A Country Divided

by Michael Pearson

We live in a divided country — divided by education, by money, by circumstance, by race and religion and gender, by experience and perspective.  Most Americans believe in bridging such divides — “United we stand; divided we fall” is a phrase that most likely started with Aesop, but it wended its way through the New Testament to John Dickinson in his pre-Revolutionary war song, The Liberty Song, and into Patrick Henry’s last fiery speech.  I think most of us believe what Hilary Clinton intoned — “Stronger Together.”  But right now — 24 hours after the election that must have stunned the winner (could he have really expected to be victorious?) and the loser (didn’t every poll and pundit suggest she would be our first women president?)– most of us feel dazed and confused.  So, divided we stand —  a slight majority standing with the loser and an angry large minority standing with their brash, sniping, misogynistic, narrow-minded winner — our new President Donald Trump, three words as unsuited to be linked together as any I could have ever imagined.

My friends and I have talked about the beauties of the landscape of New Zealand, the friendly cheer of the Irish culture, the rustic warmth of Spain, the exotic logic of Iceland.  But my wife says leaving for a foreign land would be running away.  And, even if I could run from Donald Trump and the country that lifted him up — a celebrity clown, a barnyard bully — to the highest office in the land, I could never live without Jo-Ellen by my side.  So we’ll stand together, united, in our belief that the American dream cannot be altered by one man in four years.  That we’ll have to recall the battles of the 60’s and 70’s and stand up for clean air and a healthy environment.  That we’ll have to link arms with our brothers and sisters of color.  That we’ll have to pray with our Muslim friends and offer sanctuary to those immigrants seeking asylum.  That we’ll have to renew the struggle for women’s rights.  We’ll have to learn once again how to be revolutionaries.

I didn’t expect to be spending the next four years of my life engaged in candlelight vigils and marches on Washington, but I’m ready to do so.  But I’m also getting my Irish passport — in case Jo-Ellen changes her mind about starting over in a new land with me.

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mike

Michael Pearson teaches creative writing and American literature at Old Dominion University. He has published essays and stories in The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Southern Literary Journal, Shenandoah Review, Chautauqua, The Morning News, Creative Nonfiction, and many others. He has written seven books, most recently, Reading Life— On Books, Memory, and Travel.

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