I spent a good portion of the last twenty years overseas. Even when I was back in the States, it felt transient and temporary. I did not follow domestic issues closely.
I was in the Middle East when 9/11 happened, spending the night on Mount Sinai and freezing because my decision to stay and catch the sunrise was spontaneous and poorly planned. I woke up in the early morning darkness when a group of Australians reached the top. I was cold, tired, and grumpy, and as they looked for sleeping spots, I passive-aggressively wondered aloud why Australians were so loud. It wasn’t my best moment. They probably weren’t being loud at all, and I’m grateful they showed up. It was through them that I first learned something terrible had happened in America.
I wandered over to one of the tents where some enterprising Bedouins rented sleeping pads and blankets and sold tea. They were listening to a radio that did not sound like it was getting good reception. I didn’t speak any Arabic then. They had a little English. They tried to explain that a bomb had gone off in New York City where all the money was kept.
I remained overseas for most of the two years after 9/11, so I followed the subsequent events in the States – the genuine patriotic solidarity, increased focused on terrorism, and the decisions to invade Afghanistan and Iraq – from a distance. The same was true for much of the 2008 economic crisis. I was aware of the well-known protests and demonstrations, but I’d never participated in one or seen them first-hand, at least not in America. That has changed. I’m in Seattle now, trying to chart a course in photojournalism. It was a politically active city before the 2016 presidential elections. Since November 2016, that political activism has increased, which seems to be a national trend. People across the political spectrum are mobilizing, protesting, marching, and speaking out.
I’m wary of grand social statements, but 2016 was a divisive year for America. The presidential primaries and election were tense and bitter. That divisiveness has persisted and intensified through the Inauguration, cabinet confirmation process, and opening weeks of the Trump Administration.
Granted, I wasn’t around for the Civil Rights movement, and I can’t remember Vietnam or Watergate, but I’ve never experienced this level of nation-wide animosity, anger, and distrust. And that’s what worries me most in our present circumstances. These deep divisions have been simmering for a long time, and it’s hard to escape the idea that they’re persistent. Fortunately, our own history provides several precedents for having weathered tumultuous times, coming out the other side of the storm a little better off.
For now, though, the divisions continue, and I hope to capture or portray them in photos. Chasing a photojournalism dream later in life may not have been the wisest move I’ve made, but it’s certainly an interesting, albeit risky, time to have done so.
(WordPress Daily Prompt: Resist )