Ellen Reynar: The five stages of grief
At first, I am dumbfounded and can only think this isn’t true, this can’t be true.* In the video, I see a happy and slightly hyped bunch of mostly young white people, wearing masks, marching down Nevada City’s Broad Street with signs declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “Racism not a concern?You are part of the problem.” They are playing tambourines and chanting “No justice, no peace!” Even though this is a video and I am not in that charged atmosphere myself, I sense hot, joyous energy in the air.
Then I see, moving slowly uphill toward the young demonstrators, a phalanx of burly men, not wearing masks, with T-shirts proclaiming “Trump Strikes Back!” or emblazoned with the stars and stripes of the American flag. When the protesters, still chanting, meet the phalanx of counter-protestors who yell: “F*** you! Get out! Go home!” the energy sours and turns noxious.
A young person protests, “I am home, I live right around the corner,” and a burly man shoves him to the sidewalk. A youth, hands down at his sides, stands up to the one who shoved, and the burly bully punches him in the face.
Another protester takes out his cell phone to video what is taking place. One of the bullies grabs his phone and throws it down a sewer drain.
Now I am angry.*
Meanwhile, three policemen stand on the side, watching, doing nothing. One of them walks with the burly bullies as they proceed up the street.
A girl approaches one of the policemen and asks what’s going on, why law enforcement is not doing anything, and the officer replies, “If you want to make a report, go down to the station.”
Then I see more footage of the counter-protesters. This time they are brandishing — like weapons — the poles of American flags, pushing their pointed tips toward the faces of the young protesters.
I try to bargain*, inwardly: If you would just step back and remember how once we were all children who began our school days by putting our hands over our hearts and saying: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” — maybe if you would just remember that, now, maybe you could stand down? Maybe we could be brothers and sisters instead of enemies in our own country?
I think about how this flag once symbolized for all Americans what it is to fight for freedom. And I realize that now, apparently, it is the symbol of the radical right and the rest of us can no longer express the pride for it we had as schoolchildren.
I fall into a state of depressed* hopelessness.
I turn off that video only to be faced with the next image in line: in the background, a sign “Slim C’s Liquor,” and in the foreground, an overweight biker woman flaunting her painted torso. The “art work” displayed on her chest depicts Mount Rushmore, with Trump’s image included, across her enormous breasts, and the words “God Bless Trump,” marches over the painted red and white stripes of the flag on her sagging abdomen.
I swallow back the nausea evoked by this unappealing vista and turn off my computer. This is real, I tell myself, this is actually going on in this country. But I don’t need to be part of it, nor do I need to react to it. Trump himself likes to say, in the context of his twisted psyche, and I will repeat now in a more positive sense: “It is what it is.”
Could the first step toward acceptance* be to see clearly in what way I am part of the problem and in what way I must be a better alternative to the burly bullies and the painted women? Then, would I be able to grieve whole-heartedly for what our country is suffering?
* The Five Stages of Grief
— Elizabeth Kubler Ross
Ellen Reynard lives in Nevada City.
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