As I listened to a woman ranting and raving on television the other day because she feels that the country is being overtaken by communists, I remembered the words my friend shared with me on a similar occasion. That time, television cameras were focused on a group of police officers in the southern United States unleashing dogs on civil rights protestors. Her comment was that she felt that we were all proceeding toward some ugly center. As the woman on television ranted on, I felt exactly the same way as my friend did all those years go. We are still proceeding toward that center.
Some Americans still feel threatened by people who look, think or feel differently than themselves. For lack of wanting to name what it is they really hate, they name it communism, socialism or sometimes even fascism. Ask them to define it, and they never do. Instead, they begin to repeat the same series of irrelevant catch phrases handed to them by their leaders.
It doesn't take long before we realize that we're in the same war; it's just a different battle. When you have been told as many times as I have by health care professionals that no matter what stage of senility some people are suffering, while they may forget the names of members of their own families, they still remember the "N" word and know when to use it, you learn to heave another sigh and move on. Too bad that experts can't find a way to embed peace that deeply in the hearts of people.
I can't help but feel frustrated at the human progress we might have made — the work that we might have put into the education system or the money spent in these ugly political campaigns that could have been used to cure illnesses. Must we go on endlessly pampering egos, attempting to feed individuals' sense of superiority, laboring to pad pocketbooks that already have more money than they can spend in a lifetime?
I had certainly hoped by now that we would all have reached the ugly center, been stripped of our false illusions about ourselves and been ready to move forward to a new reality. But no, we must let history repeat itself in every generation so we never forget and move away from the fears and hurts of our checkered past.
So, I guess we have to take another "time out" from taking care of the country's business, to let the angry people vent until they get it off their chests. It probably will not take long for them to figure out that getting the kinks worked out of our financial situation is still going to take time.
And I truly doubt if anybody is going to touch the Social Security System or Medicare, but it's to the political advantage of some to get seniors worked up about it.
I'm sure many will think it's unfair that the innocent must reach the ugly center as well as the guilty. That's because in a "we the people" form of government there are no innocent. Those who are not a party to the dirty deeds are among the people who sat by and allowed them to happen.
On July 2, 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act ending segregation in America, the majority of people of all races applauded his action believing it was the right thing to do. But there was a minority of U.S. citizens who disagreed with that decision, and today they are still fanning the flames of their discontent. With the help of a few radio and television personalities, they would like to turn back the times.
I believe most people would like to put all that ugliness behind them and use their energies to build a better tomorrow. Unfortunately, these diehards must continually insert themselves among the peaceful and try to erect barriers of hatred. Whatever activity their behavior inspires will not end well.
Somehow, attempts to educate them to the facts that the world is populated primarily by people of color fails to enlighten them. They imagine their big bombs will dictate who makes the rules of behavior.
Still, I suppose it's safer to attempt to harass Americans of different colors than it is to mess with foreigners. After all, we believe in law and order, and we don't engage in terrorist attacks. But the world is watching, and brown and black people throughout the world don't think racism and bigotry are funny.
I don't think a handful of Anglo-Americans are going to teach them otherwise.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.