Trump may be the most deplorable president-elect that America has ever had, but he hasn’t destroyed our national innocence or even set back the clock very far. Many of the presidents that we think of as great have had just as terrible ideas about women and minorities and immigrants as he does, and even more rapacious views of our place in the world.
Haven’t you guys read your Ta-Nehisi Coates? Americans killed the Indians, built much of our national economy on the backs of human chattel, and slammed the door to immigrants at the turn of the last century, and locked and double-locked it again in the 1920s. Steve Bannon won’t be the first Jew-hating white supremacist to land in a powerful berth in Washington. We elected Obama yes, but we also re-elected George W. Bush. And I say nothing about our prisons
nor the millions of underprivileged who live in
my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns
(Ginsberg, “America,” go read it for inspiration). We are as blood-soaked as any other nation, but looking at my Facebook feed this past week it seems to me sometimes that even hardened leftists subscribe to the inane myth of divine American Exceptionalism. Winthrop exhorted the Pilgrims to build a shining city on a hill, he didn’t congratulate them for building it. Go read the history of Israel as told by the Bible, and you will see, as Winthrop saw, that it is one of unmitigated failure. Zionism is a cartoon. American Exceptionalism is a cartoon. Nations rise and fall, and America is surely falling right now. I’m freaked out too, but this isn’t about me.
I have just as dark a view of Trump and the future as anyone, but I also recognize that the election could have easily gone the other way and that if it had all of the conditions for Trumpism would have still been present. Maybe his election shatters the American dream, but dreams are for dreamers. History has always unfolded in a fallen world.
This is not a counsel of fatalism or despair: it is a call to action.