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Growing up in India it was natural for me to label people as Assamese, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Maharashtrian, Bihari, and everyone south of an arbitrary latitude as Madrasi. A simultaneous nod to our diversity and a not-so-subtle wink to our ethnocentrism. These labels bucketed us into silos. Bengalis and Gujaratis eat sweet food. Punjabis are aggressive. Madrasis eat dosas all day long. Bengalis have big eyes and eat way too much fish. We spent little time parsing the nuances of each group, but we held solid opinions of each. Yet, we had the best of friendships from across the spectrum.

Then I came to the States and found that granular labels are rare here. Being an Idahoan or a Vermonter doesn’t mean you speak a different language, dress differently, eat different foods, look different, or pray to different Gods, all of which is true in India when you cross state lines. In the USA, we found some differences in the language, food, and culture between northern and the southern states, but I was warmed by a sense of commonality. The journey from those initial days in a new country to 2018 is akin to whiplash.

Last time I checked, humans are 99.9% the same and 0.1% different. We are bipeds with pairs of eyes, arms, legs, and shared traits at the cellular level. Despite this irrefutable truth, racism and bigotry would have you believe that one group is superior to another.

This past weekend marked the horror of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville and the resulting death of Heather Heyer. The defining images of the rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 were symbols of hate and division. I can't bring myself to post photos of armed hate-mongers, so here is a picture from the internet of those who came to protest them.

The majority threatened by changes they do not control are hollering about the loss of “their way”. When we moved to this country, we lost many of our ways too. Instead of retreating into our shells, we assimilated and found substitutes that have made us whole again. In the process, we had to open our hearts and minds to new ways.

The minority exhausted with systemic racism and profiling is becoming increasingly disconsolate. Disenfranchised through a lack of quality education and jobs, they are rallying back in their own ways. In this melee, history is being recast. Supremacists say that everyone not like them needs to "get the hell out". And we are asked to believe that a conservative opinion host's commentary on being engulfed by demographic changes she didn’t vote for is "not racist". Suspend your disbelief and you will still have a hard time reconciling this narrative.

The blur has vanished. "Us" and "them" define our dialog. Add to the mix hundreds of millions of guns and the possibility of violence is mind-boggling.

Like some of my peers I have conflicting thoughts on guns. The idea of taking life is abhorrent and antithetical to being a mother and giving birth. At the same time, I wonder how I might feel if someone in my circle is impacted by violent crime. Will I have the reserve to remain a pacifist or will the anger change me completely? I wish I knew myself well enough to answer this hypothetical.

Charlottesville is only a couple of hours from us and the city was home to our children for 12 years. With supremacists hanging their shingles this close to us and without the clarion voice of leaders against them, I see an existential crisis. I know I can try to protect myself from high crime areas through geographical separation but supremacists and their supporters can lurk anywhere. I could be face-to-face with one while I am walking, shopping, or traveling and who knows how much heat they are packing.

I never thought I would have to grapple with this in my lifetime. But here we are: 75 years on from the worst genocide in the history of humankind, we are seeing the same symbols of hate, hearing the same vitriolic speech, and seeing politics the world over with traits similar to what gave rise to a monstrous regime. We are watching “them” closely. Being wary. Taking stock. Wondering how we will evolve in the age when the press is labeled as the enemy of the people, fake news thrives, instant reactions compromise our intellect, and 300 million guns lurk in the background.

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