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

I am Ashamed to be an American, Part Two

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donald trump

Trump at a Rally

Continued from Part One

There’s no disputing some of the fundamentals that paved the way for and ushered in Mr. Trump’s electoral college victory. The steady impoverishment of both rural and industrial America, of Main Street, at the hands of Wall Street and the professional elites was one major factor, no question about it. In a similar vein, some of the attitudes that became widespread, post factum as it were, especially the anti-establishment spirit that had come to define the major tenor of American politics on both the federal and state levels and with respect to Congress and the President, are quite understandable, too.

Be that as it may, it’s the white folks’ overwhelming feeling of unyielding resentment against all nonwhites that I am concerned with here. It is in this respect that I hold Mr. Trump culpable, morally culpable, for igniting this sentiment and unleashing the beast within.

It may well be argued that whatever Mr. Trump had said or done during the primaries and the grueling presidential campaign doesn’t really matter, especially if the new administration will strike a gentler and more conciliatory tone than the one we’ve all been led us to expect (and there are already signs to that effect); and furthermore, that whatever had transpired in the past few months should be chalked up to campaign rhetoric, period. And if winning indeed is everything, as Vince Lombardi was once reputed to say, then Mr. Trump did nothing wrong other than accomplish his purpose.

In fact, when queried right after his victory as to whether he had regretted anything at all that happened on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump responded without hesitation: “I won, didn’t I?” Well, in case you’re missing the point, let me state it again: I hold Mr. Trump culpable, morally culpable, for igniting this sentiment (of resentment) against people of color and unleashing the beast within.

Of course some such sentiment was already there, with or without Mr. Trump’s push and shove. It is also somewhat beside the point whether such a sentiment is justifiable. It is my considered judgement that it never was and never will be. It defies reason to blame your own condition on those who are worse off than you; in so doing, you’re only refusing to take responsibility for the situation you’re in. After all, it’s always easier to scapegoat someone, anyone, than to own up to the possibility of your own failure.

But then again, we all know this has got nothing to do with reason. Illegal immigrants (from Mexico, naturally) are just a pretext, a trump card; and it’s no different with Muslims, especially Muslims who are already American citizens, ISIS notwithstanding. Since when have the Mexicans, legal or illegal, cost impoverished whites any jobs, whether in the factory or on the farm? When was the last time you’ve heard of those very whites vying for lettuce-picking jobs in Salinas, California or jobs in tobacco-processing plants in Kentucky?  The same goes for roofing, landscaping, domestic help, etc., all menial jobs that our poor, poor whites simply won’t do – not because the Mexicans do it cheaper and better but because they feel those jobs are beneath them.

As for Muslims, many of them are self-employed, thanks to their vast, extended-family networks, so they don’t pose any serious economic threat either to our white citizens, who, presumably, are still bent on improving themselves.

No, economic competition in the marketplace is not the main engine driving this feeling of resentment, though it’s a part of it, of course. The real source of rancor is the fact that in addition to a certain leveling among impoverished whites and people of color in the economic arena, insofar as both are rather equally impoverished at this point, the latter have been steadily gaining ground in the realm of civil and citizens’ rights, so much so, in fact, that for all intents and purposes, the two groups have become virtually indistinguishable.

(To add insult to injury, the whites have long been dreading the fact that they’re on their way to becoming a minority, a voting minority, a possibility all the more petrifying in view of the many widespread, far-fetched scenarios propagated by Mr. Trump and his cohorts regarding the integrity of the election process, such as the alleged inclusion of illegal immigrants – and “dead people” – on the voting rolls. Imagine! And that’s in the land they had rightly inherited? Gosh, it was like Rome being overrun by the barbarians!)

It is this kind of leveling on all fronts, compounded by a realistic fear of soon losing their plurality, that the impoverished whites simply couldn’t stomach. A virtual economic equality, in and of itself, would have been palatable enough if only the poor white folk had still retained an upper hand with respect to status, to position in society. If only someone had miraculously turned back the clock to the good ol’ days of slavery, or at least to the pre-Civil Rights era, everything would have been just fine. No one was complaining back then, not even the poor whites, for they were still far better off than “the Niggers” and the rest of us who had trickled in afterwards. No matter, because we were still “second class” to them. But now with their status all but gone, so was the idea of white privilege, and that was unforgivable.

Hence the context which endowed Mr. Trump’s endearing dog-whistle cry, “Make (white) America Great Again!” with its full and intended meaning. And make no mistake about it: Everyone who voted for him understood.

Continued in Part Three

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About Roger Nowosielski