The rain pummeled the East Texas ground on a humid, August evening. The lightening was the most spectacular display of electric sky I have ever seen in my life. I was awe-struck by its power and beauty.
These last days have been full. We got the keys to move in to a rental house.
At the same time my husband’s brother and sister brought my mother in law out from California. We moved her from one memory care unit to another. In California she was an hour away, in Texas ten minutes. We were busy with details and caregivers and the grief that comes with decades old dementia.
But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world doesn’t matter.
Earlier this summer my hubby took our teenager and grown son on a tour of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Their precious feet walked on the ground that hosted hatred and violence this weekend.
I don’t know everything that took place during the riots, but I know enough.
When I get a friend request on social media from someone I have not seen for years, I generally send a message that says something along the lines of, “I am a right-wing, religious nut. Ignore any political posts you don’t like but know that I do post other funny things and pictures of my kids, who are adorable.”
I am pretty darn comfy my own political skin.
Most people who know me know that I am a right leaning conservative. It is a secret to no one.
But if anyone saw the horror that was called “UNITE THE RIGHT” and thought that might be what I believed, I would be sick to my stomach. That is not the platform of anyone seeking political solutions to real problems. They promote and espouse ideas that are not even rational.
What happened last weekend was terrorism. It was vile, putrid poison in souls spilling out to infect anyone it came in contact with. My son told me there were swastikas and Nazi salutes. While I was unpacking Depends and walkers, he was watching the news and keeping me informed.
We were disgusted.
I saw a picture online of men carrying “torches”. My first thought was, “Did they order those from Oriental Trading Company?” Seriously, I have used those tiki torches for luau-parties in my back yard. Who does that?
Then, I looked again. I gazed past the angry expressions and saw people who look just like those I have known my whole life. They could have been my brother or my son. They appear the same as friends and neighbors. People who look like that have sat at my table, in places I work, in the stadium of the football field at the local high school.
I want hatred to be obvious, so that it can be singled out, dealt with and shunned. I don’t want it to look like the average guy sitting at the movie theatre next to me. It is so hard to change what we can’t even recognize.
I know I live in a bubble. While people I know may look like the terrorists in Charlottesville, I don’t know anyone who thinks like they do. At least, I don’t know anyone who would admit it to me.
While I can be a delight, I am not known in far and wide circles for my ability to hold my tongue. If any one I knew held the vile opinions spewed a few days ago, that person would likely hide it from me. Seriously. (All who know me are nodding in agreement.)
I was in my 40’s before I’d ever heard someone use the “N word” in real life. I was working at a restaurant and a regular customer said it to someone else in conversation.
I turned and told him to stop. He apologized and said he would never say it in front of me again. I said, “That’s actually not good enough. It is a word designed to incite hate, and you should never say it again.” He got up without eating and left the restaurant.
But here’s the thing I am keenly aware of: He was not going to burn a cross in my yard or poison my pets. My life was not in danger. My boss would NEVER be angry at me for losing the customer. My bubble insured that would be a two minute interaction with no lasting consequences to my life, except on my own personal values.
Had I said nothing, a tiny part of me would have atrophied.
I am all for a debate of conflicting ideas, but not all ideas are debate-worthy. Loving this nation and being of European descent does not make one a White Nationalist. I am numb that white supremacy is still a thing. How on earth?
In my bubble there is little, if any, thought to race in my daily life.
In California my mom, who began slurring her speech five years ago and has gotten progressively worse, had a general practitioner and neurologist. In Texas she also has a general practitioner and a neurologist.
In California we had five years with no help. In Texas we had one appointment and a diagnosis.
All four doctors have different ethnic backgrounds.
On the list of what matters to me regarding medical care for my mom, race is nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t care less. All I care about is who is going to help.
That, I have been told, makes me a racist.
I have been told the only way to view these current events is through the lens of America’s 400 year history of oppression by the white man.
I have been told pockets of racial ease are part of the construct to actually oppress, and that it is more complicated than I know.
I have been told that the only way I can be a part of solutions is to spend extended time with people of different races and cultures.
Meanwhile, I am just trying to find where I packed my family’s socks and figure out if I left the ^%@#** new silverware in the basket at IKEA. How many meals can we share washing our one fork in between servings?
Where is the place for me in this conversation?
I love this country. I believe it is flawed in history and execution and yet is a beacon of hope for generations far and wide. On our very worst day, the freedom experienced here is unfathomable elsewhere.
Somewhere, today, a woman will be imprisoned for being in public alone. Someone will be executed for being gay. A Christian will spend another day in prison, perhaps with no decent food or restrooms, because of an unwavering belief that Jesus died on the cross for all mankind.
Does that minimize genuine struggles of minorities here? Of course not. But it goes through my head anyway. If the only way to bridge the divide is to think the worst about this nation, I am not a part of the bridge.
What do you do when the people shouting the loudest about solving the problems make you want to hide under the table and excuse yourself by saying, “I am just trying to homeschool my special needs kiddo and visit my mother in law in the memory care wing of the assisted living facility where she lives.”
The conversation is painted in terms of two sides, each side achingly monolithic in the eyes of the other. According to some on the left, hating Obamacare makes me a racist. Voting for Trump makes me a racist. Failing to live my days with constant apologies for my white privilege makes me a racist.
With that the conversation ends.
I am stuck here feeling lost and out of sorts, spent and weary by what is already on my plate to deal with, but also devastated and disgusted by what is happening; and exhausted and unsettled by the solutions people offer. One thing, however, is incredibly clear–no, I won’t unite with your hatred and I want the world to know, that is not the Right that I vote for and believe in.