While reporting in Italy, I look at the US with great sorrow. There will be no return to normal because normal was a grotesque lie.
At the height of Italy’s Covid-19 crisis, when all looked bleak, a friend asked if I preferred to remain in Italy or return to New Jersey. By that time, my husband and I received several pleas or offers to come back to the States. A few of my students expressed shock and concern that we opted to thug it out in Florence, a metropolitan that is about a two-hour drive from Italy’s red zone.
Similar to previous responses, I quickly told my sister-friend, “Hands down, Imma stay right here in Italy.” In my bones, in the memory of my DNA, I knew the response of law enforcement would be brutal once the pandemic hit the US. It might seem odd, but my husband and I felt that we had more of a chance to maintain safety and sanity in a country where neither of us have a command of the language and no family. More troubling, we knew my husband who is a Black man would be a main target if we went back home. Sadly, our predictions were right.
Without missing a beat, as the pandemic traveled through the US weeks later, cops across the country have ramped up their viciousness and barbarity. Disproportionately, on the other side of attacks are Black people, and more so, but not exclusively, Black men. Stream after stream, I’ve seen so much ferociousness in cop beat downs, take downs and body slams of Black and brown skin, it has ripped off the thick skin I’ve grown since the Black Lives Matter movement emerged with the killing of 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, in 2014.
For years, the steady reporting of police killings became a regular thing, or another round of cops acting up. I learned to process it, package it and put it away in a list of things we must work on. It was my survival mechanism to deactivate rather than be enraged every time an act of violence at the hands of peace officers made news. Like me, those who grew a tougher outer shell, are now rattled from the spike in videos showing police brutalizing unarmed, unaggressive citizens. My rage has reawakened.
All the while, armed paramilitary whites storm Michigan’s state house with high powered rifles and exit untouched. Even in Idaho, a grandfather proudly ushered his 11-year-old grand-daughter to the state lawmaker’s meeting to testify for the passage of laws to carry concealed weapons. Strapped to the child was her AR-15 rifle. They are patriots, while someone taping a cop is a criminal. Citizenship and power is a chimera in America for people like me.
In the US, there’s no pandemic occurring. Actually, it is a war zone. Or a purge from the bottom. Looking at my country from Italy is like a death watch. I am on the other side of the world with the rest of the globe, staring at the spectacle in disgust.
Right now, behind the blue wall of law enforcement are monsters in blue uniforms. Frankenstein’s creatures pieced together with the most debased views of humanity. For those who do nothing, or say nothing and also wear blue, only feed the monsters with silence and complicity.
Today, I am in deep mourning. Grieving because I know many are unaware of the inferno in which they exist. Lamenting at those who desire to be in better conditions, but cannot. In some ways, I have survivor’s remorse in Italy, as I hear deaths being reported by family and friends. I wonder how many are direct results of inept healthcare, or generations of neglect. There are many, and it is not an exaggeration, but a sobering reality.
However, after the sorrow, I know we will stand at a critical precipice around the world. Bob Marley said something like, when it rains, it doesn’t rain on one man’s house. The pitter-patter of this storm will impact all. Regardless of ethnic line or dialect, those who refuse to elevate will be left behind. Those who refuse to share power and place with those who have been left to die, will not make it in the change. But they will be a relic of an apocalypse of chaos that was avoidable, if they just decided to change. That also includes Frankenstein’s creatures.
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