The time for cognitive dissonance, for denial, is past. It turns out that Barack Obama was wrong. We are two Americas. It is true we are not separated by red and blue states. The contrast is far greater than that; more divisive and permanent. We are two hands. Two ambidextrous fists that keep slamming into each other. Unable to recognize that we are attached to the same body. One hand tattooed with the word “hate” across its knuckles. The other “love.”
We have denied the obvious for far too long. Handicapped our nation by alternately tying one hand or the other behind our back. Hiding it from view for long stretches of our history. It is time we make a choice. To amputate an appendage and choose our country’s identity once and for all. To advance the dreams of our fathers requires we now pick a dominant side.
This is not a choice that can be prayed away. There are no alternative facts. One hand reflects the audacity of hope and dreams of our ancestors. It appends to those outraged by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and the countless other lives lost. Clenches in silent protest with those who kneel in defiance of the institutionalized racism that caused their senseless deaths. Points in condemnation of the prejudice rendered by Lady Justice that renders their deaths hollow.
It is the fist we used to smash through the bonds of slavery and defeat the grasp of Nazi facism. The hand extended by Franklin, Susan, Martin, Margaret, John, Ruth Bader and Barack as they took on world leaders and espoused the virtues of American exceptionalism. The fist we raise in pride for our immigrant heritage and in our standing as the beacon for hope and liberty to the world’s oppressed.
The other hand is no less powerful or prevalent in our nation’s history. It is the hand that draws false equivalents between those who protest for equality and freedom, and those who espouse hatred, ignorance and exclusion. The one we use to point at, slap and dehumanize people. The hand extended by those who kneel at the heels of Confederate statues and on the necks of our most vulnerable minorities. That hand that guides the whip and rips the refugee children from the arms of their exhausted mother. As if they are “animals,” unworthy of the basic inalienable rights bestowed upon all men.
It is the fist that holds the tiki torches, burns the crosses, and straps the nooses and assault rifles to their bodies to intimidate. The one that targets our sons and daughters in their crosshairs and acts as if they are of no more value than an avatar. The hand extended by Andrew, Robert E, Cheney, Anton and Trump as they alienated world leaders and preached the virtues of “America first.” The fist we raise in acknowledgement of white power and to loot the halls of our nation’s Capital.
These two fists can no longer coexist. Our identity crisis must end. Love or hate? Empathy or apathy? Progress or status quo? What’s it going to be America? It is time to choose a dominant side and embrace it. The future demands it.