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When I was in elementary school, my class enthusiastically sang “I like the United States of America/ I like the way we all live without fear/ I like to vote for my choice, speak my mind, raise my voice, Yes I like it here.” (writer unknown) As I sang, I was delighted that Americans could go about their private business without threat. We were afraid of nuclear war, but we trusted that America would never be the country to begin one. I was proud. I knew America wasn’t always right or good, but we had ideals and we kept reaching for them. When Barack Obama was elected president, the entire world celebrated the realization of a step toward equality, an understanding of the blessings of education and diversity and kindness and cooperation. We were all proud. We dared to dream global citizens really could develop a better world. But there were mutterings from the shadows.
Today, those who were muttering are creating a new America—not great again, not America at all, an America that worships a single man who brags about his corruption as many cheer. Even when his lies are exposed, his followers believe him over fact (many don’t hear fact from their “news”), never comprehending that he’s only a puppet of greedy forces. His religion is profit and power. Meanwhile, Mr. Pelosi, an innocent old man can be attacked in his own home by someone spurred to violence by hateful rhetoric, and we don’t blame the instigators. In fact, fake Republicans make jokes—jokes about nearly murdering an old man in his home. Why should that shock us when our sacred seat of laws and democratic government can be attacked, looted, and smeared with feces, the lives of our elected leaders and the security forces sworn to protect them targeted, and the people proven to have planned and aided the attack go without reprisal?
Children murdered in school, concert-goers murdered as they enjoy music, shoppers murdered as they pick out vegetables at the grocery, an innocent protestor run down—no, Americans don’t live without fear any longer, regardless of your race, gender, or ethnicity. And it’s not outsiders we fear the most. It’s ourselves. The last administration trashed morality. Educated people simply going about the business of living—lawful leaders, poll workers, doctors, scientists—anyone is in jeopardy from brutality. Women and female children can be forced to bear children or die trying. Plans to seize support from the elderly, the disabled, and the unwanted children left in the streets wait to be enacted. The days of the elderly left to eat only cat food loom again. And many Americans think that’s a price we have to pay for…what? Who, exactly, will benefit?
We can vote, but the Far Right (they only call themselves Republicans to dupe more followers) is taking steps throughout the country to ensure our votes aren’t fairly counted. Each election they cheat themselves into new powers. New laws pushed through by extremists prohibit us from speaking our minds—about our own healthcare, about our own history, about abuses. We don’t have free speech any longer. The conspiracy of the Far Right that has been percolating on a stove of prejudice, greed, and insecurity since our democracy first began is boiling. Around the globe, some people are following our example, looking for easy ways out of problems that should require careful consideration and research and innovation. Instead, fake Republicans trivialize or flat-out ignore consequences and forbid people to say they notice.
We want to blame President Biden, but no, this leap into the shadows isn’t his fault. We Americans performed it. We are the only ones who, in unity, have the power to intervene. The honor of our war dead who fought for democracy has been defiled. One day our descendants may talk about how we didn’t stop the erosion—if they’re allowed to talk about such things at all. They’ll march in step and sing songs about how great America and its fearless leader are, never knowing what joys of freedom they almost possessed. Foreigners who wondered on Facebook if they were witnessing the fall of the American empire when Trump became president while objectifying women and mocking the disabled might need to wonder no more.
Ethical liberals, moderates, and conservatives (the REAL Republicans) may not win what we need to win in the next elections to preserve the democracy we love, but we won’t be defeated. We won’t give in. The Far Right is fighting for wealth and power. We’re fighting for our lives as we know them. We have compassion and truth on our side. One day the masses of the duped won’t be able to deny that ours is a goal of a better world for everyone, and they’ll see it, too. Hope is out there waiting for us to improve our persuasion. And we will.
Troubling and troubled minds the world over. Divisive, angry, confrontational and non-sensical. Hope does remains although threatened. Powerful piece, Susan. Brava.
I understand we who know the light must shine more brightly than ever before. Thank you for being one of the candles.