The FEAR of things to Come
FEAR is an extreme emotion that triggers all types of responses, medications many of them irrational and absurd. Decisions that are made based upon fear often create a climate that promotes and glorifies the basest human behaviors pushing beyond the boundaries of common decency, price courtesy or rational thought. The expectation of civility and orderliness give way to emotionally charged rhetoric that builds into the frenzy of hot-tempered generalizations and baseless claims. Soon, these assertions ignite bitter resentments and age-old divisions of race, class and ethnicity. The culmination of these ingredients devolves into a mob-like mentality with the predictable outcome of escalation and violence. We have certainly arrived at such a time in this current political season.
The two-party system is the mainstay of the American political tradition, and its connection to race, class and gender identity has historic consequences. At times, the lines have been solidly drawn between the parties and at other times blurred beyond definition or distinction. In 1888, Frederick Douglass famously said, “I recognize the Republican party as the sheet anchor of the colored man’s political hopes and the ark of his safety.” While in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, Kayne West said bluntly, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Both men were speaking about the politics of the Republican Party in relation to race. Clearly, the party of Lincoln has transformed over the decades and is no longer the “anchor of the colored man’s hopes and ark of his safety.”
These days it seems that the party platform has redefined what it means to be an American in the most narrow and restrictive ways possible. Building walls and barriers to keep people out, rather than inviting them to participate in the democracy we flaunt as the greatest in the world receives rousing applause at political rallies and results in high approval ratings. Constructing policies and practices that single out people for the color of their skin, the religion they practice, who they love or the expression of their identity as markers for inclusion or exclusion are the standards by which people “qualify” to be represented in the political process or marginalized. The diverse cultural landscape that intrinsically defines the very nature of what and who has made America the “Great Nation” that it has become, now seems to be under attack.
The demand to “take their country back” and “Make America Great Again” has been a clarion call to the disgruntled and disenfranchised working class (mostly) white electorate. There are stunning comparisons and an eerily familiar pattern of scapegoating and targeting racial and religious groups right now to a time decades ago when the struggle for justice, equality and civil rights was tearing this nation apart. Given our political discourse today, what we should fear are the things we know will surely come to pass if we do not stop this bus from going over the cliff. What we should fear is the complete failure of the great American experiment where we are better simply because we are many people from diverse backgrounds. We are a greater nation together than we are apart. The idea of who the United States of America is as a nation is completely dependent upon our ability to navigate the cultural pluralism that defines us. If we don’t pull it together and learn to live with an enduring respect for the rights all people deserve regardless of race, class, ethnic origin, nationality, religious beliefs, gender, sexual identity or political affiliation we will destroy ourselves. What Makes America Great is US, all of us…it always has and always will.
Up Next Week: Do #AllLivesMatter… really?