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See the stormtrooper shock troops with vacant eyes, kitted out in their body armor, armed with rubber bullets, choke holds, truncheons and tear gas, itching for violence, the first option of choice for the corporate rich.
Watch as the brutes in blue knock a 75-year man to the ground and march past him as he bleeds from a head wound. Police brutality is now a redundant phrase; their snuff films de rigueur for prime time viewing. One thousand deaths-by-policea yearly quota. We are expendable, all of us who dare to question, step out of line or protest. To the military industrial police gang Black lives have rarely mattered. Even their very last breath is a threat.
Hear the billionaire president bellow "Law & Order!" as he cowers in the White House bunker tweeting word salad while impatiently awaiting his next scheduled tee time. Observe as those emotionless Robocops cruelly clear a path through the innocent for the POTUS as he slithers from his hidey-hole holding a Bible in his clean, manicured handsthe ultimate money shot photo op for the evangelical elite. We must be dominated, he said. Our unrest must be punished.
Listen to the president's complicit righteous naves as they sell their souls for a chance to touch his sleeve and slurp like hungry hogs from the public trough. They will never apologize for their gluttony because, as their leader shows, contrition equals weakness.
Make way for the swaggering militias in their wannabe GI Joe khaki clown suits, their itchy fingers fondling their long guns as they wave the failed flags of the defeated and disgraced. They are spurred on by the fetid toxicity of their own bitter brew of bile, as they protect the statues of their heroes: domestic terrorists, slave masters, murderous conquistadors and Indian killers.
Breathe in their sour vapors of rancid racism wafting from the blood-stained legacies of Wounded Knee, Robert E. Lee, Jim Crow, and Bull Conner. Realize that this is still, in no small part, their country, a white nation that will not admit that its founding origins are forever drenched in slavery and genocide.
Fear this devolution of intellect, reason and compassion, this distrust of fact, truth and science, now replaced by an embrace of lies, conspiracies and denials. Their lesson to us? Truth is in the eye of the teller. Oh, beautiful for specious lies.
Shudder, realize we are truly alone, those increasingly enticing foreign borders now closed to us, the parasitic people of the world pandemic. We are on our own to fend off the virus, the unemployment, the foreclosures and the evictions. Truth even quarantined as the millionaire vice presidentthe unwavering devoted Christian soldier of false piety and sinister sinceritywaves his soft, un-callused hands and boasts that we have flattened the coronavirus curve. Then, of course, he urges us to pray. As if.
Discover your emotional limit. That nauseating tipping point when you sense that everything you once believed that was exceptional and honorable about this imperfect nation has disappeared in four horrible years; that a cruel madman to rival his mentors in Turkey, Hungary, Russia and the Philippines will never ever protect you. That, instead, this shallow, mediocre man, incapable of even the simplest of empathetic gestures, bereft of compassion and warmth, beholden to the Kremlin thugocracy, views your faith in diversity, civil liberties and inclusiveness, as a threat. To his family. To his brand. He tells us that even our health must be sacrificed for his vainglorious gain.
Reject one nation, under Don, with liberty and justice for some.
Find a landing pad, if you can, between anger, depression and dispassion. Make choices. Avoid the crush of the news cycles or tune in 24/7 to the mayhem of a divided nation fitfully settling in to autocracy? Save yourself or (is this even possible) save a nation? What will soothe that dark pit of despair churning in your gut? How do you douse the flame of anxiety? How will you quell the not knowing? Is there a vaccine for this particular anguish?
Fan the very last glowing embers of the American Dream. Despite what now seems almost impossible, believe that we can, someday, still be that shining rare example of democracy on this broken planet, that cherished ideal in which we strive to be our better angels, where we welcome the immigrant and the refugee, and where justice and the rules of law apply equally to all. You know, the United States of America, the nation that the world once respected and looked to as a beacon of hope and opportunity. Be keepers of that flame while it still burns. Until your last breath, resist. Resist.
Stephen J. Lyons is the author of four books of essays and journalism. His most recent book is "Going Driftless: Life Lessons from the Heartland for Unraveling Times."
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