Collective Confrontation with America’s Troubled Past
The path forward for America is a newly-defined collective conscience with social justice at its core.
It has happened again, but will it amount to anything this time? An unprincipled and ignorant narcissist laid bare the depth of the social and racial divide in America that elected a good old 20th-century racist as president of the United States in the 21st century. Nine dead in a black church in South Carolina didn’t do it, a raft of police killings of young blacks didn’t do it, and all the pie charts of economic, educational and social deprivation of blacks in America didn’t do it.
Now that we are knocking down Confederate statues in outrage, will this do it? Personally, I doubt it. America is sick, and it will take heroic efforts to recapture its soul. While a president bereft of compassion and utterly lacking a moral compass may spur the nation to seek its better self, I still think that privileged white folks and those who do their bidding will not go down easily.
A morally bankrupt buffoon who worries more about Confederate statues than human lives is at the helm, and at the least is leading a third of the nation to some white nirvana where every man, woman and child is armed and at the ready to protect the rest of us from our godless faith in a neutering government. If only this pathetic body of fellow travelers could be moved to its own bunkered island, their leader could be unceremoniously dumped in their midst to bask in the reflected glare of his self-absorbed image.
Yet this is where the story gets most interesting. On any given day, some new national “hero” is anointed by the press for stepping up and speaking out. One of the latest is Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic advisor and one of the two Jewish men left standing like terracotta warriors beside the king as he spewed his Trump Tower, racist and anti-Semitic bile. Finally, after two weeks of thinking about his pathetic response, Cohn ginned up the “courage” to not resign in protest while protesting the message but not the messenger, ensuring a concerned nation that it was his patriotic duty to continue to hang out in a moral swamp of his own making.
That this passes for a profile in courage in these troubled times says a lot. But before you rush out to erect a statue for this confederate, let’s remember that a short time ago he was pushing the vile Republican health care plan and now is the point person for the deregulation, tax “reform” and infrastructure plans that will ensure that he and his fellow confederates continue to prosper at the expense of the rest of us. This is at best an interesting take on “patriotic duty.”
But Cohn’s image won’t be alone on the wall of new heroes. How can we forget Senator Bob Corker and Senator Jeff Flake, each of whom found a way to vote repeatedly for that vile Republican health care plan, led by another hero, Senator Mitch McConnell, whose bottomless pit of morally bankrupt legislation is a gift that keeps on giving to rich white people.
But if all we had to worry about is the not surprising notion that a third of the nation is all too happy to support a racist president, we would at least know where to begin the quest for a new America. Instead, it turns out that the racist president and his merry band of acolytes continue their relentless push for a nation without a soul, a weakened government unable to confront corporate excess, and an underfunded government unable to repair crumbling infrastructure or meet the needs of the most vulnerable. (Just wait for that Hurricane Harvey corporate relief package of budget-busting private sector benefits that will be financed with a tax cut for the rich.)
To give what is left of America’s soul a face, let me tell you something of what happened recently in Washington, DC, near where I live. A beautiful young life was taken there by mindless gun violence, shot by some armed young street warrior aiming for others and hitting her. She was that most American of youthful icons, the head cheerleader at a local high school a few days away from heading off to college. She was also a black life.
This child died in Washington, DC, capital of America, a city that has tried everything to stop the flow of firearms into its midst but has been thwarted at every turn by the worst in our society. Along with assorted Nazis, white supremacists and ultra-nationalists, Trump gives the gun nuts among them a moral whitewash — yet another blight on America’s soul.
I am sorry, but none of this works for me. There is growing anger in America from those with a conscience, a growing backlash that will not be contained by platitudes. This backlash will eventually find real and courageous leadership. Its voice will get louder, and that voice will insist on being heard. If this makes you uncomfortable, get out of the way and get into your bunker.
I have repeatedly noted that the path forward for America is a newly-defined collective conscience with social justice at its core. I am saying that again. Those words shouldn’t frighten anybody and should inspire some. While it is monumentally unfortunate that the road to national redemption may well be paved with more tragedy, there is nothing in America’s present to remotely suggest that most Americans have learned much of anything from their nation’s troubled past.
*[A version of this article was also featured on Larry Beck’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.