Do you remember America?
Some of you may. Some of you may remember a time before Donald Trump when everything was normal. You didn’t have the level of vitriol that you have now. You didn’t have the outright racism being displayed by those who ardently support Trump (we’ll call them Trumpists). You didn’t have a basket overflowing with deplorables supporting the move to separate immigrant children from their immigrant parents, or the government trying to prevent immigration through any means (including legal means).
Some of you may remember America as a shining city on a hill, its beacon so brilliant that those in the third world (which, to Americans, is everywhere else that isn’t America) gazed in stupefied awe and envy at God’s chosen land.
Some of you may remember America as a compassionate country, a country full of denizens willing to lay their lives down for American allies, for justice, and so that people everywhere could enjoy the freedom we Americans enjoy.
Some of you may remember this perfect America that existed before Trump. And those of you who remember that America are remembering some bullshit.
The fact is, America has never been a great country. We give ourselves the title of the most powerful country on earth, but we measure power by how much money we spend on our military, how many nukes we have, and how many third world countries with weak armies we’ve pushed around. When was the last time our country fought one that was on an equal footing with ours? We lost in Vietnam. We merely helped in World Wars I & II. And the only major power we’ve ever defeated virtually alone was the former British Empire. It’s easy to appear powerful when Goliath has an M50 and David still just has a sling.
America’s history is fraught with human rights abuse after humans rights abuse: slavery, the Trail of Tears, sending the Jews back to Europe during World War II, and destabilizing nation after nation. We’ve been involved with military coups in foreign countries, deposing democratically elected leaders. We’ve blown up hospitals, have killed journalists, and, on a nearly daily basis, allow for the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. That’s on top of what we’re trying to do to gays, and what we’re doing to immigrants.
When I say ‘Stay Calm & Burn the Flag,’ I mean that metaphorically. Let’s do away with this idea that America is the one bastion of freedom in the world. All the Scandinavian countries are free. Most of Western Europe is free. There are Asian and African countries that are free.
Let’s do away with this idea that America is a nation of Christians, full of compassion and love for their fellow man. It’s not. In fact, while America enjoys its status as the most religious developed country in the world, it is hardly Christian.
America is not so great. The whole legend is a fabrication. Our Christians are some of the most vicious people on earth. Our country is the most warlike, after the fashion of the Roman Empire. Our government is one of the most corrupt, one of the greediest countries.
None of this is new. None of what’s going on with the Trump base is unprecedented. There was a time when killing black people in the streets wouldn’t even warrant an investigation. We’ve restricted immigration for people from Arabic countries and Latin America today, but yesterday it was the Jews, the Italians, and the Irish.
We’ve separated Latin American immigrants from their children, today. Yesterday, we were doing it to African slaves and Native Americans.
Today we’ve killed black men and black women (and sometimes even white men and white women) for basically talking back to cops or running away. Yesterday, people sent postcards to their families featuring the lynchings of black people who were either too uppity for their own good or for things like whistling at a white woman.
Today, we deny service to homosexuals. Yesterday, we denied service to black and Irish people.
Today, there’s a wage gap between men and women. Yesterday, women weren’t even allowed to work or vote.
America has never been a great country. It has always had the potential to be great, but it has never quite made it.
My fear isn’t what America has apparently become. What it is today, America has always been. No, my fear is that America will remain this way because Americans are more concerned with the sanctity of a piece of cloth than they are with the maintenance of their own humanity.