How does America come together and progress into a united future?
Authors’ Note: The point of this article was supposed to be that I don’t feel there is any issue America is united on. We aren’t trying to colonize the moon or something like that, and that lack of collective purpose leaves without an endpoint to gauge things by. The topics I raised below are those I’ve written about before. I feel they are tangible and accessible, and that we as a nation fail to agree and move on such matters that are far less abstract than deep space missions.
It reflects my state of mind that I failed in this, so I thought to say so here.
RacismWhen it comes to the long term I have spoken of racism. Racists persist and propagate. I point to those that hold up those banners and say that ideology is a problem. Racial supremacy will cut down those outside the group first, then prune the undesirables inside next. It is why I have as much problem with Black Supremacists as I do White Supremacists. Just because the former is content with my expulsion it does not make the fact that the latter want for my suffering and death any less of a problem.
Many understand me. Some can merely empathize with me. A number are indifferent. And between indifference and zealotry are those that shield bigotry.
Sometimes this is not explicit. I had an online conversation in which I spoke with an acquaintance regarding neighborhoods I grew up in, the place we met, and the people in them. At what I meant to be the end I lamented that it was very likely that they and I are not working towards the same world. Someone I do not know commented afterward chiming in with ‘We probably all strive for the same world. It’s how to get there is where we differ’. I retorted with ‘We? Maybe. But there are Nazis, extremists, and racial supremacists of all varieties that have been emboldened in the past four years, white and otherwise. I have no place in their world.’
The new party made a request across three comments. “Show me. Show me the Nazis. Show me all the white supremacists.”
I personally think that in 2020 America if you require someone to show you racists you are either sheltered or willfully ignorant. I was in my early 20s before I realized that the KKK was more than a historical footnote from before the late 60s. I was sheltered until that point. And after 2017’s “Unite The Right” event denying the existence of American Nazis would be ignorant, and willfully so.
I have spoken of police brutality. I support the present protests because of the polite complaints of decades past having been politely ignored. Efforts to build wealth and capital are undercut. Voting is made difficult to impossible on many fronts. Sometimes this is falling through legal cracks and forever losing the right to vote with no recompense. Sometimes this is gerrymandering. Sometimes this is added hurdles to being able to vote. And even when there are elected officials who purport to be on “our side”, the fruits of those efforts have still led to the present day.
From those on the outside, there has been no effort to understand “Why?” protest occurs. Rather, it is “How dare you”. There is no need to protest, you have the Civil Rights Movement. There is no need to besmirch police, they are just doing their jobs. Making noise is not how ‘adults in polite society’ effect change.
Reactions are performative. Companies usurping hashtags and slogans to shill their products. Social media arms temporarily changing profile pictures. Politicians wearing kente stoles and kneeling instead of… gee, I don’t know, utilizing politics to help their constituents to be safer.
Since I last wrote on the topic I have had one befriended couple lose their father(-in-law). I have a high school friend who had 4/5 members of their household test positive for COVID. The fifth, a newborn, is thankfully well but surrounded none-the-less.
273,000+ deaths and 8,000,000+ recovered, and yet many people in the United States flout any measure of containment. Masks? Mocking of police brutality protests of “I can’t breathe” and/or taking advantage of sympathy by lying about handicaps and traumatic pasts. Limited crowd size and social distancing? ‘Infringing upon my right to free assembly.’ Self-quarantine? ‘You do you, I’ll do me. I’m not going to live in fear.’ Mandates about such measures are personal attacks against, life, liberty, and religious happiness. ‘If they worked, why do we need a second lockdown. And if they didn’t work, why the hell are we having a second lockdown?!’
Diminishing the rights of anyone is the gravest sin. Free speech supplants when that speech is used by racists to harm people in their end game. Spreading out tasks of the police so armed and armored individuals are not the first responders to situations requiring a lighter touch is anathema. And again, free assembly today is more important than having people around to assemble with tomorrow.
I echo… How does America come together and progress into a united future?
The answer… or perhaps My Answer, is continuing to talk.When it comes to racism I’ve had Conservative and Right-Wing types point to Daryl Davis. He’s managed to convince more than 200 Klansmen to separate from the organization. In fact, they’ve turned over portions of their former regalia to him. This includes police uniforms in some cases, which I only mention because Some of those that work forces/Are the same that burn crosses. I digress, cries of ‘That’s how you combat racism!’ are what I am told. You get right in its face. You don’t back down. You talk. I haven’t listened to Mr. Davis speak at length about the breadth of his experiences. However, I have heard him speak about his initial experience. I encourage you to watch the whole video if you’d like. The short I need to relay is that a settling of cans in a bucket of ice, due in part to melting, nearly had the situation turn hostile.
Because I can’t do it. Not alone. Racism and its ongoing legacy should not come about solely from the efforts of Black people entering the lions’ den and risking death or worse. The same can be said with police brutality not being the sole burden of those who are stepped on to resolve. COVID is a global pandemic. It is not my specialty to understand it, but I trust the scientists that are working on it. The only thing my words can do is to try to understand why someone refuses to do what is asked or mandated. something that I can be talked about, but the only hope of greater action being taken is.
But it is of supreme frustration that after the last eleven years or so this is where I am at. There is a grouping of my acquaintances that disagree with my view on every topic. We may have a similar thread of logic and perspective, but the results we look for clash. I’ve been making it a point to pay attention to current events on local, national, and international scales.
I have watched and listened to responses on everything from NAFTA to flooding in the UK to the proceedings of local occurrences. At best there is discussion and I learn something. But often times people will say what they wish, drop whatever links reinforce their views and encourage me to watch with an open mind, and then dip out and ignore whatever responses I leave afterward. I find it funny that people can tell me to watch a twenty-minute video but when I share an article to read I wrote myself that will take half the time it’s ‘Oh… Well, I’ll try to do that. But you should totally look at what I want you to see!’
As much as I want to be a singular and inspiring hero, that is unlikely to accomplish. The issues I’ve resounded here are bigger than I know. I need help. Together we need to find goals for America to strive towards. That way any element that comes into view can be discussed from the perspective of serving that end or not. And if not, we can settle up with it, take what is useful, discarding what is not, and adding what is uniquely our own, which I think is a sentiment Bruce Lee would be proud of.
It took me a month to come around to it… but I’m left where I began. Writing and willing to talk.
I finished writing the above yesterday and thought to let it breathe as I often do to see if there was anything I wanted to add.I have said before, I think in regards to the presidential election four years ago, that I do not have a gilded tower to retreat to. I have to work with people to make my way in the world. I had written up to the point where I talked about Daryl Davis in a single sitting. But when I rewatched the video I heard him say to keep talking. Because of that I more or less stated that and ended the piece. The three issues I brought up this time, COVID-19, police brutality, and racism are some of those that cause death and suffering every day they are not addressed overwhelmingly.
I just saw that rapper and actor Ice-T recently shared that his father-in-law was staunchly Anti-Mask. But he caught COVID-19, has pneumonia in both lungs, has spent 40 days in an ICU, and is on oxygen indefinitely. Among other points, in something that sounds like an impromptu lyric Ice-T stated “I don’t really care what you believe, and you probably won’t until you can’t breathe.” And this is the problem that I have.
People who don’t regard COVID as a threat will keep living their lives and echoing to one another how COVID isn’t worth worrying about. And people will keep getting infected. People will keep getting proven wrong and until someone close to them is seriously infected at which point they might start taking precautions. But along the way, many people will die and become permanently scarred in ways that will only be known in the decades to come. But they won’t care. An oft overlapping viewpoint is that they want fewer immigrants and if America is a plague nation and that stops ‘The Illegals’ from coming in and the ‘dilution’ of American culture that those are wins they are fine with no matter the means to get there. When talking about police brutality any delay at reforms or solutions that encompass the well-being of everyone ensures that someone else will die needlessly. Further delays at wholly exhuming racism in all its forms from American culture, baked in as it is, will only lead to ongoing suffering.
And all I can do is write about these issues and talk to people who outright deny it. And that is frustrating. While I am talking about these, and many more, shortcomings of America people are dying. I don’t accept that. Rapid change is beyond me. Influencing people en masse is beyond my scope as well. I’ll get tired again, I’ll get dour again, I’ll cloister off for months again and be unable to do this work. But I’ll keep coming back. As to why… well, I leave you with this excerpt from the end of The Boondocks episode “The Hunger Strike”:
Huey: “Granddad, what do you do when you can’t do nothing, but there’s nothing you can do?”
Granddad: “You do what you can.”
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