I hesitated to write about Ferguson. Deeply disturbed by the Trayvon Martin story, I wrote a piece about a mother’s sleepless nights. I tweeted, I shared, I blogged. Apparently to no avail. Young unarmed black men are still getting shot on the streets of America.
Life goes on as it always does. There were bills to pay, work to do, other worries about money and kids and the old cars we own with over 350,000 miles between the two of them.
There were also health issues, but the Affordable Healthcare we finally secured got us through that ordeal.
Then along comes Ferguson to break my heart and once again, I find myself asking, what has happened to my country?
I must admit I haven’t been closely following the story. I don’t watch TV news these days. My sole source of information is reading the New York Times each morning. I stopped watching the news because I felt powerless to change anything and all it seems to produce is a constant low level of ambient anxiety.
So many days I no longer recognize my country. Gun-toting shoppers in Target and Taco Bell. Vigilantes coming to the aid of a treasonous rancher in Nevada, willing to put women and children in the line of fire over an issue regarding back rent owed. That, in my mind, is an act of sedition.
There is so much speculation regarding what happened in Ferguson. As always, the 24/7 news machine fills in the blanks before they have all the facts. They are full of conjecture and theory. They talk about a national dialogue. These dialogues never get us anywhere. They last for a week or two and then we’re off and running, chasing the next ambulance. The next piece of breaking news.
Another reason I haven’t kept up with the news on Michael Brown and the unfolding story coming out of Ferguson is that I have been on the road. My husband and I decided to escape the Florida heat this summer. He lined up work with loyal customers in New England and I came along for the ride, attending a writer’s conference in Southampton, visiting family and friends, and helping my Dad.
We have wonderful friends and family who have provided housing and delicious dinners. Friends with amenities; beach houses and lake cabins that needed painting and repairs. It’s been a productive time for both of us. I am finishing a third novel and making literary connections. My husband is earning money while reconnecting with friends.
Traveling like this gives you a fly on the wall perspective of life in America and one thing I have noticed is this, I am not the only one suffering from anxiety. Most of the people we stay with are wary and skeptical about the future. They worry about losing their jobs because it’s happened before and can happen again. They worry about their retirement, wondering if they are prepared or if it will ever happen. They worry about their children and their school loans, their job prospects, and the world they will live in.
Everyone mumbles about the One Percent as if there is nothing we can do about it. We have little faith in government to change anything. There is a feeling that power lies elsewhere.
The middle class feels used, abused, and helpless.
It’s sad. It’s depressing. The news out of Ferguson is disturbing, but not surprising. Racial inequality and income inequality are simmering beneath the surface of daily American life. From the Ocean State to Cape Cod and Cape Ann, the White Mountains, the Green Mountains, and the lakes of Maine, I have heard the whispers. Someone needs to shut off the spin and propaganda and start listening to the real voice of America.
***Originally published on The Huffington Post 8/21/2014