display of hatred for all the world to see. While these extremists may be relatively small in number, the damage they’re capable of doing is great. This might only be the beginning.

I’m worried about the inauguration. Will security forces let the American people down again? No one can convince me that the lack of preparedness was not intentional. Police arrested 5 times more people at the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. Not only that, a number of off-duty cops from around the country were among the crowds in Washington, D.C.

I naively expected Thursday to be the day of reckoning for so-called Christian Trump supporters like my cousin. I thought she’d finally regret her decision to vote for him or at least recognize the irony of rioters holding up Blue Lives Matter flags, while launching themselves at police officers. How can such hypocrisy make sense to anyone? My cousin has no remorse, however, and she is not alone.

Almost half of Republicans support the pro-Trump protesters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, putting them at odds with Democrats who largely oppose the actions of the demonstrators, a poll has found.

The survey released by YouGov on Thursday morning found that 45 percent of Republican voters backed the attack on the Capitol building, while 43 percent said they “strongly or somewhat” opposed the protesters’ behavior.

Newsweek

My cousin went so far as to blame Antifa for the attack. Yeah, she’s one of them. At least one of her sisters agrees with her, if not more. Of my 5 white cousins, only one has voiced something I can relate to. She shared Marco Rubio’s speech below. I do not agree with his Republican politics, but I do appreciate what he’s saying here. Democracy is fragile, and we need to protect it.

I think politics has made us crazy. Everybody in this country has lost their minds… on politics! And we have forgotten that America is not a government. America is not a president. America is not a Congress.

Let me tell you what America is. America is your family. America is your faith. America is your community. That’s America! That’s what our adversaries don’t understand, and that’s what we need to remember. That is how we’re going to rebuild this country and turn the page and have a future even brighter than our past.

Marco Rubio

Those are very fine words. I want to believe them. And yet… I’m not convinced.

This brings me back to Charles and his brother R. We have shared Christmas dinners, mourned death, and laughed together in the past. I won’t forget our memories. I would like to be tolerant, to try to understand, to hope for healing and work towards it, but I find R’s views misguided at best. I know that we will never agree on most issues. In my opinion, there is no reasoning with someone who continues to embrace Trumpism after the violent insurrection on January 6th, which was incited by the president. I simply cannot accept people in my life who are unwilling to challenge fascism.

If America is family, I’ve truly lost my home.

Further Reading

Photo Credit: “Make You Choice” by cottonbro on Pexels.com

2 thoughts on “If “America is Family,” What Does That Mean for Me?

    1. Yes, it’s upsetting. At least it’s made it clear for all to see that systemic racism is an undeniable problem in the US. Hopefully the new administration will start making reforms.🤞🏽

      Like

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