Saturday, July 04, 2020

state of the union

I woke up the other morning, and as I scrolled through the morning horror story that is my facebook news feed and just the news in general, I kept thinking about 10th grade history class. As an white, lower middle class (or maybe upper working class) girl in a suburban highs chool  I know there was so much that the late 80's/early 90's history curriculum left out.  We glossed over slavery and the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights movement and Jim Crow. We also were presented a skewed white historian view of those things, even though we had a decent BIPOC population at the school. In other classes, our reading lists were blandly white and male, and though things were a little more diverse by the time my sister was in high school 4 years later, still not by much.  It was notoriously a horrible school district that was actually sued in the 90's for closing and discrimination against minority populations. and regularly made lists of worse school districts in the US. I doubt, despite that, it is any better today.

But those things aside, I was also thinking  about our collective history.  That when we, particular Gen X-ers, looked the at the atrocities of the past, they were always in the past. At least at 16 or so they seemed that way to me.  The Gulf War would happen, but it would barely be a blip in a childhood that was actually pretty peaceful.   Or seemed peaceful from the distance of the midwest and what the media served up pre-internet. What we've learned from POC is that the atrocities continued, are still continuing. And yet, in my head, I believed, probably til about 4 years ago, that things were getting better. That Americans were getting more progressive and embracing of people who might be different from them--skin color, gender or sexual orientation,  religion, etc.  But I sort of noticed a slight ideological backswing on people slightly younger than me. I was aware of the frothing incels and tea-partiers skulking in their basements (or more precisely their mother's basements).  But they seemed like flies at an otherwise pleasant picnic.  

But when it came to horrible things, even something like 9-11 had easy villains.  You could always write off natural disasters as just something that happened.   As we find ourselves now, we are the worst enemies of peace.  Our legal and policing systems.  Our botching of coronavirus, which was going to be bad, but as other countries have proven, not necessarily apocalyptic. I never imagined myself living inside the history books, those sort of historic disasters and crises seeming, in my 16 year old brain  (and maybe even my 40 year old brain) to be impossible in a world where science and technology and how we can bend the world to our needs & desires.  We have vaccines and medical technology and  really, these are all much more complicated than the simplest thing of all--wearing a mask and keeping distance. But we can't as a mass of diseased humans, even promise that. 

When we learned about the Holocaust, I was sure, in my teenage brain, that nothing like that could surely happen at the end of the 20th Century.  I wasn't even sure how it happened the first time.  Were people not paying attention?  Were people afraid to speak up?  I though for sure, the world was too transparent now. Nothing could be done in darkness or the cover of night without someone taking notice and tweeting about it. Now, I just don't know...It's hard to celebrate the birth of a country that disappoints at every turn. Seems to wallow in it's own stupidity.  To be sort of ashamed and horrified of America itself and what it has become...

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