Monday, September 3, 2018

The Truth Hurts

And now, a brief interval contemplating the words of Meghan McCain.

“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” Meghan McCain told about 3,000 mourners at Washington National Cathedral on Saturday morning, a raw mocking of Trump’s slogan that elicited an unusual burst of applause.

Those words made many of us feel good, if only briefly. They pushed back against the current political regime unapologetically. 

There’s just one problem. Those words aren’t true. 

If we are completely honest with ourselves, we know this. America has always been great for white people, white men most of all. America is not great for:

people of color
the disabled
the poor
LGBTQ people 

The lofty ideals of “liberty and justice for all” that stir our hearts and make us want to believe in the greatness of America were based on assumptions made by white men for white men. I know we want them to be bigger than that, but history shows how fragile they are under the weight of our racist systems.

I hate this. I do not want it to be true, but it is. 

I’d like to recommend a Twitter thread that expresses this succinctly. It begin by addressing a statement by the actress Debra Messing:

@maji_jay 1/ I love Debra Messing & I don’t want to rail against her, specifically, here, but I do want to point out that many white liberals hold this false belief—and—if you haven’t already disabused yourself of it, now would be a good time to start.

     @DebraMessing OMG. This is HORRIFYING. The virulent hateful racism has never          been on display like this in my lifetime. I thought we left these grotesque epithets behind decades ago. Trumps America.

Click on the link above (on the word thread) to read this in its entirety. 

This section speaks to my point today:

17/ And so I want to be clear: Every time you see a smart-phone video of a white person  abusing a black person, you shouldn’t think, “I can’t believe this is happening! What has America become??”

18/ Rather, you should ponder why you never realized it’s been happening this whole damn time. You should ponder what America has always been. 

The racism is not new. The technology that reveals it is.

It is painful to want to believe that America was founded on principles so pure and beautiful that they are almost holy and then come to grips with the fact that it was founded by white men who owned slaves and whose wives and daughters were, more or less, chattel. These things are not separate. They are woven into our national existence from the outset.

I imagine that this will not be a particularly popular view right now. The speeches at Senator McCain’s memorial service provided an emotional respite from our current fractured state. We want to imbue these words with more power than they have. We long for magic. We will grasp at any sign of goodwill.

It is possible, though, to reject the regressive and punitive “Make America Great Again” philosophy
while also telling ourselves the truth about who we are and where we need to go as a nation. America will be great only when she is great for everyone. 

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