In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden suggested that “through Civil War, the great depression, world war, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifices, and setbacks, our better angels have prevailed.” He went on to say that, “in each of these moments, ENOUGH OF US — -enough of us — -have come together to carry all of us forward, and we can do that now.“
This soaring rhetoric makes us feel good and it gives us hope. But, this narrative of American resilience tells truth only partway. Our collective malaise runs so much deeper than the machinations of the Republican Party. Just as Trump is symptomatic of a larger calamity of illness within the Republican Party, so too the Republican Party is a manifestation of a greater ecosystem of denial that exists in this land.
The soul of the dysfunction rests within the living heart of the American people (and it is especially acute within those who support the Republican Party). The Republican Party has become the party of white people and, on the surface, reflects only those voters’ prerogatives. These voters — — racially and ideologically homogeneous — — are almost suicidally fearful they will be subjected to the mass disenfranchisement that has, for centuries, beleaguered Americans of color in this country. We must reckon with the candid story of our America — -a history that includes not just the fuzzy feel-good bits but the enslavement, mistreatment, disenfranchisement of black and native people — — because it leads to where we are now (with wealth and privilege jealously ensconced in a white population in denial).
In his many discourses, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often spoke to America’s sense of itself as a beacon of aspirations and freedom, but he well knew that hatred, lies, intolerance, and what Frederick Douglass called, America’s “swelling vanity,” could rot from the inside the so-called “noble experiment.”