Letter from America

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THE huge black SUV up ahead sported three large stickers plastered on back:

“ Thank a Cop”

“US Marines – part of the Navy family: the MALE part”

“I’m Christian and I vote!”

This was but a week following the American midterm elections and, here in Arizona, a perennial red state (that is, predominantly Republican, heavily Trumpian), voters had just done the unthinkable – for the first time in 30 years electing a Democrat to the United States Senate.

As if that weren’t disgraceful enough, this new member of America’s upper house of Congress is, in a remarkable, never-before Arizonan occurrence, a female Democrat.

I am here visiting my surrogate daughter, who is Balinese by birth, American by green card. Wayan and her considerably older (but young in heart) Yank husband of 15 years run an upscale bed and breakfast in the desert just outside Tucson. Giant saguaro cacti and a remarkable assortment of wildlife dot the breathtaking landscape.

Coming here was a marked departure from her lush, tropical Indonesian island. But my darling daughter is nothing if not adaptable. See her in the early morning distributing leftover food scraps to the motley array of coyotes, deer and the ever so strange looking javelinas which have answered her high-pitched la-la-la breakfast call. (Comes to the ground-level breakfast table a snake, however, and la-la-la becomes a shrieking arrrgh!-arrrgh!-arrrgh! and off she flees.)

She has remolded herself to blend in with the Yank lifestyle in every way save one. But if American politics does leave her cold, she might well be the only such soul in this entire land of the bitterly disenchanted.

Donald Trump, buffoon-in-chief and author of Make America Great Again, will, I’m convinced, go down as the one who did precisely that, but not quite in the manner intended. His madman antics, pitting middleclass and poor against one another as means to further enrich the mega-wealthy, have further divided an already torn-apart populace.

But his blatant racist-sexist arrogance, which, as intended, brought to the surface a festering hatred among gullible macho and evangelistic right-wingers has, as well, solidly coalesced the heretofore disenfranchised female, gay, minority, millennial elements of the left.

In America, no one sits on the fence anymore. Indeed, as the recent election showed, the flaccid old pols of the Democrat Party were bashed by the new radical lefties as harshly as the Republicans.

It is truly a new dawn; the American Revolution Part II has been catapulted into existence, and no one else but Donald the Doofus could have achieved it.

We follow the black SUV into the parking lot of an enormous shopping centre. The driver parks, gets out; he is Central Casting classic: swaggering pseudo-cowboy to the max, huge, enormously fat, his face etched villainous by a timeless grimace of futility, topped off with an clenched mask of post-election exasperation.

Where he is headed is the cathedral of his kind; following, I am making my very first entry, hopeful I will not be barred as an outsider, one of “them”.

This particular Walmart is on the smallish side for its ilk, barely the length and breadth of half dozen football stadiums. Its pilgrim-shoppers, many with red baseball caps bearing the holy message of His four uttered words, are a religious order unto themselves. Never have

I witnessed such obeisant obesity, such determined expressions of anguish, as though each soul is plodding through Saturnian gravity and pushing against a wall of gelatinous air with each troubled step.

For some reason, I feel childishly giddy; perhaps it is the number of exposed butt cracks, chasms of demarcation separating mountainous alabaster twin orbs and hinting at Grand Canyon depth.

Nearby, I spot a stand of hand-size 99 cent American flags with skinny plastic stems. I look at the flags, look at the butt cracks. Flags. Butt cracks. I resist the urge and move on to the next aisle.

By Barry Rosenberg