The Wife and I are traveling this weekend, spending a few days in the Finger Lakes. We got back to our rented cottage yesterday, when I found a Direct Message from a Facebook friend. It was something along the line of “I hope it didn’t happen in YOUR workplace, and I hope you’re OK.”
I had no idea what he was talking about.
I learned quickly.
No, that was not my workplace. I do work in a Buffalo area grocery store, but not that chain and not in that area. It’s appalling nonetheless, on so many levels. I’ve often thought about what it would be like when it happened where I work. Not if, but when. I know every way out of my building, every place I can hole up if I can’t get out, every object I might use if defense becomes necessary.
I shouldn’t have to think like this.
But that’s not even the worst of it, is it?
It’s an entire community of human beings, specifically targeted again. Reminded that they will always be targeted, again. Reminded of this country’s long ghastly history of this stuff, again. Confronted by our nation’s abject refusal to admit its past and atone, again.
That’s all we do in this country: it’s just one big litany of again. Again. Again.
No horror, no injustice, no violent outcome is ever enough for us to collectively say, “No more.” We will be back about our business by, oh, I don’t know. Dinner time today, I guess.
I don’t have anything insightful to say about this. I have no suggestions for a way forward, because even if I did, we very clearly don’t want a way forward. We’re not interested. At this point, the warp and weft of America isn’t fate, nor is it judgment handed down from on high. It’s a choice.
We are the country we have chosen to be, and I see no reason to believe we are going to choose to be anything other than this.
And that is how America will fade into history.
I often wonder these days about Roman citizens around the year, oh, 350CE. Or 400. Maybe even a bit later.
The commonly accepted date for the fall of the Roman Empire is 476CE, but it’s not as if there was some grand proclamation in Latin officially ending the Empire. It just withered, and that’s when historians generally agree that beyond that point, with the deposing of that last Emperor, that nothing existed that could be meaningfully called “the Roman Empire”.
But I wonder about the citizens who lived in Rome not long before that. Did a Roman potter in 422CE sense that it was ending? A fisherman in what is now Napoli? A seamstress in modern-day Tuscany? Did they have some feeling that the Empire in which they lived was soon to be history?
And if they did, did it feel something like what it feels to be an American now?