America the ‘beautiful,’ where no place now seems safe

I see the violence, and sometimes I’m just glad I’m gone.

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Wooden crosses are placed at a memorial dedicated to the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on June 3, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. 

Wooden crosses are placed at a memorial dedicated to the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

ACCRA, Ghana — From where I stand, staring back toward home, across this vast rippling ocean, with stinging tears in my eyes these days, I see an America lost in space: Land of the spree. Home of the grave.

Land where the gun lobbyists rule. Land where merciless gunmen spray elementary schools. Open fire in hospital rooms, grocery stores, churches and in the streets, where innocent children play and die in blood-red summer pools.

Home headlines scream bloody murder. Brazen assassins are caught on video, firing long guns, even on Chicago’s Gold Coast. Carjackings and shootings on the expressways got me seeing ghosts. Over 200 mass shootings so far in 2022 alone, according to the Washington Post.

I awaken to news of another mass shooting: Chicago; Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; California; Tulsa; Chicago … It is a reality I well know.

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Bodies lie in city streets like carnage from a war I used to imagine occurring in some faraway place. America’s never been perfect but seems to have fallen so far from grace.

Home sweet home … But I see the violence, and sometimes I’m just glad I’m gone.

America, “the beautiful,” where no place now seems safe. Land where Republican tongues have been purchased by the NRA.

A son of America, I hear her sweetly calling my name. But as I prepare to return, I cannot deny that as an American, I feel a certain degree of shame. Particularly as I stand here in this West African land — a still developing nation — but where fondness for the gun and tolerance for murder so clearly are not the same.

America — the violent. America — wed to the gun. America — proud defender of the Second Amendment at the expense of her daughters and sons.

America where school children are massacred, slain. America where bullets inside classrooms rain. Where mothers wail in pain. Where mass shootings occur again and again and again. America where allegiance to the assault rifle reigns.

America where we pause momentarily as mourners bury their loved ones’ bodies. Pause to wipe our eyes, to pity and pine for having suffered one more tragedy but too soon forgetting in time.

Too soon allowing our fire of indignation to fizzle into the essence of numbing do-nothingness and ubiquitous complacency. Losing, each time that we do not answer the call to do something, another piece of our soul and our humanity.

So murder becomes us. Violence consumes us. Lulls us to sleep like a lullaby as we close our eyes to reality and dream that when we awaken it will all have been just a dream. That maybe America has not grown so cold, so mean.

But I am wide awake. And the winds blowing across this ocean tell me that love in America has waxed cold, so cold, and that deadly gun violence has grown obscene.

I cannot escape this truth that gnaws at my psyche. That reverberates to the depths of my soul as I am reminded upon thoughts of my return of particular threats that exist in America for the Black body. Even as I sit here, thousands of miles away. Unsettled by old fears, anxieties and pain that in America — that in Chicago — await.

This is my dilemma. I stand between two countries on two separate continents — one my homeland, the other my motherland. Having come face to face with the imperfections of Africa but also with the violence and racism that will seize my reality upon my return to America.

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Except in Ghana, my skin is not a sin and my existence not a deadly daily game. I face no racial hostilities from rogue white police or angry white males. No young Black gunmen here have me in their aim.

And inasmuch as I am eager to return, the more I see violence back home rage, the more I am contented to stay here in this place. And just wait.


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