Opinion: ‘Who We Are’
We need to stop deluding ourselves.
Here’s the nub of it. A large number of white Americans saw themselves at the top rung of America’s social and cultural ladder. They accepted it as their birthright. When they sensed a threat to that position—when they saw a black man speaking to them from behind the Presidential seal—they elected a goon President, then broke out the torches and toyed with the idea of setting the whole thing on fire.
“We will not be replaced,” they shouted in the streets of Charlottesville, carrying their Confederate and Nazi flags.
We’ve seen some inspiring words of condemnation yesterday and today—from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, from John McCain, even from Ted Cruz. (Trump’s a lost cause, no pun intended, and anyone expecting him to be anything else is a fool.) We’ve also seen multiple iterations of a common sentiment whenever another American commits another act of violence in the name of his hatred of choice: There’s no place in America for this kind of act. Hatred is not welcome here. This is not who we are.
We need to stop deluding ourselves about this. Yes, it is. Trump’s election ripped the hood off the fiction that white supremacy is not integral to America’s foundation—a truth clouded by a couple of generations’ worth of relative dormancy. It’s active again. It lacks even a trace of shame.
I’ve gone through my entire adult life thinking that America was, even through its stumbles and often dismal history, a fundamentally noble experiment—a test of whether peoples of different races and religions could form one nation through the power of an idea instead of blood. Maybe that was a delusion, too.
Young men wearing swastika armbands and Hitler haircuts are marching openly through the streets of a college town in my country. A woman is dead because one of them drove a car into a crowd of people resisting them. I do not believe this will get better anytime soon, and it never will without an honest accounting of who we are, who we’ve always been, and who we’ve allowed ourselves to become.