ABERDEEN, Scotland - I left the United States on May 21 for a four-month journey across Europe, a destination I'd had in mind for many years. Now, three months later, I'm being asked if I really want to return home.
Those who ask aren't serious, of course, but their frustration and concern is real. So is mine.
Thanks to wifi, it has been very easy for me to keep up with the daily news, but I certainly was not expecting to be reading about white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis spewing so much hate and anger, sadly resulting in the death of a counter protester. The stain on America seeped even deeper into the country's fabric when President Trump couldn't muster the decency and compassion that were so needed in the immediate aftermath.
As I write this, I'm reading that Trump finally has condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and supremacists as "criminals and thugs." Sadly, it took him 48 hours to stand where he needs to stand, no doubt urged on by his aides who have watched their boss be pilloried by a barrage of criticism directed at his inability to respond more appropriately early on.
Nazis in particular have been on my mind this summer as I've visited the death camp at Auschwitz, several Holocaust museums and exhibits, historic synagogues and boundary markers for the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. My wonderful hosts at a BnB in Aberdeen, Scotland since Thursday are young Polish immigrants. Magdalena and Mateusz have been stunned by the events in Virginia. While they are 30 and 29, respectively, the scourge of Nazism is real to them.
I'm a free speech advocate, having been inspired and protected by the First Amendment throughout my long career as a newspaper journalist. The hate-spewing KKK and Nazi marchers in Charlottesville had a right to march, but they have no right to legitimacy in America or anywhere else. Shame on anyone who dares to support or encourage their mindless cause.
I will be returning home in about two weeks, a bit earlier than planned. I miss my regular life and those close to me. I will return to a country that remains divided in ways that I've not seen since the Vietnam War era. The country I love is far better than what it has demonstrated during and since the presidential election.
I met a Lebanese tourist months ago on a hike. He follows world politics closely and is quite conversant about the U.S. and its history. I recall him saying that he was astounded that a country founded on such admirable democratic ideals could descend into such rancor and acrimony. Let there be no doubt about this: the world is watching.