I couldn’t help but crack a wry smile (think gallows humor) when this pop-up appeared on my screen. I had been reading with great sorrow and anger about the cold-blooded murder by blue of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and riots in Minneapolis and across the US. Meanwhile in America, as all hell breaks loose with a walking train wreck of a lying, cheating president who “governs” by Tweet, and a looming array of seemingly intractable societal problems, I thought to myself glumly.
As a US ex-patriot who has been living in Viet Nam for nearly 15 years, I get my information about the US from online sources, friends, colleagues, and periodic visits. During the latter, I feel very much like an ethnographic researcher, even more so than when I lived there.
From my visits and my perch in Hanoi, I haven’t seen MAGA or any “transition to greatness,” but rather a steady and very public decline, both domestically and internationally, that appears to be accelerating. The former is a source of sadness because so people many are suffering due to government incompetence, cruelty, and indifference, not to mention an unholy trinity of “isms” rooted in history such as nationalism, nativism, and racism. It could be otherwise. It should be otherwise. So many squandered opportunities and so many deep reservoirs of untapped potential. Neither the country nor the person playing the role of president is wearing anything at all. And the truth will set you free?
What we need to recover is our humanity
Back to the literal scene of the crime. Several quotes from a woman who rented space in the Ivy Building for the Arts in Minneapolis that housed artists and craftspeople and was torched by protesters really jumped off my screen. Regina Marie Williams said her heart and spirit are broken over George Floyd’s death and what happened to her city shortly thereafter. She added, “This is not the way I would choose to protest, destroy my own backyard and my front yard and the things that we use to keep us alive: our arts and our bars and our youth centers and our police stations. We need these resources.”
Her husband, a photographer, had 50 years worth of work in the building that went up in flames. She noted that while some items can be remade, others are gone forever. “And that will be OK — it’s just things. What we need to recover is our humanity,” she said. Amen to that. Her poignant observation applies to fellow citizens and their political leaders far beyond the city limits of Minneapolis, including in Washington, D.C. That’s a noble goal worth aspiring to.
Shalom (שלום), MAA