It’s been one of those days.
I got up early this morning because I had to drive 75 miles to give the “Good Government Day” speech I posted here a few days ago. Before I left, I tried accessing my email only to discover that my computer no longer recognized me, and wouldn’t allow me to log on. It was pouring down rain and I was out of gas; by the time I’d filled the tank, I looked like a sad, drowned rat. I got lost twice on my way to the small town where the high school was located. And it rained. And rained.
Good Government Day is a big deal at this high school, and everyone evidently attends: the Mayor and Deputy Mayor (a delightful woman I had previously met), members of the City Council, and a variety of elected and appointed officers. I was introduced to the Clerk-Treasurer, who seemed like a very nice woman–until she launched into her description of what was wrong with America and her explanation of why we are losing our “way of life.” I’m not entirely sure who she was alluding to when she referenced “people who are intentionally destroying our system,” but it was hard to miss her distaste for “people from South America” who have evidently had the nerve to invade even her small town. To say that I was taken aback would be an understatement.
I don’t believe this particular officeholder was typical of that small town. I chatted with several others–teachers, candidates for the City Council–who seemed far more representative of the virtues we like to attribute to small-town American life: they were welcoming, thoughtful and gracious. But I couldn’t help wondering, as I drove back through the driving rain, how many people share that woman’s worldview. How many see difference as a threat, rather than an opportunity to experience new perspectives? How many are secretly convinced that “they” are trying to destroy America?
And who do you suppose “they” are?