Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Death of the Myth of Americans' Goodness

I have never been a fan of the myth of American exceptionalism.  Yes, preachers and politicians like to use the phrase, but if one looks at the details of America's history, it is filled with ugliness and hatred.  Most of us like to conveniently forget these past sins and overlook the still rampant racism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry and hate.  Looking the other way doesn't make the reality go away or magically become untrue.    For good or for bad, the results of the 2016 presidential election and the victory of Donald Trump's gathering of deplorables has torn the artificial veneer off the face of America and shown to the world that far too many Americans are not nice, decent or equality supporting people. Hopefully, this will be a wake up call and motivate the non-engaged to get involved and take back America from the 25,1% of the eligible voters who voted for trump.  Over 46% of voters stayed home and, bu their laziness and irresponsible behavior put Trump in the White House.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this harsh reality hitting home.  Here are excerpts:

So this is America, after all. It’s not the one many of us hoped we lived in right now, but it’s the one verified by the electoral map, and it’s the one that others of us have feared we lived in for a very long time.
All through the election, Hillary Clinton’s surrogates tried to repudiate the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency and all of its strident, fear-laden rhetoric. America is better than that, they said. Those values aren’t American; those values don’t represent us.
All through Tuesday night, Wolf Blitzer and John King bickered in front of their CNN Magic Wall about the “surprise” and “upset” of Trump’s victory. No one saw it coming, they said. Nobody could explain it. It wasn’t until the wee, exhausted hours of Wednesday morning that Van Jones, an African American political commenter, broke in with a shaking, emotional voice and offered his explanation: “This was a white-lash,” he said. “This was a white-lash against a changing country. It was a white-lash against a black president, in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes.”
What if America isn’t better than that? What if this was America all along?
Not the America that welcomed immigrant “huddled masses,” but the America that kidnapped African slaves and made them build a country, brick by brick and cotton field by cotton field. Not the America that lets women work and dress and worship as they please, but the America in which a man who sexually assaults one of them can be imprisoned for only three months. Not the America pulled along by hope but the America pushed along by aggression.
The people who were truly shocked by the outcome are those who have never experienced certain behaviors of the citizenry. . . . Good white people don’t fully understand why people of color fear encounters with the police, because the police have been mostly kind to them.
“I’m seeing so many posts, from mostly white friends, saying, ‘America, I don’t even know you,’ ” says Wendy Tien, a Milwaukee attorney and second-generation Taiwanese American. “And I’m thinking, ‘Where have you been? What do you mean you don’t know this America? Why haven’t you seen it?’ I’ve seen it. I see it all the time.”
This is America, the America that we built, the America that we all live in. But if this election taught us anything, it’s that we haven’t all been living in it in the same way.
“Now do you believe us?” tweeted Xeni Jardin, an editor in California, early Wednesday morning. “Us girls and women? Now do you believe Americans who are not white when they say white supremacy prevails?”
Jardin, who is white, grew up in a Southern city across from a prison, where she remembers that mostly white spectators would gather with coolers to celebrate the executions of mostly black inmates. But, she says, polite people didn’t discuss such things, just like they didn’t discuss sexual violence or other mistreatment of women.
It just existed, quietly, part of the rotten underbelly of that America.  Now it exists, loudly, part of the blaring horn of this one. 
 I grew up as a white male from a relatively affluent family with many of the perks that all of that entails.  It was really until I came out as gay, was fired from my job for being gay, was brutalized by a homophobic judge during my divorce and had anti-gay taunts and death threats aimed at me that I got the first real, honest to goodness look at the real America.  It is not pretty.  I like to believe that a majority of us are not like Trump's racist, homophobic, xenophobic and misogynistic base.  But for too long we the majority have been complacent and let organizations ranging from the GOP, to the KKK to falsely monikered "family values" organizations fan the flames of hatred.  If any good comes from this travesty election, I hope it will be that the majority who did not support Trump will mobilize and organize to take back our country.

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