I walk during my lunch break at work.
Lately I’ve taken to walking the part of The Trail of Tears that runs in downtown Nashville. A portion of that trail is two blocks away from the high-rise named for the president who forced their march. I try to get in touch with what it must have been like for the Cherokee who walked that particular route. It’s hard; today the area is a tourist trap with restaurants and trinket shops. A homeless woman in a wheelchair sells papers. Lawyers come and go from their offices.
Friday when I walked it was below freezing. I had on socks, shoes, gloves and a big coat. The Cherokee walked in weather like this with no shoes.
I think of the humiliation of being forced from your home to walk for months to reach a new place you know nothing about because your skin tone and way of life is not white. White people in Nashville turned out to watch the Cherokee as they came through, and to try to make a buck selling them things- food, clothing.
In the Nashville public square, granite monuments are engraved with interesting tidbits of Nashville history. Nothing is mentioned about the Trail of Tears. In addition, there are several monuments that mention free men of color, but nothing mentioned about slavery, even though one of the state’s largest slave sales houses was located nearby.
My need to understand that past helps me to comprehend what is happening in my world today. It’s a different time, but the same old power play.
This is the burden of entitlement. White people want security. We want to be on top. We want to make America great again. We are mad because we want something, and we don’t care how we get it or who we hurt in the process.
We fear Muslim terrorists. We fear black men who rape our women and sell drugs to our children. We fear immigrants coming to our country “illegally,” because they are drug traffickers and gangsters. We’re tired of having to support these non-whites who live off the government dole.
Never mind that statistics show a white person, especially a white woman, is more likely to be the victim of crime at the hand of someone known to the victim. White men, especially those of middle age, are more likely to kill themselves than die at the hand of someone else. Those drugs that are turning their children into monsters were often initially prescribed legally by a doctor and manufactured by an American drug company. And our president-to-be just gave huge tax incentives to Carrier to keep a handful of jobs in Indiana. Jobs that likely would have stayed anyway. Where’s the outrage about that kind of welfare?
I believe our problem is we don’t know who we are. We think we are special because God said so. Because movies and TV say so. Because Trump said so. Because America. Because Europe. Just because.
What we actually are is an invasive species of animal. We have survived for thousands of years because we continually foil Nature’s attempts to keep us in check. But Nature may win yet as we seem hell-bent on self-destruction with our never-ending appetite for more, more, more. Denying science won’t change that fact.
We are not special. We are not better than any other living creature, no matter what those old books and stories tell us. And there are not those of us who are any better than the other. No matter what things we possess. No matter what creation story we choose to believe. No matter the skin color.