It’s Wednesday, September 2, 2020. It’s 62 days until Election Day.
It’s the 135th anniversary of the massacre of at least 28 Chinese immigrants in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
The immigrants worked as miners for the Union Pacific Railroad. In their testimony to the Chinese Consul to the U.S. in New York, the Chinese miners said they were targeted because they refuse to join their white counterparts in a strike for higher wages.
The white miners – men, women and children – chased and murdered the Chinese, who fled their soon-set-ablaze homes for the safety of the nearby hills. Eventually, U.S. troops quelled the rioting.
A grand jury refused to indict any members of the lynch mob, although the railroad did fire 45 of the white miners.
I picked this event over another significant milestone, the 75th anniversary of Japan’s formal surrender in World War II.
Because I wonder if we’re closer to the America of Rock Springs than the nation that united to win the fight against fascism.
We should be the latter. Since late February, we should have been in war mode against COVID-19. We should have treated this like the threat to Americans – to people everywhere, of course – that it has proved to be.
We should have been more like the nation that rationed sugar and butter and meat and oil. More like the nation that made sure the lights were out at night so would-be bombers couldn’t see us. The nation that shattered social norms by sending women into factories so men could go into battle.
Instead, a significant chunk of us still can’t be bothered putting on a mask. And nearly 185,000 Americans – significantly more than any other nation – have died. So far.
It seems ironic that the notion of patriotism is turned on its head in 2020.
Trump supporters believe individual discretion supersedes the public interest. It’s not just the masks. I want a drink at a bar. I want to get together with my biker friends at a rally. I want football games.
And the ultimate: If I don’t like what somebody is protesting, I can bring my AR-15 to town and shoot them.
Not e pluribus unum. Ubi est mea.
When I see Trump’s inability to criticize the actions of the shooter in Kenosha, when I hear his stooges defend the suspect – one said we need more like him and fewer like Greta Thunberg – I want to vomit.
When I see no compassion for Jacob Blake, no arrest in his case or that of Breonna Taylor, I want to cry.
When I see this push to minimize the COVID-19 pandemic, I wonder if the Trumpites figured out that the disproportionate toll the virus has taken on Black and Latino Americans is winning by attrition. The inevitable day that white America is no longer a majority pushed back if not erased.
Like the white miners of Rock Springs, the 40-something percent that has stayed with Trump persistently is not about being part of a grand national community that works together to solve problems.
It’s about getting what you want by any means. It’s about pointing to others and saying they don’t belong.
It’s affirming your own existence and denying the humanity of the other 328 million of us.
Denying humanity is what happened in Rock Springs 135 years ago.
But, as President Obama pointed out in his brilliant speech at the Democratic convention, Chinese people like the ones who survived Rock Springs didn’t give up on the promise of America spelled out in the Constitution. As others who faced diversity didn’t, either.
“(I)nstead of giving up, they joined together and said somehow, some way, we are going to make this work,” Obama said. “We are going to bring those words, in our founding documents, to life.”
Martin Luther King Jr said the arc of the moral universe is long and bends toward justice.
Sometimes I wonder. We’ll know more in 62 days.