Divided Nation

I was on my way to meet a couple of photographer friends in Austin over this past weekend. As I made my way into downtown, I found Congress Ave. to be eerily quiet. It was Sunday morning and I didn't think too much about finding a parking spot right on the street - something that almost never happens. I called my buddy to find out where they were and said that I was on Congress. "Oh, you must be in the midst of the protesters!", he said. "Huh?", I said. There weren't any protesters around! I wasn't sure what he was talking about but we agreed to meet up along the river trail.

Just as I put my car into reverse to back out of my parking spot, I heard a bunch of shouting. I stopped the car and looked down the street both ways. Sure enough, a parade of people was marching up Congress toward the Capitol building! I wasn't going anywhere then since the police were blocking up the street while the crowd passed. Still not sure what the protest was about, I got out to watch.

There were apparently two groups parading. The first group appeared to be an anti-Trump group. Right behind them was a smaller group of Trump supporters. A few people from the opposing sides appeared to be mingled in with each group, as I saw conflicting signs in the crowds. There was lots of yelling and in the cacophony of it all I couldn't make out much of what was being shouted through megaphones. Certainly there was a lot of angry speech by both sides. It was an interesting spectacle. The parade passed by loudly and quickly, like an orderly stampede, kept in line by a large police escort.

This is a photography blog and I have no desire to discuss politics here. That said, as today is Independence Day I can't help thinking about the divisiveness in America. It is certainly concerning to see so much hateful rhetoric in the news and on social media these days. We are a free people. We are also so terribly divided. Marches like the one I observed are made possible by the freedoms that we celebrate this holiday. It is freedom of speech in action, although I don't know that all the shouting and demonstrating is particularly constructive. When a people and its representation are unable to resolve issues in rational discourse, I guess demonstrations like this become the only way some people feel like they have a voice. It's unfortunate that so many of those voices seem to be fueled by hate.