They seemed to emerge from the shadows. Such as . . .
The person who abruptly asked me about my stance on abortion.
The fellow that, after claiming all so-called mainstream media lied, refused to share what news sources informed his views.
The woman who posted an inflammatory meme about Black Lives Matter—with blatantly fabricated “facts”—that never answered my courteous reply.
In the strange, seductive landscape of social media, I encountered those three people. They are examples of the digital friends and strangers that engaged in (and disengaged from) online conversations about our most divisive subjects: racism, policing, media, and politics.
For me, their responses represent the shadow side of the American experience. We all pledge allegiance to the same red-white-and-blue flag, a symbol of our unity, as it waves over schools, government buildings, homes, sporting events, and more. And yet, a shadow is there, the murky world of our clashing views that split and splinter our country. Citizens express hatred for other citizens with remarkable ease. We thump each other with conflicting, selective facts. We mingle with the “tribes” we claim, comfortably bantering with like-minded folks while berating the “them” that is different from “us.”
I suspect any concession announcement from President Trump’s will mirror one of his most influential—and malicious—political LIES. However, I won’t be surprised if our current president never utters anything acknowledging his defeat or congratulating President-elect Biden.
Citizen Trump was arguably the highest profile “celebrity” to publicly doubt former President Barack Obama’s place of birth. Mr. Trump was a birther. Though there were earlier clues about Trump questioning Obama’s citizenship, his 2011 appearance on Good Morning America represents his flagrant LIE meeting his biggest audience.
Tweets inevitably followed.
When the then New York real estate mogul and former reality TV star came down the Trump Tower elevator to declare his presidential bid in 2015, the LIE was one of his favorite calling cards. Speak or tweet the LIE and reactions followed. Many jeered . . . how wrong and misguided that LIE was. But many, in particular those who were forming his political base, cheered.
Citizen Obama had job interviews, applications to colleges, and campaigned successfully and unsuccessfully for political office. His background was known. Individuals and institutions had endlessly vetted him over the years. Had his citizenship been a question, it would have been questioned early and often. However, there was nothing to question.
August 27, 2020 was my last day of gainful employment at Hinds Hospice. In August of 2010, I started as a volunteer. I mostly visiting hospice patients in their homes whenever the Volunteer Coordinator gave me an assignment. In the summer of 2011, the person in charge of Hinds’ Center for Grief and Healing was wondering about having a volunteer handle some of the Medicare-required bereavement calls. Kathy Cromwell interviewed me and decided to take a risk on this grumpy old fella.
It was a risk because it required extensive training, trust I would do the work, and (drum roll, here) giving a volunteer complete access to the confidential medical records of all past and present patients served by Hinds Hospice.