This month’s blog was supposed to be a humorous account of our annual yard sale, but that will have to wait until my mood is lighter, maybe after the mid-term elections. I’ve been struck by Adult Onset Attention Deficit Disorder, a condition that makes it impossible for me to concentrate on one topic if that means I must banish our current events from my thoughts and writing.

We are today who we have always been. If we weren’t who we’ve always been, trump would not have been elected, his base would not be as powerful as it seems, and the hatred of brown people seeking refuge in our country would not have invited trump and his DOJ to remove children from their parents.

child clinging to father


I’m tempted to write “they” instead of “we,” because Americans of color, no matter our economic, educational, or professional status remain to a certain extent outsiders in this nation. But the newly popular DNA tests whose results help us find our genealogical pasts yield proof that few Americans of color can claim to be exclusively African. For that reason and when it makes sense historically,  I’ll stick to writing “we.”

We are today who we were when we slaughtered the original inhabitants of this land,  separated young Native Americans from their families, sent them to faraway “boarding schools” where their culture and history was “taught out” of them, and then  carved their property into reservations and ordered them to live in those restricted areas. Some people protested, but not loudly enough.

indian reservation photo


Here’s where I have to change the subject pronoun.

They are today who they were when they kidnapped millions of Africans, bound their hands and legs in chains and shackles, and consigned them to generations-long terms of slavery. It was routine practice to rip children away from their parents. Taken to the opposite side of a state or farther, to a different state resulted in many children never again seeing their mother, father, or siblings.

slave ship



The Abolitionists gave speeches and wrote newspaper articles decrying this evil, but it took a war’s bullets, blood, and deaths to end the “peculiar institution.”



We are today who were in the 1940’s when we entered the communities of Japanese Americans and commanded these U.S. citizens to forsake their homes and live in government built detention camps. Many voices that might have been raised in protest were silent, unaware of what was happening. While the history texts used in the 1950’s and 1960’s described WWII and the horrors of the Holocaust, they devoted only a scant paragraph or two about our own country’s participation in ethnically-based mass incarceration. No doubt there were people who spoke out against this travesty, but their protests were muffled by rubber and nylon ration regulations and dreaded “I regret to inform you” telegrams delivered by young grim-faced men whose innocence was washed away by the tears of the missives’ recipients.

Japanese internment


I’m thankful that today fewer of us are who we were when we committed those inhumane acts. Thanks to the media, we can see and hear what’s going on at our nation’s southern border. Some of us listen to the children’s cries as parents would listen. We want to dry their tiny tears and offer hugs that promise a reunion with their loved ones. Very soon. Others of us huddle under our sorrowful memories of having cried out for parents who couldn’t be near to comfort us.

I’m very grateful to all of those who march, demonstrate, and hoist signs laden with messages of opposition to the intolerance and cruelty that would tear children from their parents’ arms, label them by number or code, and scatter them to distant places, as if they were tumbleweeds.

I give thanks for the large number of Americans who know we don’t have to remain who we were. We are free to be better than we’ve ever been. We are free to remind others eager to hack away the foundations of our democracy, that we shall not abandon the freedoms guaranteed us by the U.S. Constitution.


Renée Bess is the author of five novels, all published by Regal Crest Books, LEAVE OF ABSENCE; BREAKING JAIE; RE:BUILDING SASHA; THE BUTTERFLY MOMENTS; and THE RULES. Her most recent project, OUR HAPPY HOURS, LGBT VOICES FROM THE GAY BARS, is an anthology Renée co-curated with Lee Lynch. As of this writing, it is a two category finalist for a Goldie Award. Renée blogs here at Women and Words the fourth Thursday of every month. Her website is: http://www.reneebess.com




  1. Thank you for your column today Renee. Who among us could sleep last night? This morning I go off to teach home health aides how to provide trauma-informed care to holocaust survivors. I explain to them that much of what they will learn today will help them with other clients too. I always start the training by explaining how the holocaust happened: a man who many thought was a joke, wanted to make Germany great again. But I also tell them that it was more than just him, because anti-seminitism, racism, ablism, homophobia and all the rest didn’t stop when he was defeated. So, yes, we are who we have always been and yet how I wish we weren’t. How I wish we could learn from the past instead of being doomed to repeat it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Alison, you are doing wonderful, humanistic work that will result in others’ being able to do their work with understanding, compassion, and kindness. It is I who say, “Thanks,” to you.


  2. Renee, sleep may be out of the question or at least limited for a while. If we want to be better than we have been, we cannot be overwhelmed by the grief of the moment…or at least for more than just a moment. We must act, as you said. Thank you for this awesome blog. I greatly appreciate your words and your courage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I so agree with you, Penny. To recognize and admit that something is broken, not whole, unhealthy, and destructively malignant is extremely difficult for most of us. To do the work it takes to repair that which is broken is nearly impossible for many. We know, however, that repairs can be done, malignancies can be excised, healing/being better human beings is possible. We Americans are at a crossroads. Do we let our wounds continue to fester, or do we take a deep breath, listen without rancor to each other, and get well?
      I know I’m singing to the choir, Penny. Thanks for your support.


  3. Renee,

    Thank you for giving voice to all of us who discuss these issues daily…..Yes, these are dangerous times! The open drain into which our Democracy is flowing (no matter its history and imperfections) has never been more apparent!

    The Electoral College accomplished its purpose of controlling outcomes of the popular vote whenever the “power elite” deem it necessary.

    “We the People” are quickly losing the “balance of power” principle in our Nation because of rampant Greed, Anger, and Stupidity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Renee

    I couldn’t have said it better. We need to go back to old grassroots organizing if we are going to get out the vote and turn things around.


    • De acuerdo, Diane. Each of us can do something to halt the fall of our nation. I’m thinking about getting a stack of voter registration forms and distributing them to any friend, neighbor, or stranger with whom I strike up a conversation. It appears the voting booth will be our last bastion of defense, with the proviso that it won’t be hacked by …


  5. Great blog, Renee. I feel frustrated about what to do, especially since physical limitations keep me from being out in the streets.
    But I know that we must get the vote out–all the people who are appalled by what Trump et al are doing must become active participants in our democracy if we have any hope of having a democracy.


    • I believe you’re right on target, Sharon. Are there any nearby grass root political groups with which you can network? These organizations always need people who can make pro-candidate phone calls, or address and stuff envelopes on the behalf of candidates and/or important issues. It’s probable that your mobility challenges would not prevent you from participating in these efforts.


    • Thank YOU, Andi (and Jove as well,) for providing a space where writers voices can be heard.


  6. Dear Renée,
    This is heart rending and enraging at the same time. Our so-called leaders are cruel, heartless, and criminal. What will become of us if we continue on this path?


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