- Rebecca Branle
Updated: Mar 18, 2021
We lost a lot in the last four years. We lost our people.
Not just to COVID. Not to death. But to cruelty, their own cruelty that came leaking and seeping out as the Trump years lumbered on. We waited for them to wake up. We waited for their gentle hearts to knock on the doors of their ignorance, and to say, finally, "enough." But day after day, crisis after crisis, they remained closed. They remained cruel.
I still catch myself asking why. Why was his assault on women not enough? Why was his racism not enough? Why, even now, are over a half million dead Americans not enough? What kind of kind heart doesn't pound down all the doors to wake up the sleeping mind of someone who supported this heartless man? How did they demand so much of me as a child, but demand so little of this man they'll sacrifice me for?
Now, though, more than ever, I'm wondering something new, something different than why. I'm wondering what if they were never actually the people I told myself they were, the people I'm so exhaustively mourning? I started to entertain the idea that, perhaps, they were just a collection of stories I had strung together, where time and time again I massaged them into the heroes my childhood wanted to have. Maybe there were no heroes. Just imperfect people grappling with an imperfect world and living with the scars left by the un-heroes before them. Maybe, back then, I was just a lost little girl who wanted to believe in all the beautiful lessons they taught. Because they did teach. They told me to be honest. To be fair. To do the right thing. In our lessons, they scorned religious hypocrites, shunned racists, detested greed.
But did they live it? I'm not so sure. I'm not so sure about anything these days. Because these days they respond to any mention of January 6th with a quick retort about BLM burning down cities. And my shoulders slump. The racism sits between us and creates a wall there, where admiration used to be. And I wonder if I'll ever be able to hug them without feeling the jagged edges of that wall.
And the wall gets wider and the wall gets higher as they share racist memes and talk in Trumpian themes. Uncles fall from grace. Aunts once coveted come undone. I miss my stories of them, in all their heroic perfection. I miss the easy kind of love that comes from seeing someone in only their best light. The love left in its place is a confused love, a love that wonders how, when you're taught to shun them, to love a racist, to ignore the lessons taught but left un-lived. To forget their eagerness to dismiss me and their eagerness to defend him.
I don't have the answers. I just sit with the confusion and wait. And hope that maybe, someday, they'll wake up and speak up and live up to my stories.
For now, I mourn the people, the heroes, I created.