I’m not often on the receiving end of condolences, but last night two expat friends surfaced to offer solace and a place to stay. They were every bit as horrified as Bob and I, watching the 2016 presidential election returns over our shoulders from Switzerland and Australia.
We watched in disbelief as the map turned red. We knew the country was torn, but to see blood run like this! My stomach clenched and I thought I’ll never eat again. My friends could plainly see the U.S. was getting their Brexit vote. The people had spoken. Thirty percent of registered voters cast their ballot for change at the hands of a smug capitalist. It was inconceivable.
I wonder when compassion, tolerance, and acceptance went out of vogue in the great United States of America. Mother liberty must be writhing beneath her iron robe. I wonder if they’ll remove the plaque at her base, the one that says,
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
My neighbors soothe me by predicting things will work out. It can’t get too bad. We’ve already formed a solid grassroots community to see us through hard times. We have resilience. We’ll be strong together. All this is true. I’m happy and fulfilled. I feel secure here.
But the future is not what’s troubling me. I’m ashamed of what has already happened. I’m flustered by the fear and anger I’ve witnessed these past six months. I’m embarrassed I underestimated white middle class xenophobia, that I didn’t for a moment think it would go this far. I was blindsided.
I realized this morning that I had been clinging to hope. I thought we’d learned from history, that we’d progressed, that we were bigger than this. Fifty-three years ago I lost my innocence when a sniper blew JFK’s head blew apart. Today, I lost my faith in humanity.