Linda Schuyler Horning: My toe — a metaphor for the nation | TheUnion.com
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Linda Schuyler Horning: My toe — a metaphor for the nation

A subungual hematoma, or blackened toenail, is no big deal. Active people who live here in the foothills are likely to have an experience with one at some point in their lives. They are like a bruise or bleeding under the nail, which resolves as the nail grows out. Sometimes medical intervention is needed if the underlying trauma is severe. I endured such an injury about seven months ago, did not require medical attention, and my nail is almost completely grown out. You may wonder why I bother to mention it here.

It is because my left great toe has become a metaphor for a nation that is teetering. Just as my feet provide a foundation for my entire being, so does democracy form the foundation of my country. If my feet cannot heal after an injury, then my circulation isn’t good, or my immune system is on the fritz. Foot injuries also limit my ability to exercise, thereby further compromising overall wellness. I tell myself that my toenail is the gauge by which I can see, not only my own sense of well-being, but that of our nation.

When I injured my toe, the United States was entering the final stretch of the campaign season. Biden had the nomination, but he hadn’t yet chosen his vice president. Since then, we’ve endured six additional months of unchecked spread of COVID-19 and a stalemate in Congress over a second stimulus package amid record job losses.

Our record levels of air pollution in California due to unprecedented wildfires and climate change would have triggered huge disaster relief packages under any other administration, but went barely noticed by the current administration. On top of it all, my hero, Ruth Bader Ginsberg left this world, and Trump and the Republicans had the audacity to appoint a new Supreme Court justice almost before her body was cold.

As each new outrage piles on in my consciousness, I look at my toenail and see it growing out. If it can heal, then the carnage will stop, or will it?

My father lost his foot to diabetes at the age of 60, then died a year later. I suppose that’s the reason I obsess about feet, but the gangrene that set in after his toe became infected is not so different from the moral rot that plagues this nation today.

Pardon me, while I pontificate a moment on what I see are the more immediate ills of our society.

Immigrants are people. You can say what you will about their legal status, but they deserve the same amount of respect as everyone else. The president’s 2018 reference to immigrants as “animals” is morally incomprehensible and can only lead to more discrimination and deplorable treatment at the border. Children should never be ripped from the arms of their parents for any reason, especially when no plans are made for reunification.

Women should be revered, not objectified. A country that selects its leaders based on gender alone, even after the Access Hollywood tapes, has some serious issues around women that must be addressed. Donald Trump is actually on record for supporting reproductive freedom, but his only consistent position on abortion is his utter disdain for women.

Persons with various amounts of melanin in their skin or any other physical characteristic that identify them as not coming from northern Europe have the same right to be here as those without such characteristics. In fact, indigenous populations should be respected as the original caretakers of this land who did not lead us into the current environmental crisis.

I say this as a white person, part of the only racial group whose majority voted for Donald Trump. According to Edison Research’s exit polls, 57% of people who look like me wanted four more years of the same. America has a tendency to normalize whiteness, say the authors of a Nov. 7 article in Vox, so while we focus on other racial groups as having voted this way or that, “white people are free to deflect and scapegoat these other groups, especially at times of fear and uncertainty.”

We cannot continue to do this. It is morally wrong, and a bad direction for our country to be moving in going forward.

I would like to think that by the time Biden takes office, my toe will be back to normal and the country will have found its way. We’re almost there. That’s really not too much to ask, is it?

Linda Schuyler Horning lives in Nevada City.


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