×
×
homepage logo

Stiehm: A sad situation, the state of the nation

By Jamie Stiehm - | May 20, 2022

Jamie Stiehm

WASHINGTON — Ineffable. The state and soul of the nation is just that. The National Cathedral bell tolls for thee and me.

But all I have are words. Let me try to explain the sharp sense of loss we carry these days. The fear is real, that the worst of us are stealing America’s meaning from the rest of us.

At once, we’re suffering four crises: race hatred, human rights, public health and democracy itself.

Buffalo, New York, is a fine city that was bloodied, with 10 shot dead, from an armed young hater who drove 200 miles to hunt prey in a Black neighborhood grocery store. A quotidian afternoon. He showed no mercy to the dignity of those humans, old or young.

They are gone, but the shock of such racial violence shakes the city and country for a long time to come. The grief will never go away for their friends and families. The violation to public square peace is ineffable.

Thank you, fork-tongued fox Tucker Carlson, for your white nationalist “replacement” theory. You’re our own Imperial Klan wizard, hidden well under your veneer.

Merchants of hate sell these days, especially online, but the FBI is flat-footed on an internet that’s as wild as the Old West.

On a second front, reproductive rights are human rights that go beyond one’s body. They mean a woman or girl’s dignity — and yes, her life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Life chances are bound up with reproductive freedom.

That’s the law of the land for 50 years. Yet five radical Right Supreme Court members think they can take that away from us. Just like that. And maybe they will, because they can. Most of the nine justices are conservative Catholics.

You tell me, is Rome coming home for us, into our intimate spaces?

The Supreme Court is meant to expand human rights as time goes along. That’s the march of progress and the optimist’s view of history. But hear me now, if the Court were to strip away rights from a whole class of people, it would be us — women and girls.

You can count on it.

I heard the bell tolling the day in May when coronavirus deaths reached one million — two years and two months since the pandemic began. Again, our faith in America’s spirit and can-do capability was tested and failed. I know, right?

Haphazard was the word for government handling of the crisis. Former President Donald Trump somehow managed to polarize the nation on wearing masks. His talent for sowing seeds of anger among us, even as hundreds were dying every day, is absolutely unmatched. Give him that.

Once COVID-19 vaccines were available and President Joe Biden took office, reason prevailed. Still, so many were lonely, scared or sick.

The children who stayed home from school were socially and educationally starved during the pandemic. Lots of chance meetings, conversations and friendships never got off the ground. A favorite clothing boutique closed. The sidewalks were eerily empty.

Time stood still yet passed, leaving us sadder if not wiser. Missing one million people from our lives became a silent shared burden of sorrow.

One last component of crisis: Democracy came under siege when a mob of tens of thousands rushed the Capitol walls on Jan. 6, 2021. They aimed to undo the peaceful transfer of power for the very first time.

Trump invited and incited them in the light of day. The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, among other extremist groups, answered his call. They came from as far away as Texas and California. They posted travel plans on the internet.

In the darkness before dawn, Biden emerged as the winner, after deadly attacks on the Capitol. I was there, inside. All we knew at the teary end was that American democracy had a very close call.

Part of our present predicament goes back to Roger Taney, whose bust is buried in the bowels of the Capitol. As chief justice in 1857, he enshrined white supremacy into law with his infamous Dred Scott decision, ruling Black people could never have rights as citizens.

The cruel, political Taney court led straight to the Civil War. Clearly, he haunts us to this day — ineffably.

Jamie Stiehm may be reached at JamieStiehm.com. Follow her on Twitter @JamieStiehm.

Newsletter

Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)