There are plenty of days when America just does not feel like America any more. Maybe the America I imagined was never real at all. But I keep seeing tidbits reported in the news feeds on my devices that trigger old fears that any freedom we may have had, real or imagined, is about to be taken away and even the illusion of freedom may not remain.
False Accusations against Demonstrators
This meme about black football and basketball players disrespecting America and our soldiers is very disconcerting. If anything my love of American Democracy, however naïve, tells me that our President should tune in to the plight of Americans who are being singled out because we have not learned that skin color is probably the way the creator responded to climate. If we keep destroying ozone and warming the planet we may all become quite grateful for a little extra pigmentation.
Anyway, I have strayed a bit from my main point, which is that we have always had a problem in America about people with black and brown skin and that this has challenged the very most basic principles of America’s claim to the belief that all men (and women) are created equal and that they all have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is a crucial moment, a true test of our democracy/republic. Can we treat our black and brown neighbors as they should be treated? Can we stop locking them away, isolating them in segregated neighborhoods, killing them for broken tail lights and real or imagined petty thefts?
And we couldn’t have chosen a worse time for this test. When our own President thinks people who deplore fascism, and are willing to put their persons at risk to defend against it, are the same as the people who wish to rid our nation of people of color with threats and even violence; when he invites white nationalists, white supremacists into the White House to sit on his councils and advise him, then my ideal of America seems to be in great danger of disappearing forever.
I felt that it showed great restraint when a man, trained to be physically stronger than most men, gently took a knee in front of his flag to ask America to notice the injustices that continue to this day to plague our culture and disappoint its aspirations. I am shocked at the way America and our President have reacted to his pleas for someone to take away the constant fears that people of color live with in this supposedly free nation where people are said to be innocent until proven guilty. If we are to survive as the nation we are supposed to be we must get a grip on this racism that divides us.
Making People Register Private Information at Government Request
Then I heard my government say, supposedly at the behest of our President, that all immigrants and green card holders must provide the government with a list of all of the names they use on the internet. First of all we have been taught to be vigilant about whether there are clues in our culture that a Hitler-style regime could make a repeat performance anywhere on the world stage. So my hackles are raised whenever our government tries to register people that it wants to target in some negative fashion. Until now this has not happened often in this nation, although it has happened (Japanese internment camps, recent attempts to collect private voter registration data, and more). Sign up so that we have a list of people to deport? Do you think that immigrants here without proper visas are likely to comply? This is how I felt when Dreamers were told that they would not be able to stay in this country. The government already has paperwork on Dreamers, collected for the purposes of fulfilling kinder promises. That our America wants to betray people who gave personal data in this fashion makes me question whether this will ever feel like our America again.
Attempting to Pass Legislation Without Examination
Once our Congress was willing to work across the aisle and come to the kinds of compromises that kept Americans feeling like we had a functional government that at least was trying to be fair. The 115th Congress can only do its business in partisan fashion apparently, hiding away in secret meetings, refusing to publish bills in time for citizens to read them and carefully consider them, not allowing unbiased analysis by nonpartisan agencies. They tried to pass several health care bills this way. They want to pass the 2018 FY budget by next week, even though we, the American people have not had a chance to see and react to the actual budget proposal. And why do they want to do this? So they get the cuts they want and so they can use reconciliation (only 51 votes) to pass tax reforms.
Do they act like leaders who think that Americans will be pleased with either their budget or their tax reforms? No they do not. They act like they are trying to fool the American people and they are doing that because they know that those of us who have looked at the preliminary budget and tax reform information released in the press are not at all happy with the cuts Republicans want to make. All of the cuts will help those who are already wealthy and hurt the poorest Americans. Whatever hurts the poorest Americans will eventually come back to affect the entire nation negatively. They are telling us that their tax reforms will bring steady growth and will entice manufacturers to return to the US but they already know that “trickle-down” economics is a lie. Tricks and lies have always been part of American politics, but the tricks and lies are so prevalent this time that America may never recover in any form we the people will recognize.
This Does Not Feel Like America
These behaviors are just the most recent challenges to a democratic nation from people intent on overturning any law ever passed by their opponents and completing what has seemed to me to be a bloodless coup. And although the coup got “trumped” they simply keep trying to use the biggest elephant in the room to distract from what all of the other elephants are up to. And it just does not feel so much like America these days. Puerto Rico picked a very bad time to be in the path of a hurricane. America is broken.