|Corpse in street of Nagasaki, the day after the atomic bombing|
Photo by Yosuke Yamaha
August 10, 1945
We were about ready to get started with our book group when the doorbell rang again. “Pardon me,” I told the others, and hurried to the door. When I opened it, I stood there for a minute, unable to recognize the person standing there.
“Well, aren’t you going to let me in?” came a plaintive voice.
“Liz!” I exclaimed. “I couldn’t figure out who you were! What’s with the dark glasses and the head scarf and turned-up collar? Are you on the lam from the cops?”
“It’s not funny,” she said, as I took her coat and hung it up. “How would you feel if you were a Republican nowadays?”
“Oh Liz,” I said, giving her a quick hug. “Come on in. It’s not your fault. Nobody is blaming you for all the vile things your candidates in the presidential debates are spouting.”
She stepped into the living room as tentatively as a kid dipping a toe in a lake in December. But she brightened up when the other women greeted her with a chorus of “So glad you could make it!” and other cheerful welcomes.
“Thank you all so much,” she said with relief. “I was afraid I was going to be a pariah.”
“I know things have really been going downhill,” I said, “but has something pushed you past the tipping point?”
“I guess you haven’t seen the news this morning,” Liz said. “The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks all these white supremacists and other hate groups. They’ve been doing it for years now. This morning they released a report linking the extreme anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric pouring out of our GOP primary debates with attacks on Muslims and a major growth spurt among hate groups. God, I’m so embarrassed.”
“You shouldn’t take it personally,” said Lynn gently. “We know what kind of person you are. When Donald Trump says that people coming here from Mexico are basically drug dealers and criminals and rapists, we know you feel the same way we do--that Trump’s claim is a hateful, despicable, racist lie. And when he says he would bar all Muslim foreigners from entering the United States, we know you’re as appalled as any other decent person.”
“I appreciate your support so much,” said Liz miserably. “But after he said those things, plus the insults and bullying and boasting and all kinds of crude sexist comments about Carly Fiorina’s face and blood coming out of Megyn Kelly’s ‘wherever’--what happened? He went straight to the top of the party’s polls. I couldn’t believe it. I kept asking myself, ‘What’s that say about the GOP I’ve belonged to for over twenty-five years?’”
“I feel for you,” said Nora. “When Marco Rubio got all hysterical claiming that Obama was dividing the country because the president went to a mosque in Baltimore and talked about inclusion, I thought the top of my head would blow off. Obama tries to pull people together and Rubio accuses him of trying to divide us. That’s grotesque. It's Orwellian doublespeak if I’ve ever heard it. No offense, Liz,” she added quickly.
“I have to say that when the Republican candidates tried to outdo each other on how they would torture suspected terrorists, I couldn’t help but think of you. In a sympathetic way,” Ann added as Liz flinched.
“I did too,” I admitted. “When Trump said ‘I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,’ and Chris Christie said waterboarding isn’t torture and he would use it, and Marco Rubio threw in that he’d ‘haul captured terrorists to Guantánamo Bay’ and ‘find out everything they know,’ I just had to turn off my TV in disgust. I said to myself, ‘I hope Liz isn’t watching’.”
“Thanks, Patty,” Liz murmured. “Unfortunately, I was.”
“I guess I bottomed out when Ted Cruz gave his plan for fighting the Islamic State," said Ruth. ‘We will utterly destroy them. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion,’ he said. Doesn’t he understand that he’s talking about wiping out whole cities of men, women, and children? Or doesn’t he even care? I kept thinking, ‘Poor Liz. How can she handle being associated with men like these?’”
“Of course he understands!” said Lynn. “After Trump said that to fight terrorism you need to take out their families--and he said it three times, just for emphasis--it was like they were in a contest to see who could be the most bloodthirsty.”
“Well in that case, Cruz was the winner,” said Nora. “He got as extreme as you can get when he talked about going nuclear, and gloated about it. Remember when he said, ‘I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.’ This is the favorite candidate of evangelical Christians, mind you, bragging about his eagerness to obliterate whole populations with atomic bombs. These guys don’t seem to have any boundaries. I don’t mind telling you, they scare the hell out of me. I shudder to think of one of them actually becoming president. I can’t imagine being in your place, Liz.”
Liz bowed her head. “A huge chunk of the people in my party are eating this stuff up. It just floors me,” she confessed. “Where are the normal, sensible people that made me a Republican in the first place? It’s as if I walked out of my childhood home and wandered into a facility for the criminally insane. I feel so guilty.”
“You haven’t done anything wrong, Liz,” said Nora kindly.
“Oh, I should have spoken out, I know it. But I kept telling myself, who would listen to me? I’m a nobody.”
“Nonsense,” said Dorothy firmly. “If there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s that we’re each a somebody, not a nobody. You didn’t create this mess, but you’re caught up in it. We all sympathize with the situation you’re in. But it’s time to stop feeling sorry for yourself and decide what you’re going to do about it.”
© Tony Russell, 2016