AUSTIN—24 Sept. 2020
The American reckoning is here.
We are a troubled people lurching toward an untenable election. Whoever wins and however it’s fixed by the legal eagles, a portion of the population will be outraged. Their outrage won’t be justified but it will be real. Sadly, a great deal of the outrage is manufactured. Outrage, like cloaked language and promises that never come true is all part of the show now.
I recall my own outrage at the rise of Reagan and Bush. “The War on Drugs” was one of their signature policies. Of course, it was never a war on drugs, it was always a war on brown and black people. “The War on Drugs” was a convenient way to harass them, search them, and jail them. It was a direct reaction to the progress made by the civil rights movement and “the best” response the frightened mice could come up with.
It’s critical to understand the role that the peoples’ uprisings in the 1950s, 1960s and ’70s played in scaring the shit out of our empire’s rulers. All of a sudden, the rulers couldn’t conduct war they way they wanted, because Walter Cronkite was bringing the reality of war into American living rooms at night. That had to be stopped and it was. Completely. Today, “reporters” must embed with the empire’s forces to get any story at all from an American war zone. That’s outrageous.
From the authoritarian’s point of view, the 1960s were a disgrace. The common theme throughout this period and throughout the fall from American grace is loss of control. During the Vietnam War protest, students burned their draft cards and occupied their university’s executive offices. Fifty American cities burned after the assassination of Martin Luther King. Women demanded liberation and equal pay for equal work.
The antiwar movement, along with women’ rights and civil rights upset the white man’s apple cart, and “the man” has been working to gets his apples back in a row for decades now. But events keep making apple sauce of his plans. Events like Rove v. Wade, and the election of Barack Obama. Such events are a mountain of salt in the racists’ and sexists’ wounds.
I detail this linear sequence because we’re living through this tumultuous time and we ought to know what’s driving it. Let’s move past perplexity now.
Democrats and pundits and people on Facebook love to feign disbelief at the Don Dons, instead of clearly seeing what they are and why they are. There’s no mystery left in this — one side wants fascist rule that puts women and people of color in their place. The other side wants freedom and respect for all.
As Soon As You Can Get Out of Your Bubble, Please Get Out of Your Bubble
When you ride in a jet from one city to another, you remove the full-frontal that rural Americans present, but the America down below continues to exist and every American continues to be connected to it and its inhabitants. Food doesn’t come from a factory. It’s grown on a farm and/or raised on a ranch. Same with energy from wind, oil, and gas. We are divorced from our rural roots and rural cousins today, but we are not disconnected. We all rely on one another, even when we can’t stand the site of one another.
Rural Americans have been left behind, like so many other groups in our nation’s history. Rural white Southerners, in particular, have a compound “left-behind” problem. Their cherished race-based authority was nearly obliterated by decades of civil rights progress, which culminated in the presidency of Barack Obama. For 150+ years, these prideful people have claimed that the “South is Gonna Rise Again.” And they were right, it has risen again in Minneapolis, Kenosha, St. Louis, and in cities all across the nation. Today, The Confederacy” isn’t located in one place. Instead, it’s a universal sickness.
Karl Rove was the first right-winger to see the massive political opportunity in this population united by bitterness, and he and the Midland Cowboy rode it to power. Four times, in fact — twice as governor of Texas and twice as President of the United States. Today’s version of Rove’s dystopia is the mutated strain, where right-wing Christians willfully extend their fundamentalist world views outside the confining walls of their church. To “Keep America Great,” it is now necessary for the Donnies to deny science, to go about maskless, and to otherize all but the lilliest of whites. These confused and damaged people now claim moral superiority along with racial superiority, and they are ready to defend it to the death.
May I ask a difficult question: Are you willing and ready to fight for what you perceive to be the American ideal? I ask because one side is more than willing and ready. One side is extremely well-armed, scared out of their minds, and vindictive as hell. One side badly wants to settle a score. Meanwhile, the other side continues to pretend that none of these grievances matter and that the Don Dons can all burn in hell after the coming election. In both cases, extreme views that are detached from reality continue to fester and thrive.
See the Fear for What It Is And Develop Greater Compassion from There
Racism is an outcome. Like sexism, it’s an ideology that’s put into practice by small men and women who teach it to their kids. I lived in rural North Carolina from 1980 to 1982 and attended public high school there. I witnessed some horrendous behavior. The “N” word was freely used by most whites and openly so. Kids as young as six and seven said the word with no hesitation. There was no hesitation because white supremacy was as common as barbecue and embraced by the vocal majority as the true “law” of the land.
White people in the South and elsewhere felt and continue to feel loss. Loss of control, or power, of self-esteem. These feelings are the Petri dish where their grievances grow. Instead of meeting their rage with more rage, how about we pause to breathe and understand. Discounting their pain is what brought us here to this impasse. It’s time for a new response. A more compassionate, human response.
It’s easy to judge and easy to claim moral superiority. “They never should have had slaves in the first place,” a person might say. Okay, but we did have slaves and every American today is impacted by this fact. Slaves created wealth for many white families all over this nation. The crops that were raised in the South were sold and consumed in the North. It’s easy to point a finger at someone. It’s hard to see your place in American history and then develop a conscious response to it.
My ancestors fought the empire’s wars, murdered Indians, cut down the forest, tore up the prairie, and so on. Because they could. They also told themselves it was necessary. They lied and they were lied to, continually so by the administrators of the empire. Soon, a number of my relatives will vote for Trump again. They will also keep spinning the old yarn about brown people lawlessly crossing the border and that unruly blacks and anarchists ought to be shot first, and given their due process never.
People are scared. And deeply delusional. They have yet to see what the American empire is and how it works. Is that me judging them or is this me observing them? It is the latter. I am related to them, and I know them. I don’t need to wonder why they’ll vote for Trump again. I know why and it’s this knowledge that opens the door to greater compassion and the possibility of healing.
Can I help my relatives be brave? I don’t know, but I do know that seeing them as lost, as weak, as dumb is all wrong. They may, in fact, be these things but it’s wrong to focus on it. They are also more than their fears. We all are more than our fears and our judgments. We can all grow and learn new things and right now during this political and economic crisis, we need ingenuity and passion to light new fires.
We are more than our political philosophies and it is time to focus on the work that beckons. America — if it is to survive — must be rebuilt and re-imagined. It can also be abandoned by some and that’s a seductive dream I sometimes dream. When I wake from the dream, I remember that no matter where I go, I am the beneficiary of, and a product of, America. I am America and I can’t escape myself. I can only cherish what’s good (the land, the people, the food, the music, et al) and work hard to replace the rest with something better.