Home / Culture and Society / I am Ashamed to be an American, Part One

I am Ashamed to be an American, Part One

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donald trumpI’m ashamed to be an American – an Italian-American, a Hispanic-American, an African-American, what have you. If there’s got to be an “American” suffix to complete the descriptor of my national identity, then I have to resign myself from now on to wear it as a badge of dishonor; and so should you!

Only Native Americans remain unblemished after Donald Trump’s victory, there being nothing to stain their good name. As for the rest of us, we must either disavow ourselves of this obscene label or better yet, call ourselves by who we really are to the rest of our esteemed countrymen: niggers, wetbacks, wops, gooks, anything but Americans. Most of all, I’m ashamed to be white, regardless of gender.

This isn’t about Trump. Mr. Trump may be a bully, a buffoon, a liar and a cheat, a sexual predator, and many other things besides. He may be only some of those things or all of them. No matter! America surely produces its fair share of personas along the wide spectrum of what’s possible, from the best to the worst, and Mr. Trump is certainly no exception. Both capitalism and the media make this possible. They afford each and every one of us a kind of freedom to choose who we are, who we decide to be. The choice is ours and ours alone, and it’s all to the good. The flip side is, only we bear the responsibility for this decision.

This isn’t about Brexit either, although there are remarkable similarities, sociological and cultural, which seem to account for why the Brits decided to exit the EU and why we elected Mr. Trump. The essential difference is this:  they hadn’t chosen Mr. Trump or anyone like Mr. Trump to represent them in the transition; we did!

Thus, it all comes down to Mr. Trump but only indirectly, only because of who he is. Ultimately, it’s all about us, for we, white Americans, men and women alike, have chosen perhaps the most unsavory character ever to run for the Oval Office to serve as the next president of the United States.

Within hours of Mr. Trump’s electoral college victory, a major upset or so everyone thought, we were treated to a variety of explanations, all hindsight, some cogent, others less so. The main thing which was being asserted was that Hillary Clinton herself was a highly flawed candidate, as unsavory as Mr. Trump himself, even more so, perhaps, in view of both the email and the Benghazi scandals. Be that as it may, it was said to demonstrate a major structural weakness within the Democratic party in that it had opted for such a flawed candidate. If it had only been Bernie Sanders, the results surely would have been different, the pundits have argued.

Inattention to white rural America, especially its working class – once the hard core of the Democratic party’s most reliable constituency when the labor unions were still in their prime, capable of influencing the outcome of presidential elections – was another oft-cited reason for Ms. Clinton’s stunning defeat. It was asserted time and again that whites of the rural South and of the heartland, along with those of the industrial North and East, have been experiencing a steady economic decline, that their situation, far from having improved, has only worsened. And that the Democrats, rather than addressing their pitiful condition, have chosen to ignore it.

Coupled with and fueled by prolonged economic stagnation, there had also been brewing a growing sentiment among impoverished whites from all strata and regions of society, rural and industrial, North and South – a sentiment to the effect that they’ve all been forgotten or, in any event, relegated to the rank of second-class citizens, especially given the economic gains by people of color, blacks, Latinos, even illegal immigrants. Naturally, this sentiment culminated in a deep-seated resentment, a resentment not only against all nonwhites but also against the government which dared to perpetuate such a travesty.

Thus, the battle lines were drawn. And although it was the Democrats who were meant to bear the original brunt of this visceral reaction, it was the Republicans who, at first, turned out to be the losers. The Tea Party, already a viable political force during John McCain’s presidential campaign, had surely contributed to the Arizona senator’s defeat: Mr. McCain just wasn’t conservative enough; he was far too mainstream, on too many issues hardly distinguishable from the Democrats themselves, to garner sufficient support from the run-of-the mill Republicans, let alone the Tea Party constituency which was clearly becoming the dominant faction within the Republican party proper. And it was no different with Mitt Romney four years later.

To make a long story short, the Tea Party faction had soon come to be identified as an anti-establishment faction, a faction not only against establishment Democrats but against establishment Republicans as well.

Which brings us to the present. This time, a significant number of disaffected Democrats and Independents, predominantly white and equally resentful at having been “sold out,” have aligned with the Tea (anti-establishment) Party, which tipped the scales and ultimately translated to Ms. Clinton’s defeat. End of story.

I don’t think there’s much to be gained by comparing Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump in terms of their character or so-called “fitness for office.” And although I’m highly doubtful whether Mr. Trump demonstrates the kind of character and personality traits which, in my opinion, are prerequisite for a presidential candidate – and truly, I don’t see how anyone could think otherwise! – I also realize that like a great many things, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.  It’s a subjective judgment, to say the least, since nearly half the country has decided to ignore Mr. Trump’s negatives and voted him in.

Which brings us to the remaining two-pronged explanation of the 2016 presidential election results: a long-standing economic stagnation among the already impoverished whites, and a growing sentiment of resentment against all nonwhites who, indirectly at least, because of the enabling role of the government, were held responsible for the white folks’ misfortunes and remained a major obstacle to their betterment. It is thus that the anti-establishment spirit became the sign of the times, capturing under one umbrella all the grievances by white Americans, men and women alike, against their government.

It also explains the enormous appeal of Mr. Trump, the ultimate outsider, and his rallying dog-whistle cry: “Make (white) America Great Again.”

Continued in Part Two

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About Roger Nowosielski