A Great Nation Shattered
A nation exhausted by eight months of bungled, intentionally ineffective attempts to fight a pandemic, devastated by nearly a quarter of a million preventable deaths, and ripped apart by a president and a plutocracy pledged only to their own vision and greed—this is the United States tonight.
The country that brought the ideal of democracy to the modern world, that has always championed, at least in principle, free and fair elections, that birthed an idea of liberty and justice for all that lived for nearly 250 years and inspired the French Revolution in the eighteenth century and the Arab Spring in the twenty-first, now boards up its cities on the eve of the 2020 presidential election in anticipation of civil unrest, looting, destruction, and streets too dangerous to survive.
How could this have happened?
How could it not have happened?
We are a nation forged by conquest, built by slave and indentured labor, and sustained by an economic system that crushes and demonizes those most in need. We invented the “science” of eugenics, we let loose the most powerful weapon of mass destruction ever created, we welcomed immigrants to our shores—Irish or Eastern European, Mexican or Muslim—not for their cultural wisdom but for their cheap labor, and from Wounded Knee to Tulsa to San Francisco and beyond we murdered those who demanded equality and justice.
We are a nation deeply divided, and we always have been. It has taken a terrifying pandemic and an economic system that cannot even provide adequate health care to those most affected to show us clearly who and where we are.
But both things are true—the ideals that we cherish and the reality that we cannot continue along this same path and still preserve our democracy and our future. I grieve for what we’ve lost, for what we must still endure, for what we could have been. The way forward to our better selves and a nation worth preserving will be long and hard. So let us commit now to take the first step toward truth and reconciliation, whatever happens tomorrow.
Copyright © 2020 Tanya Hayes Lee
Tanya Hayes Lee is a visual artist who works primarily in oil on canvas in a modern abstract impressionist style. Her paintings convey the sublime in nature and are visual metaphors for our relationships to the world and to each other. Lee’s greatest inspirations include the nineteenth-century painters George Innes, J.M.W. Turner and John Constable. She studied studio art at the Mass College of Art, Scottsdale Artist School, and Northern Arizona University. See more of Tanya’s work at www.tanyahayeslee.com and follow on Instagram: @tanyahayesleeart.