As my wife and I were lamenting the impending Trump Presidency, it occurred to us that aside from ourselves and our wee brood, the remainder of our extended family (20+ all told) was politically conservative. Of course, we’ve known this for years but in the past we had always reveled in our progressive charge…now, not so much. Now it is we who are the hunted.
The first time in my adult life that I recall feeling patriotic was in 1980. I was 21 and finally eligible to vote. I remember how somber the nation was during the Carter era. Inflation was through the roof, Iran was holding us hostage and mocking us in the streets as we failed miserably at a brazen rescue attempt. And then along comes Ronald Reagan. Within hours of his inauguration, the hostages are freed. Yes! The USA isn’t cowering to you towel-heads any longer. Fuck with us and Reagan will level your sand castles quicker than you can say “Alibaba.” (It would be decades before I discovered that Reagan had zero to do with Iran freeing the hostages.) A year later, the space shuttle Columbia zipped around the Earth about 40 times and landed in the desert. Afterward, we lashed that Shuttle atop a 747 and flew it back to Florida. Hello? We just flew a jet into space and back…strapped it to a 747 and flew it home to its launchpad. Who on this planet wants to compare notes with the USA? 3 years later, I swelled again with pride as I read Ken Follet’s best selling account of Ross Perot’s mission in “On Wings of Eagles.” Wow! Are we bad-asses, or what. Only we weren’t the bad guys…we were the good guys. So there you have it…A vote for Reagan, the Space shuttle program and Ross Perot. The 3 apexes of my U.S.A. patriotism. It would be 25 years before I felt that way again.
The 9/11 attacks didn’t piss me off. Well, of course they did, but more so they intrigued me. I was as shocked as anyone, but I wasn’t roiling with vengeance. I distinctly recall thinking: “Wow, somebody really hates us…I wonder why?” It took awhile for the answer to surface, but the Cliff Notes summary was this: Not everyone appreciates our arrogance. Unfathomable dollars and a few thousand bodybags later, in walks Barack Hussein Obama II. Seriously? Less than a decade after the September bombings, and you think America is going to elect a man, a black man no less, whose very name riles the hatred we feel toward the Middle East? And this, this Hussein fellow is going to defeat a decorated war hero and assume the office of Chief and Commander of the most powerful nation on Earth? Good luck with that.
On November 4, 2008 I was 49 years old and moved to tears. It marked only the 4th time in almost 30 years of my adult life that I had swelled with American pride. I wasn’t alone. As the news spread of Obama’s landslide victory; the world literally danced in the streets. I can think of only 4 other times (during my lifetime) in which the majority of the world rejoiced in unison: (1) The Apollo moon landing. (2) The end of the Viet Nam war. (3) The fall of the Berlin wall. (4) The freeing of Nelson Mandela. And now…make it five. I was so goddamn happy for these United States of America, I was giddy. The world wasn’t cheering for Obama – the world was cheering for us! They were proud of us for having the wisdom and strength to honestly address our penchant for war and elect a pragmatist. They were proud of us for reconciling a horrid history of social injustice and giving hope to millions of people of color. They were happy for our enlightenment….happy that we had tamed our ego, if only for a moment, and allowed rational benevolence to take its place. It was a special time in our nation’s history.
My how the mighty have fallen. In the aftermath of this 2016 Presidential election, a barrage of excuses and explanations have boiled over.
- Clinton was distrusted and disliked.
- Trump represented change…manly change.
- The pundits misinformed the electorate.
- The Right resented the Left’s political correctness.
- The disenfranchised were tired of being denied a voice.
- The middle class wanted change…at any cost.
- The emails doomed Hillary from the start.
- The pollsters screwed up.
- Weiner and Comey killed Hillary’s gallop down the home stretch.
- She should’ve concentrated on blue collar workers.
- Trump supporters were woefully underestimated.
- Black and Latino voter turnout was low.
- Women didn’t support Hillary.
- Hispanics didn’t turn away from Trump.
- The 3rd Party skewed the results.
- The electoral college is to blame.
I left a couple blank in case you wanted to add your own.
Gospel: It’s not about how Hillary lost or how Trump won. It’s about who we are as a nation. This might leave a mark, but we are a nation of racists, homophobes, xenophobes, sexists and religious hypocrites….goes without saying (which is why I have to say it) that we’re also an unintelligent lot. For those of you that don’t particularly care for how that sounds, you may seek refuge in the 18-25 demographic. That group of youngsters was shown to have known better than to vote for a glorified carnival barker. That’s a promising ray of light at the end of a long, long tunnel…but it remains to be seen how that demographic politically morphs with age. So, back to what a disgusting nation we are. Too broad a brush? Okay, disgusting ½ nation. For those of you, my wife included, who contend that people other than racists voted for Trump…I say: Bullshit. Turning a blind eye is tacit acceptance. When you accept, you condone and when you condone, you enable.
Here’s another nugget: Just because you’re kind to your darker fellow man doesn’t mean you’re not a racist. It’s not enough to say; “I don’t litter.” You must also pick up the trash of those that do. Employing, or working with, or living beside, or your children playing with people of different ethnicities and races…doesn’t exempt you from racism. You must also empathize. You must not only walk in another’s shoes, you must look closely at your own path. Yes, I know… you’ve grown weary of the “race” card. No one helped you get to where you’ve gotten in life. You didn’t come from a rich daddy. You worked your ass off for everything you’ve achieved and you’d appreciate it if those bitching about their plight would do the same. You think ALL lives matter. You take offense to the term “white privilege” because you don’t feel privileged in the least. I get it….I really do. But there are a few other things that you don’t feel: Acute racial scrutiny, for one. Shameful social rumblings, biased marketing in every shape and form, a daily struggle for acceptance as a man and not a color, the shallow kindness offered by those pacifying their feeble consciences, the pockets of tribal community shared with the disenfranchised, the seldom number of times you are mistaken for the “help,” the ease with which you hail a taxi, secure a loan or book a hotel room. Wait. I get it… I really do. You’re not responsible for those things… or slavery either, for that matter. That shit was before your time and we have got to move on.
Agreed…we must move on. The thing is, democracy’s latest goat-fuck has unequivocally proven that we are ill-equipped to do so. Not only do we lack the capacity to “move on,” we lack the will. In fact, we willfully refuse to budge. This inability, lack of will and embolden pig-headedness of the electorate isn’t a result of anything on the aforementioned list of Hillary/Trump excuses. And it’s not the embarrassing underbelly of an otherwise advanced nation. It is who we are. Look around. Routinely discriminating and offending on the sole basis of skin color isn’t happenstance; it’s in our DNA.
- We look away when Mississippi has the white-sheeted balls to proclaim its flag is about southern heritage. Blacks are incarcerated at 6 times the rate of whites. The Ku Klux Klan just endorsed the 45th President of the United States… and he let them! The mayor of Clay, WV referred to Michelle Obama as an “ape in heels.” But hey, free speech, right?
- We (which includes women) are unable to affirm a woman’s right to choose. Texas, the poster state for birth control, just shuttered half of its abortion clinics. Last year, full-time female workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. Barely 2 generations removed from women’s suffrage and only a few decades removed from credit card approval, 40% of women consciously vote against the party that represents their interests. It doesn’t take a theologian to know from whence that obedience derives?
- Unauthorized immigration has been declining for almost a decade, but today a majority of Americans favor a wall across our Mexico/US border with 75% favoring deportation of illegal immigrants. We are a whisker away from the “extreme vetting” of an entire ethnicity….but first, we’ve got some sacred Native American lands to desecrate and a water supply to contaminate.
- We’re 2 steps away from bakers refusing to bake wedding cakes, clerks refusing to sign marriage licenses and a narrow Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage…and some old white guys in the North Carolina legislature are sacrificing jobs, revenue, corporate opinion and national ridicule in order to keep transgender men and women from using the same bathroom they’ve been using for years. “We don’t care how you yankees do things up north, boy.”
- Christians account for 3/4 of the political party that just elected a draft-dodging, thrice-divorced, corporate shyster and alleged sexual predator. We no longer even attempt to mask our hypocrisy.
- Roughly the same number of people (60%) favor the manufacture, sale and possession of assault rifles as do the number of people who oppose Obamacare. Just makes you want to chant “USA! USA! USA!,” doesn’t it?
Look at us. This isn’t my dark view. This isn’t a bunch of pissed-off rednecks demanding a slice of our government. This is who we are…all of us. This is America. Of course we do some fantastic things for the world, but let’s stay real here. We are not a transformative nation on the brink of progressive societal evolution. Hell, we’re not even accepting of our own, just when do you think we’ll be accepting of others? And as long as we’re laying the cards on the table: Our exterior ain’t that shiny either. Not just fat, we’re morbidly obese. Not just a few of us either…over a third of us. We’re also loud. We’re arrogant and belligerently defensive of our loud, fat and exceptional asses. How arrogant? Shit you not, there is a World War II movie in theatres now. That’s a 70-year-long self-patronizing glory-ride that only serves to stroke our militaristic egos and discourage diplomacy. Thanks Hollywood. How arrogant? Arrogant enough to think that even the dimmest of us could spot a snake-oil salesman when we saw one. Inside and out, this is who we are. If we were a candy bar we’d be an unenlightened chewy nougat of intolerance covered in creamy milk-chocolate grandiosity.
Does this sound like low-brow cynicism? Because that’s not the intent. The intent is to open your minds to the notion that “we ain’t all that.” For every moon landing there’s a baseless war. For every Shuttle launch there’s a Sandy Hook. For every Obama there’s a 2016 election. The point being: Trump isn’t some political fluke. He won bigly because you and I live in a country where the few are charged with the hopeless task of dragging the majority into the 21st century. That task is both a noble objective and a disgusting assignment. This shouldn’t be a chore. We shouldn’t have to calmly (so as not to demean them) convince half of the electorate that just because our political toilet is clogged it doesn’t mean it’s okay to shit in the sink. It’s like telling a drunk he’s drunk. That argument only makes sense to the sober. But here we are…trying to push that fat, wobbly red-neck out the back door only to have it revive itself long enough to yell “yippee ki yay motherfucker!” and fall back into our arms and puke. This is who we are…a half-drunken mess. It will take decades for this country to dry out and sober up, and as soon as it does it will make a beeline for the liquor cabinet. “Hi, my name is Uncle Sam and I’m an alcoholic.” Hi Sam!
Fuck Sam. In one fell swoop this country went from being my homeland to merely my birthplace. Does that sound petty? It’s not; it’s real. Think of it as family. Which do you prefer: the company of friends or relatives? And if this sounds like some selfishly indignant tirade spurred by my disgruntlement over a single election….you (like this country) are half right. I’ve lived a good life and I’m about 15 minutes away from taking a dirt nap, so really… personally…what do I care? And to clarify, I’m not pissed; I’m disgusted. I want to kick drunk old Sam in the nuts because I was supposed to be part of a generation that could proudly hand over the reigns to my kids. Now this shit. Fuck Sam. And fuck me for not recognizing my own arrogance in the notion of a rational electorate. Only I’m not that naive – I expected setbacks and resistance from a proud white nation. And I knew this country had a repugnant history… I just never thought we’d revert to it. What do I tell my kids? How do I explain this cultural disaster? How do I spin the fact that the fight for universal healthcare, that push for gun control, those marches for equality, that Iran nuke deal, that concern for planet and that black family in the White House…those weren’t embedded stones along the road to an enlightened America. Those were just sidewalk chalk murals …easily erased by the torrents of bigotry. Seriously, what’s the lesson here? Treat the ignorant with respect? Heed their cries for an antiquated voice in the shaping of our nation’s future…or else risk the political equivalent of a sink full of shit? Nice.
We sit here. We wait, powerless. We survey this circus, or we look away. We fume with disdain and absolute shock at the enormity of our inaneness, or we contemplate our own failures as we plot a new course. And when the pendulum returns we will assess the damage. We’ll make grand plans and once again they will be met with fervent reproach. And so it goes. There will be no winner because there is no end-game. This is who we are. We are indelibly flawed by our ignorance and eternally shackled by our history… the two things we cannot change. We may be brought together by a common enemy, but only until we can return to our respective safe zones and likeminded ilk. We may make incremental societal advances, but they will be fragile, at best. There is no lofty goal for us to aspire to and this isn’t our great nation’s journey; this is merely our nation’s process. This is how the sausage is made. This is who we are.
2 thoughts on “Who are we?”
When I was young, I chose friends….now that I’m older, I choose family. Make America great again by uniting everyone to work together to achieve this common goal!
On a national scale, “family before friends” is called nationalism, and it’s an affront to patriotism. The panacea isn’t a common goal; it’s common decency….enlightenment, societal evolution and respectful global citizenship.