I returned from Spain to discover my home in shambles.
Not the house in which I live, but the country I call home.
My husband, two daughters and I had spent twelve days abroad, to visit my grandfather’s homeland, a place that has always held my heart. When I’m there, something in the blood says, “This is you, and you are this.” We went in celebration of my birthday, an extravagant and memory-making exercise in togetherness. Our plan: to break the cycle of our busy lives and broaden our collective point of view.
On the long plane ride home, my fourteen-year-old told me what her most vivid memory of our trip was.
“There were those guys on the street in Barcelona, asking for money. Remember? They had three signs in front of their collection cans:
‘BEER’, ‘WEED’, ‘FUCKKK TRUMP’. That was cool,” she said.
I remembered. They were a dirty steam-punk brood, their primitively scribed display propped against the well-lit façade of an H+M store on the crowded Rambla. Amidst the throngs of bustling tourists snapping photos, we’d paused to admire their aesthetic and their bold message. Those squatters’ signs beat out my daughter’s memories of flamenco dancers, medieval cathedrals, Belearic beaches and Gaudi’s mad sense of beauty; a peek at the inner workings of my American girl.
On the long plane ride home, I got lost in the words of a man who’d returned to America after a prolonged self-exile. His remove sharpened his perspective on what he called the American legend. The book, James Baldwin - The Last Interview and Other Conversations, spans twenty-five years of Baldwin’s revelatory visions of race, exile, homosexuality, American injustice, and the writing life.
High above the Atlantic Ocean, our mobile news feeds silenced, my family and I were oblivious to the violence erupting on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. As white supremacists staged a hostile assault on Equality, Freedom, and Public Safety, Baldwin’s fifty-year-old insights defined our immediate state of American disgrace:
“If one could accept the fact that no nation with twenty million black people in it for so long and with such a depth of involvement, that no nation under these circumstances can be called a white nation, this would be a great achievement, and it would change a great many things.” – James Baldwin, 1961
The moment connectivity resumed, a deluge of reports and reactions flooded in. By the time we reached the familiar comforts of the house we call home, we’d each curated our own synopsis of the day’s tragedies, including Mr. Trump’s incompetent response.
My eleven-year-old spoke up. “Trump didn’t come out against the KKK! Even those Spanish street dudes knew what a jerk he is.”
“Yes,” I said. “Most of the world knows what a jerk he is. And as Americans, it’s important that we voice our opposition. His version of America is not ours. He is not our president.”
It’s been four days since Charlottesville erupted.
Donald Trump continues to flail and tweet and fuel the fire.
His failure to encourage peace and brotherhood is an outrage.
His failure to exhibit any semblance of morality or empathy is unconscionable.
His failure to defend the core principles of American justice is an act of treason.
He has never been my president.