I understand that people believe what they are saying when they say something is “un-American.” But, after a long life, I have come to wonder, what exactly is “American”and what exactly is “un-American.”
Surely, I cannot be the only one who, besides being upset at the current state of democracy, is tired of hearing the expression “this is not the American way,” or “this is un-American,” or this is “not what Americans do.” Or whatever version of this notion comes out of the mouths of the talking heads, the political class, or whomever. “This is not what this country is about.” Maybe in some time and space when we weren’t massacring our indigenous peoples, or denying women the right to vote, or lynching black people, or invading innocent countries, or bashing gay heads in, maybe then we weren’t “about” this and that sentiment might have held some small measure of truth for me. But to hear someone say it now – when at least half the country’s adult population is in the thrall of an obviously lying, hate-filled, calculating sociopath – makes me a little angry. Okay, a lot angry. This is us folks. This sociopathic hate-filled narcissist Trump represents the “American way” in flagrante delicto. I may not like to hear this, you may not like to hear this, but this is who we are. We have to face it. And the sooner we realize that whatever this mythic “American way” is – it is a load of shit. And never more obviously as huge a load of shit than now.
I suppose we all would like to think of ourselves as a beacon for the world. The great democracy. The cradle of liberty. All that good stuff. But, in light of the many ugly events throughout our history I wonder what this “American” ideal is that we are so fond of reminding ourselves of. Early on we used the Doctrine of Discovery as the basis of the federal government’s dominion over land once controlled by Native Americans – which is to say, the entirety of the United States of America. The nascence of our “American Way.”
Shortly after that the Klan burned their hate for all to see…well, I guess that too was the “American way.” Matthew Shepard, a gay man who spent the last conscious hours of his life tied to a fence on a freezing Wyoming night…was that also the “American way”? Martin Luther King, who conducted non-violent protests to promote civil rights was gunned down. Again, American…American! Somewhere very early on this ideal, this “American way” we’re so fond of referencing slipped out the window while hate and violence, and lying, boldly skipped in through the front door without wiping its feet, and in doing so tracked its filth and mud throughout every room in the People’s House. A house that needed a good cleaning anyway then. And now made even dirtier by an election of a monster to our house.
Now, we have witnessed more and more ugly events ever since this monster got itself elected. Nazis marching in Charlottesville…this is America. Holocaust survivors gunned down in a Squirrel Hill Pa synagogue…this is America. In Detroit, a white ex-firefighter blasting away at a black teen with a shotgun. A teenager who knocked on his door and asked for directions…that’s right…America. The bigot who randomly attacked two gay men in Williamsburg – hurling a slur at them and then knocking them unconscious…this is our America. These, and the reports of swastikas at schools, racist taunts, and other hate-fueled attacks and acts of intimidation and so many more examples. This is not “un-American. No, sad to say, this is the”American way.”
Let us not give in to the fantasy that “un-American” is something aberrant when in fact these terrible things are the everyday normal. The real “American Way” is far from something noble and good. A quaint idea but…Tell that fantasy to the Cherokee. To the Cheyenne. To the families in Flint. To the immigrant children torn from their parents arms on our border. To the Native Americans in North Dakota now being denied by the court their right to vote. Or the people in Dodge City. A judge denied these citizens of Dodge City a new polling place so they could vote without having to travel miles to do so – even though their local polling place was closed because of a proven bald-faced lie regarding some imaginary construction. This is American justice. This is the “American Way.” Get used to it. Or not.
Or change it. Help to make it finally mean what it is meant to mean.
Vote as if your life depends on it! It does.
© tony powers and Barking in the Dark, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to tony powers and Barking in the Dark, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.