I have always had a fascination with America. My three week road trip in July 2009 was literally a dream come true. It was one of the best holidays I have ever had. I travelled to New York, Baltimore, Boston, Toronto, Washington, Portland, Nantucket Island and Hyannis Port. I vowed to see more and do more.
I have always dreamed about going to the West Coast, seeing Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. It would be great to visit Alcatraz and cross walk the Golden Gate Bridge. I am a huge American history buff. I would love to visit Dallas and all the places associated with the Kennedy Assassination. It would amazing to get to Memphis to see Lorraine Motel where Dr King stayed at on that fateful day in 1968. There are at least six Presidential Libraries that I have longed to see.
However, in this current climate, I don’t think that I will be going to the United States anytime soon. The main reason? Fear. I am worried about my personal safety. I am scared of trigger happy cops, who are far too quick to extinguish a black life on the grounds that they “feared for their safety.” How many unarmed black men have been killed by armed white cops? George Floyd is just one of many. His death has triggered off a wave of riots and protests, which may, may result in some lasting reform.
Just as dangerous as the deadly is the army of “Karens” that seem to have emerged. In case you are unaware, a Karen is an entitled white woman who seems to enjoy harassing people of colour. You could be sitting in a park, having a coffee or even going into to your own home. Karen will challenge and harass you, she will even call the police, claiming that you are threatening her safety. Imagine going to a gift shop or a bookstore and bumping into a Karen? No thanks.
Someone has described present day America as what the country would have been like if George Wallace had been elected president in 1968. George Wallace was the Governor of Alabama, who was opposed to desegregation. He was the perfect embodiment of the White America that opposed civil rights legislation. His appeal went far beyond the South. He tapped into the resentment of working class voters in the North. He was opposed to elites and intellectuals. He wanted Europeans to pay for their own defence. Wallace was not that keen on foreign wars. Does any of this sound familiar?
Donald Trump appeals to the same voters in 2020 that Wallace did in 1968. They both used language to antagonise their opponents and appeal to their base. I can easily imagine a President Wallace ordering the teargassing of hippies in 1970 outside the White House to demonstrate how tough he is. Trump, like Wallace before him, knows how to appeal to racists and white supremacists. Trump’s election has been the green light for racists and bigots to drop their masks and reveal who they really are, Karens included. The ugly virus of racism is deeply lodged in America’s DNA, with no sign of a Robert Kennedy or a Martin Luther King to unite or inspire people.
All we see from this side of the Atlantic, is a national filled with anger. Anger at immigrants, globalisation, the media, liberals, conservatives, racists and the elite. All fuelled by the media, mainstream and social. Inside this mix is a President who likes to light the fire or at least pour fuel on top. This is far cry from the country I visited in the summer of 2009.
This is not a country where I would like to spend a holiday.