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Updated: Aug 24, 2020

May 9, 2020

Photo credit: Linda F O-'Murchu

Sometimes it feels hard to judge the mood of the country from where I am.

That’s common, I think. There’s a tendency among humans to think that wherever we are is where the prevailing view is.

But here in America, there’s no prevailing view.

Here, we revel in our differences. Aren’t we more like a collection of nation states than a single country? Our first few generations staked out territories and put an individual stamp on each. We still like keeping those distinctions sharp: the wild, rugged west; the urbane northeast. Sultry Southern charm, the Midwest heartland, all of that.

But lately it’s been getting nasty. We’ve started assigning colors to each region, based on politics. Based on a lot of things, it seems to me. You’re either red or you’re blue. I hate it. There's so much more to us than that.

By that system, I have to call myself blue, very blue. I’m third generation Italian-American, I watch MSNBC, I’m college-educated, a writer, well-traveled, gay, no kids. I am obviously not mainstream, but not really fringe either. Whatever fringe means these days.

I know that the broadest swath of America doesn’t agree with me on a lot of things. Secretly I’m always a little taken aback by that, since I feel like "an average American” on the inside. But maybe that’s how we all feel. Over and over I have to remember that mine are sometimes the views of a minority. Or even just my very own.

Again today, the so-called “liberate” protests continue around the country. Most people disagree with them, but they keep popping up. The demonstrators believe their Constitutional rights are being violated by statewide stay-at-home orders. They are hugely pissed off and heavily armed. They are vehemently right wing, mostly Trump supporters, it seems … Maybe something beyond “supporters."

The states where these Americans are demonstrating mostly have Democratic governors. So yeah, it’s turned into a red/blue thing.

I feel such a seething rage sweeping across our country. It feels like something’s about to explode, and maybe is already exploding.

Back in February, an unarmed black man named Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in Georgia. Yesterday a retired cop and his son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, were arrested and charged with the murder.

A bystander video captured the two white men getting out of a truck with a shotgun, assaulting Arbery and then shooting him. Arbery had been jogging and the McMicheals claimed that they thought he was running from the scene of a robbery.

To me, the most astounding thing in this now-hideously common event is what the Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said yesterday: “There is no hate crime in Georgia.”

What’s true is, there are no hate crime laws in Georgia.

The #Black Lives Matter movement began in the Obama years. It has continued through the Trump years, and so have the hate crimes. Their similarity is heart-wrenching: an unarmed black person looking “suspicious” to a white racist, who is armed, who is violent, and who is willing to kill. Sometimes that white racist is a police officer.

Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Walter Scott. Freddy Gray. Michael Brown. Others, without a doubt. Those are just the ones in recent memory, the ones that got national attention.

Usually, extreme threats from outside of the country draw the population together. You always hear about how people took care of each other during the Depression, WWII, or in the aftermath of 9/11.

But that’s not happening now. We were so grievously split before the pandemic that we have not been able to come together, even when we're all fighting the same fight -- for survival. At first, in February or early March, it seemed like we might have been laying down our arms. But now, just eight or ten weeks in, it feels like we’re all the way back where we were in January, after the Impeachment. Or maybe worse.

Wherever you live, you probably think that’s true, too. Though as I say, it’s sometimes hard for me to know how my fellow Americans are feeling.

Maybe we can at least agree that we are wasting our energy hating each other right now. We’d be so much smarter to band together — as Americans, or even just as humans. A virus is trying to wipe us off the face of the earth, and I don’t think it’s afraid of our guns.

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