Thank you for your insightful words, Marley K. Although I thought I was reasonably aware of how America worked before I moved here, I can’t say I was prepared for how ruthless and unforgiving American life is.
I spent the first year in the US trying to explain to my family how it was possible for cops to kill black folks, get away scot-free, and sometimes even keeping their jobs. My family wanted to know and mentioning white supremacy took them aback, because we — they, me — all thought this era mostly belonged within history books.
America still looms large in French popular imagination — especially among baby boomers like my parents — and represents an eldorado where everything is the biggest and the best.
What’s more, they’re very aware we owe the US an eternal debt of gratitude for freeing us from Nazism. To us, history is still very much alive. Go to any French or Belgian city or tiny village in the middle of fields and you’ll see a monument to locals who lost their lives in WWI and WWII listing all the names. Those monuments are all centrally located and well-maintained — this is how we perform our duty of remembrance, and it’s a matter of human decency.
Lastly, I wrote this piece in the summer and alienation has only gotten much worse since then. Suffice to say I’m descended from folks who always keep an eye on the door, and my gut feeling is disturbing.