Like many of the adults in the United States, my adrenal glands have pretty much checked out this past year from overuse. I’ve felt burnt-out and numb from the sudden heightened anxiety of basic everyday subsistence and the constant bombardment of grief and fear from a world shivering through a once-in-a-century illness — compounded by the atrocities of our so-called leadership in “Trump’s America.” Still, even though I’ve found myself reacting less and less to formerly unthinkable circumstances, the events unfolding now have had me thoroughly on edge.
One of my rural Texas neighbors just drove past my house with a full-sized American flag flying from the back of his truck. Never has it been more clear that this symbol — the symbol of our national unity — signifies something different for some Americans than for others.
I can’t quite wrap my head around it, although I’ve spent a long time trying. It was distressing to me even before Trump’s election that so many of my neighbors seemed to always vote against their own interests or not to vote at all. But this is something I can’t fathom: how any group of people can confuse an assault on American democracy with a defense of it.
The narrative only makes sense if you are so deeply distrustful of pretty much everyone that all truth and fact are suspect. Up is down, day is night, attack is defense. And the fault for that heightened confusion, for that state of chronic, almost masochistic skepticism, lies directly in the lap of Donald Trump and his vocal sycophants.
I absolutely believe that all public officials who helped contribute to Wednesday’s disaster should be removed from office and prosecuted for their crimes. I applaud the second impeachment of Donald Trump and believe he should be removed from office, preferably sometime before I wake up tomorrow. But when I look at images of the mobs of angry people attacking the very thing that they profess to defend, the damage that has already been done to the idea of America makes me feel sick.
Plenty of writing exists elaborating Donald Trump’s narcissistic approach to the presidency and how the American people have paid the price. But the theoretical splintering of the nation, the ideological divisions long evident on social media, have this year spilled over into the highly visible polarization of our neighborhoods and our rural towns — and in the last week, into the back of my neighbor’s Ford F150.
But here’s the thing.
There is a choice to be made every moment, a choice about how we see each other.
So much of the narrative of the past year tells of a world where anyone could potentially give you an unseen pathogen that might kill you or take out your family. It’s a world where the fear of strangers and the idea of what is safe are so twisted up that much of the country is caught in the tangle. Meanwhile, thousands of people a day are dying, and an imaginary story about imaginary treason has manifested itself in a very not-imaginary armed assault on our democracy. Fear seems to be winning. Division seems to be increasing.
I say, to hell with that storyline.
I won’t do it. I won’t buy it. I won’t see it. I don’t believe it. I choose something different.
I choose radical love for my neighbor.
And if you join me, it will actually work.
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