05:57:24 pm on
Monday 22 Jul 2024

Modern Trail of Tears
AJ Robinson

As a child, I remember the first time I learned something negative about my country. It was quite upsetting. The idea that the country I loved and was devoted to could do something bad was devastating.

Yet, there it was in my history book.

The litany of bad acts is long. Indians massacred and their lands stolen; that was the infamous Trail of Tears. During WWII, America interred its citizens of Japanese heritage in prison camps. Blacks randomly lynched at the rate of two-a-week between 1900 and 1930. Ethnocentric and racists groups, such as the Klu Klux Klan, had the right to terrorise. The Jim Crow South terrified Blacks. Jews denied sanctuary before World War II, their ships turned away during the War. The list of bad acts by America is long.

My mother helped me to put things in perspective. As a young girl, she heard the patriotic speeches, on the radio, from the government and political pundits, even from the pulpit. She listened in school to the lessons of the glories of her history and culture; how superior her people were and how inferior other ethnicities were; other than The Axis, people weren’t even human. She learned of the vermin readying to infest her great country and she marched in the parades and sang the songs of praise for her great nation. My mother thus heard Mussolini promise to build the Second Roman Empire by making the trains run on time.

Yes, my mother was a child-fascist. In her defense, she didn’t know any better and as the years rolled along, she and her family suffered during the war. She soon saw the fascists for what they truly were: cruel. She missed her Jewish friends. Pasquale, the love of her life, at the time, had fled Florence lest he had to join the army and fight. Then there were her friends and neighbours she saw die in the name of a great empire Mussolini promised.

She took heart in the knowledge that many people rebelled against that tyranny and fought to bring freedom to her country, many giving their lives. Those people technically broke the laws of Italy. They were partisans and traitors; a summary execution, without the benefit of a trial, was often their reward.

The words, of my mother, comforted me. She helped me see a nation could make mistakes, but as long as there were good people, there was hope that they could stop such actions. I also took comfort in knowing that the worst of our atrocities were in the American past. Ethnocentricity, women’s rights and acceptance of sexual diversity seemed to be the major issues of my era. I was optimistic about the future.

The times are changing. After seeing the images of children in cages and hearing their cries, I feel about my country a way I never thought I ever would. I feel shame!

What is far more distressing is that my feelings extend beyond the government. I am ashamed of pundits, commentators and even religious leaders that, for some reason I cannot fathom, agree with this policy. When I hear their excuses, I am dumbfounded. Here are just a few excuses,

“They’re not our kids.”
“They’re breaking the law.”
“Obama did the same or worse.”
“We’re just obeying the law.”
“They’re actors.”
“They love the camps.”
“We should suspend due process so we can throw these vermin out of our country.”

My heart shatters, anew, with each lie and my shame increases. I saw a copy of the next issue of Time Magazine, which shows Trump hovering over a crying child, as if he were Godzilla, preparing for a snack. That is our national shame, his legacy and, I hope, the symbol of his presidency that lasts throughout history.

Liberty and freedom are under attack, as is the fundamental right to dissent.

The big question, for my fellow Americans, is this, are Trump and his minions our future or merely the last gasp of an evil past? I recall a picture, drawn by Thomas Nast, it showed a modern version of the Roman Coliseum with a woman, identified as “Liberty,” attacked by a tiger, as the emperor, symbolized as Boss Tweed, one of the most corrupt men of his era, watched from his private box. The caption was, “What are you going to do about it?”

America survived Boss Tweed and his ilk. Will we survive Trump? What are we going to do?

Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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