Another Loss of Innocence for Us —
Just when we think that we have reached an age of all innocence lost, we find yet another pocket of our hearts that can be broken. We may think, hope, that there is nothing new under the sun, but the events in Charlottesville showed us, live and in living color, that there was.
Wiser heads than mine have commented on our president’s response. I will not belabor that here. So why this heart break? Has something crucial has been taken from us? Were we really surprised? Should we not have known better, expected such? And yet, even as I write these words, my heart aches.
For what, for whom? Certainly, for myself. A Trump nation is not one that I am proud of, even as I consciously surround myself with like-minded friends and acquaintances. And for others: for people of color who have been experiencing this kind of pain for years, yet have the decency not to say to me “what took you so long, sucker?”; for those who came as immigrants in a less-welcoming time than my forebears; for all those who accept these “white tears” and do not turn away.
While we wring our hands and ask ourselves why, James Baldwin, more than fifty years ago, gave us a response: I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. Would that I can come to that level of compassion for those with whom I disagree. I am not there yet.
Over the past weeks I’ve been reading The Presidents Club. It is a study of the lives of our recent ex-presidents after they left the White House. In it, Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy show men who are chastened and humbled by the positioned they occupied. Time has given each the perspective to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, as well as an understanding of their contribution to the problems faced by those who came after them. They show an absolute respect for the position, and the person who follows. The humanity of their footing brought me to tears more than once, as I was also brought to tears by the comparison of the current occupant of the chair.
No doubt we will survive this. But we will never be the same, no matter how beyond innocence we may profess to be. Today I remain centered with my pain and the pain of those who suffer directly as targets of this racial hatred that has seen fit to become unmasked. I am not ready to sympathize with the haters.