By Dawn Onley
Lately, it’s been taking me a long time to do simple tasks. My mind is restless, darting from one thought to the next. I’m more impatient than usual and I can’t seem to get enough sleep. I’m researching organizations to learn ways I can give of my time and resources in ways that supersede what I’ve done before. I’m jumpy and moody, up in the morning, but by nightfall, down. I’m struggling to focus and keep the momentum.
I’m depressed at the state of our country. And appalled. And utterly fatigued and weary. I read a lot of different points of view, always have, but I truly don’t understand how people who grew up together, in some instances right down the street from one another or in the same household, can have such drastically different views. I don’t understand how we got here, as family, as neighbors, as citizens and as Americans.
Well that’s not exactly true. I know how we got here. Any person who studies American history knows that there has always been two different Americas – one of boundless opportunity and another of hopeless decay. There have always been people who sympathize with the North or the South. America has always been the land of big business, whether that business was cotton or tobacco or Wall Street or Walmart. There has always been a Big Business versus Big Government fight, with people deeply entrenched on both sides. I’m not naïve. I know that factions exist within our country, and they have always existed. Democracies are built on the foundation that citizens get to choose, and in America, people have exercised that right by choosing their faith/religion, choosing the role of government and who will represent us, women choosing what works best for us in matters of our reproductive systems, and same sex couples choosing whether they will legally get married. I get all of that.
Yet in spite of these two Americas, what I loved about growing up in a small town a short drive south of the Mason-Dixon Line was the pride we felt as residents. We could make fun of our town, but we’d defend it if outsiders tried to make fun of us. For the most part we were united and we were proud of our home. Despite the class issues and race issues that we had, just like any other city or town in America, we also knew that when it came down to it, we were in this together. We all wanted the same things for our families and for our community. I’ve had friends visit my hometown from big cities, who today marvel at the number of interracial couples they see. On the surface it may even seem post-racial, particularly when one considers my hometown in the 1970s and even 1980s, a rural swath of Northwest Maryland where the Ku Klux Klan would occasionally hold rallies.
Looks can be deceiving.
Over the years progress has been made, no doubt, but at times like these when a controversial president is elected who immediately enacts controversial and (in my opinion) unjust measures, it’s clearer than ever to see the line that has been drawn and what side of it we stand. Politics is a lot like religion in that it may not be apparent initially what one person believes over another, but open the doors of the sanctuary and you’ll learn quickly what religious doctrine one subscribes to, or take part in a presidential election, and you’ll see a person’s core beliefs rise to the surface every time. Politics and religion are also similar in that many adopt the beliefs of their parents and grandparents, content to never analyze what lies in their own hearts.
This past week has caused me to question how well we really know one another and how much it matters. It has left me reeling at what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the appalling silence and indifference of the good people.” It has left me stunned and angry and more committed than ever to fight for the “least of these,” which today is the mistreatment of refugees and Muslims, but who knows what fight tomorrow has in store.
This is not sour grapes. I can take a loss. This is un-American. This is for the soul of our nation and speaks to what lies in our heart and in the world’s eyes. This is for our collective conscience. This is against bigotry and oppression. This is for the freedoms that are now threatened. This is against living in a state of angst. This is against the dangerous game our president is playing through his hasty actions. This is for the ideals that we should never cease trying to reach.
Yesterday, Senator John McCain denounced the most recent executive order signed by Trump which bans Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States for 90 days. “This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security,” McCain said.
So even though I’m tired, frustrated and sad at what our great country is being reduced to, I will force myself to keep my energy high and to stay educated on the issues. There’s no time to waste. There’s too much on the line.