Day four of the flu and the floors are filthy. Dust and dog hair blanket the stairs and the beanbag is leaking onto the carpet. I’m not a clean freak, but I appreciate a clean floor. It’s probably better right now not to look. For four days I have stationed myself in my bed, sleeping, reading and obsessing at my twitter feed. It may be better not to look at that either. But while I’ve languished in my sneezy-coughy-self-pity bed with a jumbo toilet roll, sticky cough syrup stains and a wastebasket filled to the brim with my symptoms, the world outside has gone crazy.
Donald Trump is spewing truly insane threats (from the golf course) to North Korea and the NFL, insulting the mayor of Puerto Rico in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and emboldening white supremacists with such success that Jo Walsh (a former congressman ffs!) has decided the time is right to openly use the n-word on Twitter.
Yes, it’s probably better not to look, but how can I not look. It’s mesmerizing in a grotesque, horrific way, like happening upon a terrible accident with blood and gore and broken bodies scattered on the road, and yet despite the repulsion, you find yourself hypnotically transfixed, trying to make sense of the dis-articulated debris that lays before you — trying to reconstruct what happened in the moments before all that metal collided. How did we get here?
Have we ever not been here? I keep hearing and seeing the refrain, ‘this is not who we are. This is not what America is about’. But what, then? This is the deadly intersection of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, corruption, greed, jealousy and unfathomable depths of hatred, fear, and rage, all colliding together. Hasn’t this always been at least some of what America is about?
I don’t live in America anymore. Some folks might say, I am talking out of turn, from the safety of my flu-bed in Ireland, with my jumbo toilet roll and a kitten sleeping at my feet. But for nearly forty years, America was all I knew. It’s where I grew up, had babies, and tried to make sense of all the accidents that informed my reality. Even if Jo Walsh wasn’t using racial epithets on social media in those years, you can bet your ass someone was always using them somewhere, every day and always – in bars, on the streets, at the dinner table — everywhere. Yes, even in Ireland.
As I write this my Twitter feed is buzzing with news of yet another mass shooting; this time in Las Vegas. So far, the reports indicate that the shooter was a white man in his sixties. . . so, I guess the media won’t call him a terrorist . . .
I have no nostalgic memories of a non-racist America. There’s not a ‘before’ the neo-Nazis came on the scene. They were always there. What has changed is that now blatant scenes of bigotry, fascism, and misogyny have been downgraded to political ‘opinion’, and legitimized as ‘discourse’. An American president speaks off the cuff of nuclear annihilation, incites racial violence, denigrates vulnerable people, and stomps about the world stage like a schoolyard bully, and the people love him. The same people who revel in their newfound freedom to spew their hatred and act out their prejudices in this ‘new normal’ where flag, president, whiteness, and Americanism are all conflated in the single image of an angry, white millionaire with access to the big button.
Hyperbole? Just the flu talking? God, I hope so, but, I’m not so sure.