I’m sitting at O’Hare airport, Chicago, awaiting my connecting flight to Cleveland, Ohio, about 300 miles due east, on the shores of Lake Erie. It’s a place I’ve never been. But its name, with a slight spelling adjustment, seems to describe the country I’m now in.
I’ve visited the USA many times since my first in 1986. The nation appears more troubled and divided than at any time since. On that first trip, as a naive 21 year-old, I was shocked by the physical decay and latent violence of New York City. Only later did I learn that the city, like many others in that period, was recovering from virtual bankrupcy, with consequent impact on public services and levels of poverty and anger.
During subsequent trips, I’ve come to appreciate that, as with people, there’s much more to America than the worst things it does. I still hold to that. But then came Trump.
Two days ago I was attending a vigil in Cable Street for the victims of a one-man anti-Semitic pogrom in Pittsburgh. A few days earlier, a de facto lynching took place in Kentucky. America’s long history of racism (in which housing has played – and continues to play – a very significant part) may be entering a new phase.
But these acts of appalling bigotry and violence don’t define the US, any more than #45 does. Once again, I’m going to be testing that optimism over the next week, which includes the mid-term elections. I know very little about Cleveland, so I’m looking forward to another slice of American pie. Watch this space.