The phone sits in the drink holster, next to the gear stick. I want Jack Dorsey’s dopamine hit as bad as a morning cup of coffee. But my daughters are in the back seat, so even at a red light I resist the impulse, and it passes. We’re on our way to a soccer tournament beyond exurbia. There’s no traffic, and all thoughts of politics slip from my conscious mind.
At a gas-station break, the phone emerges from the holster. A notification from The New York Times announces another synagogue shooting, this time in California. I look at my daughters in the car, with their ponytailed heads leaning against the windows. I walk into the station’s store and mindlessly buy junk food, taking my time and hoping that my fury will subside before I return to the wheel.
My daughters, who can’t see my face, have no inkling about the jolt of news. But I go silent, vacating the conversation, except for the fretful one taking place in my head. My mind turns over the memory of first learning about white supremacy, at age 7.
The bracing images arrived at my home in the form of a solicitation letter from the ACLU, an admittedly luxurious way to encounter American racial terror. The thick card, with pale-blue text, featured a black-and-white picture of a robed Klansman, an apparition sprung to life, sitting on a chair, holding a backwards American flag over his knees. My father was always matter-of-fact about evil’s existence in the world, and he explained that the Ku Klux Klan hated blacks and Jews, which meant people like us.