In recent months there have been nights when I literally pulled the covers up over my head when I went to bed. More comforting than an adult has reason to expect.
A man I knew told me his mother said he should wear nicer clothes if he wanted to attract women. I told him he should tell her he had a big dick so he didn’t have to wear nicer clothes. Funnily, he didn’t think that was such a good idea.😁
I heard on TV that because of less people out & about in NYC, resulting in fewer available food scraps, there’d been reports of “unusual and aggressive rodent behavior.”
Although I doubt it’s all so funny to actually encounter vicious rats, the phrasing reminded me of “Rodents of Unusual Size” from The Princess Bride.😲
In my last post I re-blogged a post from 3.5 years ago, written on the precipice of Trump’s inauguration. I talked about how divided we were as a country. But it wasn’t just politics but race that I brought into my discussion. I said that “an American is somebody whose ancestors floated over on the Mayflower and an American is somebody who had their naturalization ceremony last week and an American is somebody whose ancestors arrived in the hull of slave ships.” No wonder we have such of a time of being – and staying – a United people. I know we’re supposed to be in the land of the free and the home of the brave but are we free and brave? Fear seems to drive much of modern life and clearly many people don’t feel free, with the abundance of poverty across the country and the “opportunities” not being spread equally. How free does the average dark-skinned person or an immigrant with an accent feel? How free are the people living in the rural Appalachian region or on impoverished Indian reservations in the West or on the streets of our big cities?
I wrote that Americans tend to come together when we have a common enemy. When that happens for the most part people stop fighting with each other long enough to direct energies toward the intruder. I said this happened with the world wars and again after Sept 11, 2001. I daresay it happened again this year with the Coronavirus. Right out of the gate there was a “We’re all in this together” sentiment. It didn’t last long.
On the eve of the 2008 election I said to someone that I would be so proud of this country if it elected Obama. It gave me such hope that our young country was growing up and evolving, that the rampant racism in America was, if not disappearing, at least dissipating. I was not naive enough to share in widespread jubilation that was in the air in the early months of Obama’s presidency because I knew it was a honeymoon period and backlash was coming. I was right; it just came faster than I expected. One man can not make everything perfect for everybody.
That backlash continued right on through Trump’s election. I still don’t know how a country that elected Obama could be the same one that elected Trump. But the divisions among us clearly run deeper than is typically evident on a daily basis when the country turns much of its attention to the latest celebrity scandal or Apple product or winning sports team.
It was a celebrity scandal in 1995 that prompted the post I re-blogged. In the process of our country being riveted by the O.J. Simpson trial, the depth of the racial divide that still persisted was exposed. Black Americans as a group had no trouble believing police planted evidence in an effort to convict a black man, even a very famous one. Whites as a group, I among them, thought that was improbable if not preposterous.
In my 2017 post I noted that it would take something dramatic and almost certainly negative – whether I liked it or not – to bring this country together. I think that’s happened, first with the Coronavirus, and then in the murder of George Floyd. White people have been shocked out of complacency: WE LIVE IN A COUNTRY WHERE A WHITE POLICE OFFICER WITH A NONCHALANT ALMOST SMUG EXPRESSION CAN SLOWLY MURDER A BLACK MAN ACCUSED OF A MINOR CRIME WHO IS BEGGING FOR HIS LIFE IN FRONT OF MULTIPLE BYSTANDERS WHO ARE FILMING AND PLEADING WITH THE OFFICERS TO STOP TO NO AVAIL?!?!????
I am wonderfully heartened by the swaths of Americans coming forward, speaking, marching, protesting, and calling for change. Hope comes in the shape of youth. But I am disheartened still by how many young people are full of hate. We have too many with twisted agendas who want to turn time and progress back, be they KKK members, nazi sympathizers, or generic home grown terrorists stockpiling guns and homemade bombs in their parents’ garages. Clearly something is wrong that we have no shortage of them.
Politically, the extreme ends are digging in their heels as our 2020 election looms. To be clear, for some time now I have felt that a reasonably life-like mannequin would make a better president. I am not excited about Biden but frankly, a bland President who doesn’t appear unstable is just fine at this point. Will it happen? I’m no political analyst but it’ll probably take a combination of a) enough Trump supporters becoming disillusioned and b) getting people who don’t usually vote, who don’t think voting matters, to actually do it. (My prediction: Biden will win by a slim margin and Trump will demand appeals, probes, re-counts, and inquiries the likes of which we have never seen. It will be ugly as hell and drag on for months if not years.)
Unfortunately there isn’t anyone on the horizon who can unite us all, not at this point. Maybe unity isn’t going to come from the top down, maybe the groundswell in the ranks is a better source. Seeing Americans marching by the thousands in the streets makes me prouder and feel more American than any politician does. We live in a place we’re allowed to do this, where we can speak out, and that above all else, is our strength.
I once read that legislation must change before people’s attitudes do. I’m sure plenty of people were against abolishing slavery, against women’s right to vote, and against child labor laws, to name a few. Over decades people accepted all of these as the norm. We’ll get there. Maybe not in my lifetime.
June 20 2020: I was looking for something on my blog & tripped over this old post. Being that I wrote it over 3 years ago, I didn’t remember what I’d said so I decided to read it. I could not help but view it in terms of how it relates to today. In 6 years of WriterinSoul I’ve never “re-blogged” an old post of mine but I want to put this one up again. There weren’t many comments the first time around but I think they’re also worth a read on the original post if you’re interested. I may do a follow-up post in the coming days.
Original Post Jan 2017: I watched the Golden Globes last night only through the win for the FX show The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story in Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture for TV. Sarah Paulson had won Best Actress in the same category for her portrayal of Marcia Clark just a bit earlier in the show. To be clear, I wasn’t waiting on any particular thing before giving up on the show – I rarely watch award shows any more but tuned in for the promise of a great opening number and Jimmy Fallon as host in the semi-casual environment that is the Globes. (I enjoy seeing celebrities sitting at tables eating, drinking and hob-nobbing with each other like real people. Although why they can’t space the tables a little better so winners don’t have to push and shove and maneuver like rats trying to figure their way out of a maze to get cheese I don’t know.)
It happened that I watched the multi-part production of The People v. O. J. Simpson last week. I don’t have cable and had placed myself on the public library’s waiting list a couple months back and it had taken this long for my turn to arrive. I watched the 2016 ESPN documentary O.J.: Made in America about a month ago. And the reason I’d pursued either, in addition to my interest in the story at the time it took place, was a suggestion in Esquire magazine that the two were very well done and made a good pairing. They were right.
O.J. Simpson was a name I knew and not much more prior to the 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. I didn’t really have any feelings about him one way or the other. I knew nothing of football or what the man had accomplished in his field. For reasons I cannot say, I missed the bronco chase. What was I doing that day that I paid no mind to any kind of media? I don’t know. I’m glad I missed it though.
I watched the trial on TV. There were many things about it that drew me. I was fascinated by how a court room is run and evidence presented. There were so many personalities and stories involved too. I studied everyone’s faces and reactions. I greatly related to the bond between the Brown sisters. The Goldmans, father and daughter, broke my heart – they could be your neighbors – non-celebrities caught in this mess and trying always to make sure their son and brother was not lost in the chaos of the case. The two younger Simpson children, obviously absent from the court room, their mother murdered and their father on trial for it, were yet more victims. The varying and compelling personalities and styles of all the lawyers was riveting. Chris Darden, with his intelligence and passion, resonated the most with me. I watched as Marcia Clark changed over the course of the trial; it clearly took such a toll – physically evident in her face – and yet she pressed on. Johnnie Cochran, although obviously skilled at what he did, never sat right with me.
One of the weird things in watching the 10-part DVD series last week was seeing the jury! It brought back how carefully the jury was shielded from the camera during the trial in 1995. They were an utter mystery, spoken to, talked about, and never seen. I felt like I was doing something wrong to be looking at them while sitting in my own home watching a DVD.
Not then and not now, did I ever lose sight that two vibrant, beautiful young people were dead. Cut down while doing nothing, just living their lives one night. They weren’t killed for money or their cars or their jewelry. They were just killed. Several times while watching the series I found myself in tears. I thought the show was extremely well done and tasteful with one large exception: repeated showings of a slain Nicole Brown Simpson on the steps outside her home. It didn’t matter that it was an actress. I didn’t need to see that more than the brief, passing glimpse when the officers investigate the crime scene at the outset. I imagined how that would be to repeatedly see if you were her sister, her parent, or her friend. It was unnecessary and felt like a gratuitious intrusion on her being.
The documentary O.J.: Made in America provided me a much clearer idea of who O.J. Simpson was and what he had accomplished in his career. It also gave insight into his personality, his character flaws. It is shocking, if your head is mainly full of 1995 trial imagery to see this aged man, now serving a 33 year sentence for a different, lesser crime, sitting in front of a parole board explaining how well he does his prison assigned jobs. Although the documentary is exceptional, the flaw in it was the lack of discussion of the nature of his marriage to Nicole Brown Simpson. That relationship and marriage, which are skimmed over, are obviously very relevant to the trajectory of his life story.
During the televised trial in 1995 I was talking to a black man who said to me that of course O.J. is innocent, “Everybody knows that.” I was more than surprised – I, a white woman – didn’t know that at all. I was confounded by the verdict and appalled by the celebrations. No matter what you thought of the LAPD or race relations or the egregious history of the maltreatment of blacks in this country, public displays of jubilation when a man is acquitted of a double homicide – and no one else to be blamed or charged ever – seemed callous.
The reactions to the verdict, blacks predominantly agreeing with it and whites predominantly not, were one of those touchstone moments in our society. They evidenced that the divide between blacks and whites was larger than might have otherwise been suggested at the time. Prior to the trial, a lot of people would likely have said that everyone was roughly on equal footing. We were a melting pot. “I don’t see color” was a phrase often heard.
I was and am reminded of a rigorous book from 1992, Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal by Andrew Hacker (an older white man) which enumerated how extremely differently blacks and whites experienced life in this country. One of the things he related was that as a college professor he would ask his students about the state of race in America. They would respond that things were fine, everybody was equal. Then Professor Hacker would pose a question to his white students. If he gave them a million dollars, and they could wake up the next day as exactly the same person they were now but be black, would they take it? When it was put THAT way, the white students knew exactly how valuable their pale outer shell was. No, no to a one, they wouldn’t. People could talk about racial equality and how far we’d come all they wanted but a million dollars, Hacker concluded, was the worth of white skin. Would the answers be any different today, 25 years after the book’s publication?
There are milestones that happen that point out to us how far we’ve come – President Obama anyone? But continued events that draw attention to how steeped in the racist past we remain. It’s not that there aren’t less obvious indicators that were there all along but they aren’t the sort that attract national attention and outrage.
In 1995 we had a huge national divide and again in late 2016 we had another, only this time it wasn’t race but politics. Yet the feeling was the same, half the country looked around and thought the other half was somewhere across a great divide and clearly in the wrong. Both sides wondered of the other “How could they think that way??!” The parallels between 1995 and 2016 are so striking. In each instance it wasn’t a “rude awakening” as much as a sometimes fearful awakening: We AREN’T in this together; you are my enemy only I did not fully know it till now. There is a state of unease in the air following the election just as there was after the verdicts in the O.J. Simpson trial. It is one thing to feel there is a foot or maybe a yard between you and another; it is wholly different to begin to believe it is more like a MILE.
Something happened though, between these two aforementioned years, and that was Sept 11, 2001. At that time, the playing field was leveled. We were all Americans. We had an enemy and it wasn’t us. People were kinder to one another. Everyone was wounded. We had a commonality, a shared disbelief and loss. We were Americans and we were under attack. The feeling was short-lived; as a nation our attention span is brief as are our national emotions. I think this has so much to do with being a relatively young country that has always had huge influxes of people – many who came here unwillingly true – that continue to reshape its face. An American is somebody whose ancestors floated over on the Mayflower and an American is somebody who had their naturalization ceremony last week and an American is somebody whose ancestors arrived in the hull of slave ships. We don’t share the same histories and we don’t generally think and respond as a group. Some even say we are increasingly a society of smaller factions and not one nation.
I hate to think that was what was needed to bring Americans together was an outside enemy but I see a possible truism there. Something that forced the country into an “us vs them” mentality that went beyond our borders. I was not around for the World Wars but I expect much the same occurred then. The enemy was elsewhere and whatever internal differences Americans had with each other could wait.
Thinking it over, it does not seem untimely that the Civil Rights movement or the women’s rights movement got their momentum during non-war times (I am not discounting Korea and Viet Nam but they weren’t on the scale of the two world wars nor did they impact as many Americans). In a very odd way, if you consider it, fighting with each other as we do, be it over race or over political parties, is something we can do because we AREN’T fighting a larger enemy. To wit, in 2017 the average American is not fighting wars or terrorists (less than .5 percent of Americans are currently in the armed forces). We leave it to our government to fight terrorism for us. I mean our “job” as citizens is to notice and report strange behavior and odd packages left lying about! Not to take up arms.
I don’t have answers, just lots of thoughts and questions. If I’m right, which I’d rather not be, the next time Americans will be drawn together as a group – as one nation – is when we are attacked. I don’t think the inauguration is going to uplift the national mood. It’ll distract us for a bit and we’ll listen to the pundits mark those crucial first “100 days” but I don’t think we’re going to see the kinds of sweeping changes some hope for and others fear.