What has happened to people?
Since September 11th, of course, we were already living in a police state. The ironically titled “Patriot Act” took away many civil liberties. In the wake of that legislation, it is assumed that every American is surveilled and inventoried with an air of casualness.
Now, civility is the latest casualty.
Whereas in very recent years we used to be wary of Middle Eastern people in the wake of terrorism, Latino people in the wake of illegal immigration, and Asian people due to this virus, now we are finally, resolutely wary of one another. Children can’t go on playdates. Neighbors scuffle past each other warily. Open hostility and squabbles erupt over “mask shame” and “social distancing,” concepts that were invented merely weeks ago.
I do believe we will return to normal, or at least a new normal, much like we did after September 11th. Instead of the thought of taking off of shoes at airports being weird, taking temperatures at the nail salon will be the new weird. The human spirit is indomitable and adaptable, they say.
The repercussions of this hostility can take its toll. The fact that we have let fear win is what is truly lamentable. Fortunately, now that we are suspicious of our fellow countrymen, we are running out of things to be afraid of. I guess that’s a silver lining.
Presently, America looks more like a digital landscape from Grand Theft Auto than real life. We simply have lost our footing.
A black man named George Floyd was asphyxiated under police custody during a pandemic this past week. People are looting, rioting, and destroying our infrastructures. Is there any justice in the world? We don’t know. In the wake of this tragedy, we understandably only feel deep sorrow and shame.
Young children know a few things. They know gladness when they see their grandparents, or when they see their playmates. They know only to live in the present, buoyed by the hope of an ever-expanding future. They know true joy, and they give me some hope. We could learn from them.
When President Roosevelt said in 1933 that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he could have dropped the mic on the next 100 years. We, as Americans, often accused of being corporatists, imperialists, and global dominators, are deeply afraid.
It is crippling us, stifling us, and preventing us from leading the world. It is taking away our secret power, our unity. The unity that was once, as Reagan quoted from scripture, our “shining city on a hill.” As the shine fades, we fade along with it, led by the least (in society’s eyes) of our brothers and sisters.
Nothing can restore the vibrance to our country unless citizenry demands change and rejects fear on behalf of our ancestors—once and for all. I believe we can and should.