“I can only imagine how you feel.”
No, you can’t. But thanks anyway.
There is no predicting or preparing for sudden events that change everything, things that don’t happen to you, only others. The duration may be short, long-lasting, even permanent. I have described how the deaths of my son and daughter altered the way I perceived light and color; how food lost its taste and water from the shower hurt my skin.
Ten years ago I was in a spectacular crash that demolished both cars and caused serious injuries to the driver and myself. My bones healed, but I still hear the metal-on-metal impact every time I see a car approaching, fast, on a two-lane road.
What happened last week was tragic-comic. I was carrying a heavy bag of clay cat litter from car to house. I stumbled on a new doormat. My hands weren’t free to break the fall.
Forehead vs. door sounded like a thunderclap. A huge knot appeared immediately. Ice helped. But I had an interview in a few hours so, lacking any neurological symptoms, I soldiered on. Next day, my eyes were completely circled in black. Help! I am a raccoon. However, having temporary disfigurement happen isn’t the point. Having the unthinkable happen is. Like feeling embarrassed, ashamed for my country.
My grandsons live in Canada. We are good buddies; I lived close by when they were small and visited every six weeks after I returned to N.C. Now they are grown men, with busy lives — jobs, law school, travel, girls.
I fly there about four times a year, which means I have every airline, route, terminal, food court between Greensboro and Montreal down pat. That includes navigating the massive U.S. and Canadian security, customs and immigration procedures at the Montreal airport.
To differentiate my roller bag from others, I tie an American flag bandanna around the handle. Last trip, for the first time, I felt concerned. Might my bag be vandalized? President Trump has angered our BFF Canadians with his rhetoric and tariffs, which have just taken effect. He insulted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau behind his back — calling him an “embarrassment” and a “terrible president” (the prime minister, actually) — while glad-handing him in person.
Is he nuts?
During my 25 years in Canada I observed that Canadians look up to Americans, sometimes with envy. Canadian businesses display American flags on July Fourth. I also know that Americans traditionally value their “friends to the north” for more than beer and hockey. The 5,000-mile border is minimally guarded and mostly peaceful. Now I am worried, even ashamed by the way the country I love is treating theirs.
Who ever thought that would happen?
By the same token, who ever imagined the leader of the greatest and most powerful nation the world has ever produced would shock and alienate longtime international allies gathered at conferences? Would snuggle up to regimes known to violate human rights, execute dissenters?
Whoever thought that Americans would feel compelled to apologize for their president’s policies or, as an increasing number of government officials have done, resign?
Whoever thought I would worry about my suitcase displaying stars and stripes?
Sorry, folks, but what only happens to others has happened to us.
Currently, the land of the free and home of the brave sports different posters: Instead of the Statue of Liberty, Freedom Tower, Lincoln Memorial and Mount Rushmore, we see parents who left life-threatening circumstances, sometimes on foot, seeking asylum. Wailing children, separated from everything familiar, including Mommy and Poppy. These children are blameless, yet punished. Because clean clothes, a few toys and healthy meals at a relocation center photo-op with the First Lady do not replace the strongest of human bonds.
I’m ashamed that I’m ashamed. But I’m committed to do something about it, given the only weapon at my disposal. Because according to words written by an Englishman appearing on the wall of the Library of Congress: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Mightier than misguided bombast, too, let’s hope.