Experiencing America as a Split-Screen Nation

Experiencing America as split-screen nation is unnerving and jarring, but it has always been this way./ Maria Padilla

The march of women all over the country provided a glimpse of America, our split-screen nation.

Millions of women – and men – mostly progressive but also conservative came together in peaceful fashion in cities and communities from coast to coast and around the globe to say, “I disagree with this moment, this movement.”

About 10,000 people marched around Lake Eola, which has become Orlando’s go-to ground for all important things. (Full disclosure: I was at the march as first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Orange County.)

Nation Gone Rogue

Protestors stood against what appears to be a resurgence of racism, a reset of gender inequality, a reprise of old battles in a nation gone rogue. They held up signs stating:

• “Hoping for Moral Leadership.”

• “Love America Again.”

• “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.”

• “Equality Doesn’t Hurt.”

• “Hell Hath No Fury as 157 Million Women Scorned.”

• “Be Excellent to Each Other.”

Many believed that our nation always marched forward toward progress, toward the promise of the lofty ideals contained in our Constitution.

Split-screen Truth

But I’m learning this is not so – and perhaps never was. America bobs and weaves like boxer in the ring, making it hard to pin it down, put your arms around it. The boxer is so bold and beautiful that you forget he’s brutalizing his opponent. Split-screen nation: The bright lights obscure the dark corners, but the dark corners were always there.

Understanding America means facing this ugly truth.  I turn to Rubén Blades’ song Buscando America, written in the 1980s:

Te estoy buscando América
y temo no encontrarte,
tus huellas se han perdido entre la oscuridad.

Te estoy llamando América 
pero no me respondes, 
te han desaparecido, los que temen la verdad. 

I fear America is hiding, for the America I know and love is on the second screen. That is the history and legacy of our split-screen nation.

History and Legacy

A Founding Father and owner of slaves pens an amazing document stating that “all men are created equal.”

The end of the Civil War brings a truncated Reconstruction that leads seamlessly to Jim Crow.

The populist uprising under Andrew Jackson disempowers and disenfranchises Native Americans under a Trail of Tears.

Lady Liberty welcomes the huddled masses from Eastern and Southern Europe as discrimination against newcomers flourishes.

Women earn the right to vote but cannot obtain credit, take out a loan, seek birth control – to say nothing of abortion – without men’s approval.

Women enter the workforce during the 1970s because of a feminist movement but also just in time to counter men’s wages  that are starting to stagnate. We didn’t earn dollar for dollar what men earn and still do not.

A women’s right to an abortion is not settled law but is under attack in many states.

So are voting rights, which are being chipped away in many, mostly Southern states with ludicrous and unproven claims of voter fraud that push for more stringent voter identification laws.

Revolt Ongoing or Underway

And so it goes. Split-screen nation. A major or minor triumph even as the revolt against it is ongoing or underway. It is not all or nothing. It is a lot of this – say, civil rights marches – and a little of that, say George Wallace proclaiming, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

Happening simultaneously.

Resistance is not futile; it is our right, enshrined in the Constitution. But don’t forget, we are flipping roles with those who resisted Barack Obama for eight years. That opposition created a template for incredible disrespect of the most inclusive commander in chief this nation has seen. Ugly and distorted as it was, that was a form of resistance.

Somebody’s empowerment is somebody else’s disempowerment. We are unable to march forward together or at the same time in America.

Split-screen nation.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

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