I stood in front of the Congolese Army tank, its giant shooting nozzle arched far above my head into a meaningless wilderness. It probably couldn’t shoot, anyway: It was there simply to stop us from crossing the border.
The Rwanda genocide was forming, but I had eight clients leaving Kigali, Rwanda, that night. The thousand-year divide between the Hutus and Tutsis had finally touched me. It’s nothing compared to the divide in America today.
Hutus/Tutsis, Irish/British, Kikuyu/Luo, Zulu/Xhosa, Armenians/Azerbaijanis, Tibetans/Chinese, Muslim/Christians, Hindus/Buddhists … none reach the chasm of the left/right divide in America today.
Fortunately America’s democracy was so improved after the Civil War that the divide is not as deadly as some of the schisms I mentioned above. At least until now.
But one wonders if that’s good. Have our laws – gerrymandering, for instance – prevented self-destruction by making the divide bigger?
Why is the difference so great in America? How is it that two households side-by-side on the same street see their same neighborhood so utterly differently?
Yesterday America’s 3rd quarter GDP was reported growing at a record 33.1%. The White House reported “the great American Recovery” that “blows past expectations.” The refrain continues to be amplified by Fox News and associates.
My side saw it entirely differently: “Don’t let flashy 3rd quarter GDP growth fool you, the economy is still in a big hole,” Brookings reported.
It doesn’t matter that in this unique case both sides speak truth. The point is that neither side accepts the other’s reality: One positive. One negative.
My side is the right side, but if the wrong side is incapable of persuasion it doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong. In the end it won’t matter that I’m right.
How do I know I’m right?
“We’re rounding the corner on the virus,” says President Trump and associates.
My left side of intellects, elites, scientists and common sense folk knows that’s not true. We know at least as much time must pass as when this all began, with as much or more suffering and we believe this could be mitigated.
The right side is composed of less educated, less elite, impatient folk. They can’t afford to scratch their belly buttons and ponder isolation. They can’t afford not to go to work. Not sending their kids to school means not paying the rent.
Don’t you understand that poverty is the greatest denial of liberty possible?
Trumpists would hasten us through herd immunity, killing tens of thousands more than our side believes necessary to control this thing. But during the slaughter kids would go to school, rents would be paid; there would be less fear.
The divides I’ve lived among in the rest of the world have a much greater sense of community than in America. The individual is much less important than the greater society. The stories aren’t about single families but of communities down the ages.
In America freedom is gauged individually. One by one through lonely free will liberty is preserved. This is stupid.
American’s penchant for believing that in this overpopulated, highly dependent social global community one person’s freedom is determined more by that one person’s actions than the actions of the community that surrounds her, is crazy. All that does is make loneliness.
It’s melancholy. It’s depressing. The chance for happiness is almost impossible. But that’s how Americans have created themselves.
I see a not-so-distant future when the Kikuyus and Luos, Tibetans and Chinese, even Muslims and Christians work together. I can even imagine the divide I portrayed in my novel, “Chasm Gorge,” ultimately ending because the players in all these scenes find commonality in the internet: they all revere community.
But in America? Are Americans anything but lone wolves crying to be left alone? Is the American Dream actually the American Tragedy?