We have in the past
Here we are. Again. Still. And I am angry. I am fearful. These feelings that won't go away. The advice is not to normalize and I'm not. Because I can't.
I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with an older couple the other morning. I've been engaging more with those I normally wouldn't and they were among them. I asked them, with their white, wealthy liberal reputation, if they would intervene on the behalf of someone in danger in our new world of KKK endorsed presidents. The woman looked at her husband, as if to request permission to respond. He looked at her, as if to tell her "you handle this." She said to me "we have in the past." That was it. Her words had been carefully chosen and her message was clear to me. She had intentionally left out "and we would again." What she was telling me was that they've done their part, passed the torch. They will sit and watch as swastikas are painted on buildings. They will avert their eyes when hijabs are forcefully snatched from women's heads. They will remark on the age of the tree when the lynchings begin. Chances are, they will blame me when I'm assaulted.
These people who marched and resisted passively are choosing not to aid their children and grandchildren in our time of need. They fought for unity and now they sit away, actively divided. They're doing it because they got what they wanted from their own movement but never felt a need to share it. They've retired in comfort, can travel at will to their own safe enclaves. Even the torch they're passing is unlit. They hold the matches and refuse to give one.
I didn't realize it at the time, but that moment hardened me. In the days and hours since, as I've dissected her words and tried to make sense of them, extrapolated five words into so many more, I've wanted to rescind my response to her. My response was "I accept and respect that." I neither accept nor respect what she, her husband, and an entire generation of freedom fighters are currently doing and I've resolved to return their favor. They paved a path as far as they needed to go, left a pile of bricks at the edge of a dark thicket known for its savagery and told us we're on our own. And so, when someone like me, someone less averse to inciting violence picks up one of their bricks and throws it at her face, I will look her in the eye before the moment of impact, I will say "you forgot this." and I will lay my next brick with bleeding fingers and tears in my eyes.
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