Some Thoughts on America’s Shame

Someday, future Americans will look back on the end of the 21st century’s first decade and feel shame, and perhaps a sense of wonder that such an advanced nation, one of the most free to have ever existed, could be home to such petty prejudice and superstition, that rights we once held thought defined us could be so easily and thoughtlessly trampled.

Just as we look back with shame on our treatment of the African Americans brought to these shores and kept in a state of slavery, future Americans will look back with shame on the treatment meted out to our first African American president, not because of his education or qualifications, but because of the color of his skin.

Thomas Jefferson, though he owned slaves, knew that slavery was wrong; he thought of it as a social contagion that was harmful to all, slave and free. He fully expected slavery to come to an end and took legislative steps to begin the process. He knew that extreme measures in his own day would lead to the fragile new union’s collapse if not outright war. It came to war anyway, of course, and over 600,000 dead and a president with the courage to say “enough.”

The road to true freedom for blacks in America did not come all at once, or even with the Emancipation Proclamation. The process has been long and hard and many battles for civil rights had to be fought and won before racism would yield. But racism did not die and is not dead yet, and some, myself included, were shocked when Obama was elected by the degree of racism still existing in this country, by the waving of Confederate flags under which slavery flourished and was defended.

Everyone is equal, the Founding Fathers said. We all have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But there are those today who disregard the utopian dreams of the Founding Fathers, people to whom egalitarianism extends only to those like themselves, of the same skin color, or the same religion, or the same political leanings. They live in a land of absolutes, where you are one of the chosen – or one of the damned.

We have seen the reactionary forces of this group of people displayed in all its unsavory rhetoric since Barack Obama announced that he would run for President of the United States. He has been accused of being a “Kenyan anti-colonialist” and a “Muslim” and of not even being an American citizen. Conservatives have danced to “Barack the Magic Negro” and refuse even to call him by his real name while they share pictures of the White House surrounded by a watermelon patch, and then play dumb when called out.

They have even accused the Democrats, those who put Barack Obama in office as the first black president of the United States, of racism and keeping black people down. If by holding them down they mean electing them to the highest office in the land, then I suppose they are right, but that is a strange use of the English language, stranger even then Sarah Palin’s unintentional non sequiturs.

Then there is the belief that the word Muslim is in some sense an insult. Barack Obama is not a Muslim, but according to the Constitution, it would make no difference if he was. The United States was founded on the idea of the separation of church and state, that there would be no state religion to sap our hard-won liberties, and the Constitution (Article 6, Section 3) ensures that there will be no religious test for office. The office-holders religious views are, according to the Constitution, completely irrelevant.

Someday, future Americans will look back and shake their heads sadly, wondering how such low arguments could not only be tolerated but bandied about on a major network and in major print newspapers, that a whole political party could operate on the assumption that the Constitution is irrelevant, for irrelevant it must be if what it says can be so easily disregarded.

Most of us may not expect something as free and open-minded as Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future to come to fruition, but we like to think we were further along than we turned out to be; we like to believe there is some hope yet that we may prove ourselves worthy of the founding documents’ lofty words, that liberty is not only for a few, but for all equally, that even if it could not become true all at once with the signing of a pen, that it would be true someday, that it was meant to be true some day.

That such levels of racism and bigotry could exist in the 21st century is a mark of shame for those alive today. We are not who we were supposed to be, ladies and gentlemen, and we share a responsibility in not having created and nurtured the society that we should have created. We have made advances, but not enough. There are still those who expect the wrath of God to befall us for our sins, or who assign natural disasters to God’s wrath, or who would deprive those they don’t approve of, of their allegedly inalienable rights.

You have no rights because you are black; you have no rights because you are a woman; you have no rights because you are gay; you have no rights because you are an atheist; you have no rights because you are a Muslim; you have no rights because you support what the Founding Fathers promised us: liberty and individual human rights – for all.

The forces of exclusion bring shame on all Americans. And the rest of us will bear that shame if we let them triumph, if we let the great experiment begun in 1776 expire because we do not have the courage to stand up and give a shout for what is right, and to shout down what is wrong. Someday Americans will look back in shame on this era, but it is within our power to bring that era to an end, if only we will do what is right in three weeks, and again in two years, and again in every election that follows.

If you’re ready to read more from the unbossed and unbought Politicus team, sign up for our newsletter here!

21 Replies to “Some Thoughts on America’s Shame”

  1. You put this so beautifully, Hraf. It is what so many are feeling right now. And instead of letting it push us into inaction and despair, we need to fight against it with every breath in our bodies.

  2. What an absurd diatribe.

    America should feel shame about the begginning of its downfall: LBJ’s Great Society and War on Poverty programs, which created another form of slavery–dependency on government entitlements and subsidized illegitimacy. America’s cities are teeming with millions of morally and ethicall bankrupt fatherless welfare citizens, who destroyed associated public schools long ago. Our prisons and jails are overcrowded with the results of LBJ’s “White liberal guilt money”, which now translate into votes for Democratic poverty pimps.

    This is where the shame truly lies.

  3. You really paint with a broad brush in one color, don’t you there, Smarg. Yea, there are people who abuse the system, just like corporations and the super rich play the tax system in their favor, but to generalize in such a overarching way diminishes the people who don’t do this – like, maybe, the millions of unemployed who are relying on their unemployment benefits to eke out a living during these hard times, but I guess you’d call them part of the slavery-dependent-on-government-entitlements class, oh and let’s throw all those old retired people into this category – after all they have the audacity to be dependent on Medicare and social security.

  4. Translation of Smarg’s comment:

    How dare we insinuate that non-whites are somehow our equals! We need to bring back Jim Crow laws and get all those filthy black and brown people back in their ghettoes where they belong!

  5. He also fails to recognize that there have been people who were raised in the direst of circumstances–on welfare–and have managed to become productive citizens against seemingly insurmountable odds. There always have been people who abuse the system, whether they are in the corporate world or welfare recipients. Just the same, it is neither fair nor honest to paint all people, or even most, with a broad brush. The Republicans seem bent on completely shredding the safety net that keeps so many Americans from falling into an inescapable abyss, and they are appealing to the kind of darwinian, self-centered mentality that says: “I got mine, and I don’t care if you get yours.”

  6. Special note of interest to lamers and haters:
    You really dont know whose blood you have in you do you?
    The numbers below are:
    Column 1 = # of generations
    Column 2 = 25 years per generation
    Column 3 = Your mother and

    1
    1 25 1 1
    2 50 2 2
    3 75 4 4
    4 100 8 8
    5 125 16 16
    6 150 32 32
    7 175 64 64
    8 200 128 128
    9 225 256 256
    10 250 512 512
    11 275 1,024 1,024
    12 300 2,048 2,048
    13 325 4,096 4,096
    14 350 8,192 8,192
    15 375 16,384 16,384
    16 400 32,768 32,768
    17 425 65,536 65,536
    18 450 131,072 131,072
    19 475 262,144 262,144
    20 500 524,288 524,288
    21 525 1,048,576 1,048,576
    22 550 2,097,152 2,097,152
    23 575 4,194,304 4,194,304
    24 600 8,388,608 8,388,608
    25 625 16,777,216 16,777,216 33,554,432

  7. I don’t know what to add to that Shiva, seriously. What we need are mass genetic tests for everyone, starting with the racists. Let’s take a look at that mitochondrial DNA.

  8. WHOOPS!

    Special note of interest to lamers and haters:
    You really dont know whose blood you have in you do you?
    The numbers below are:
    Column 1 = # of generations
    Column 2 = 25 years per generation
    Column 3 = Your mother and her ancestors
    Column 4 = Your father and his ancestors
    In 625 years you have the blood of 33,554,432 in you. People with dark eyes and darker skin, people who may have been gay. And so on and so on.

    You
    1 25 1 1
    2 50 2 2
    3 75 4 4
    4 100 8 8
    5 125 16 16
    6 150 32 32
    7 175 64 64
    8 200 128 128
    9 225 256 256
    10 250 512 512
    11 275 1,024 1,024
    12 300 2,048 2,048
    13 325 4,096 4,096
    14 350 8,192 8,192
    15 375 16,384 16,384
    16 400 32,768 32,768
    17 425 65,536 65,536
    18 450 131,072 131,072
    19 475 262,144 262,144
    20 500 524,288 524,288
    21 525 1,048,576 1,048,576
    22 550 2,097,152 2,097,152
    23 575 4,194,304 4,194,304
    24 600 8,388,608 8,388,608
    25 625 16,777,216 16,777,216

    The Horrah! You could and probably do have the blood of a black person in you! You could and probably do have the blood of Muhammad in you because he had so many wives!
    Some info for you to consider. We are all related:

    the British royal family is descended from Mohammed through the Arab kings of Seville, who once ruled Spain. By marriage, their blood passed to the European kings of Portugal and Castille, and through them to England’s 15th century King Edward IV. ‘

    (G.W)Bush is closely related to the king of Albania and has kinship with every member of the British royal family and the House of Windsor. He is related to 20 British Dukes, the 13th cousin of Britain’s Queen Mother, and of her daughter Queen Elizabeth. He is 13th cousin once removed from Prince Charles and has direct descent from King Henry III, Charles II, and Edward I of England. Through the House of Windsor and King Henry III, the Bush’s and Bill Clinton are genetically related as well.

    So King Edward IV was a direct descendant of Muhammed.

    Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
    was his father and he was the second child of Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer. Anne was the senior heiress of Lionel of Antwerp, the second surviving son of Edward III; this arguably gave her and her family a superior claim to the throne over that of the House of Lancaster.

    So the great grand father of Edward IV was Edward III.

    And his grandfather was Edward I.

  9. You’re very good at pointing out the problems, but you NEVER offer any solutions to solve the problems, a key characteristic of many conservatives. Complaining and whining is easy and doesn’t require much thinking, whereas, solutions require an acknowledgement of the problems, critical thinking skills, hard work and action.

    It’s time for republicans to put up or shut up. Running one’s mouth doesn’t solve any problem and neither does voting in lockstep for those who contribute to the continuation of the problems by voting NO on policies that would address them.

  10. Thanks, Shiva.

    President Obama is related to Dick Cheney, and General Colin Powell is related to Queen Elizabeth II. We’re all related to each other according to the results of an anthropological/genetic study that was released a few years ago. We can all trace our origins back to a common ancestor, “Eve,” in Africa.

  11. Simmons, Christine. “Vice President Dick Cheney and Democrat Barack Obama are eighth cousins, Lynne Cheney says.” The Associated Press, 17 Oct. 2007.

  12. I don’t buy into the Eve option, but it is clear that our human race started from a small number of individuals. Therefore at best we have the intermingled blood of everyone somewheres in the line

  13. And they tend to adhere to the belief that the rich are rich because they deserve to be rich (even though many of them inherited their wealth) and that if you are poor and/or without a job it is because you deserve to be and that this makes you in some way inferior to the wealthy (who are more than happy with that line of reasoning whether they got their wealth through talent or inheritance).

  14. I don’t buy into the Eve option either (and not on religious grounds) but it is clear that people are far more closely related than they would ever imagine. Even my English, Scot and Irish blood is likely Scandinavian, given DNA testing done in the northern parts of England, so you really can’t count on anything when you divide your genetic inheritance into parts. We’re all “mutts”

  15. Someday huh? Hell I’d say the shame started the day the supreme court sold the election for George Bush in 2000. We are now living with the outcome of having an idiot in the white house. Don’t get me wrong unlike the teapublicans I don’t wish Bush dead. I wish he and Cheney were put in jail for letting innocent people die in a country (Iraq) that didn’t attack us. They new this long before 9-11 happened.

  16. Wonderful post, Hraf!

    The election of PO did indeed bring out some of our worst hidden traits as a country.

    The aspect which actually angers me the most is the media’s gleeful orgy of indulging and exploiting these hateful voices in our society for the media’s own ratings and profit. Although the Tea Party and other “angry” voices are a mere fraction of the populace, the media have lovingly nurtured the impression day in and day out that these voices were a majority — the only story worth covering.

    Meanwhile, the quieter and more reasonable majority have been watching and waiting for our chance to be heard — and we will be heard in a way that will ultimately reinforce this country’s dedication to the true intent of equality under the Constitution! Count on it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.