During the weeks of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, my morning routine was to wake up, turn on the computer, pull up the New York Times, and weep.
Lately it has been deja vu all over again. While some of the tears are good (the announcement of the Obergefell decision, for example), many have been in sorrow and anguish at more sobering events, especially the murders in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church by a white racist terrorist. I have been appalled by the reactions to the shooting, which are not the actions of a mad man, but the actions of a domestic terrorist. I have suffered through tortured explanations of mental illness and calls for gun control, but have heard few honest discussions of racism and racial hatred. (I swear, if Hitler were around today, there would be an ongoing debate of mental illness and whether he should be allowed access to Zyklon B, and no honest discussion of the fact that he and his nation murdered eleven million people, six million of them solely because they hated Jews.)
As I listened to the discussions spin this way and that way about the Confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse, I was not sure which way the decision would go. I have heard cries of free speech, I have heard cries of Southern (white) heritage, I have heard a lot of racist cant wrapped in the First Amendment and the American flag. (And lest I be tarred with the "you don't get it" brush, let me point out that during the Civil War, my father's family, which was in the border state of Kentucky, fought on both sides. His paternal line fought for the Union and wore blue, his maternal line, who may have been slaveowners, wore gray and fought for the Confederacy. So yes, I do "get" it.)
Since yesterday, the tears have been in admiration and gratitude for South Carolina Representative Jenny Horne:
I have listened to this speech six or more times and have cried each time.
This morning I had a liver biopsy to check scarring on my liver before starting a new type of chemotherapy. After coming home and sleeping for several hours, I awoke to see this:
I started crying seven minutes into the video, when the state troopers came out to lower the flag. But it was at nine minutes and ten seconds, when the flag is finally lowered, that the tears came in earnest.
There are times I despair of the polarization and deep divides in this nation of ours. There are times when I weep thinking we are going backwards in time to an uglier era. There are times when I feel we will splinter into little tiny mini-states, each with our own dearly cherished beliefs, each with its own supreme confidence that its viewpoint and its viewpoint alone is the only right position, which frees all of us from the hard work of listening thoughtfully and carefully to different points of view.
And then there are days of gold, in which a woman like Jenny Horne speaks from her heart, no matter how much her voice shakes, and I am encouraged to go on.