American civil war revisited?

Imagine stories around a campfire…

a mystical möbius hopes to create a space that feels like sitting around a (digital) campfire.

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Image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash || CC0  

No one misses the point here

Terry Berland has been creating a fun series of 15 second animations for CNN you may have seen. I share them here because they illustrate a natural result of the political “sorting” process that we raised in last week’s a mystical möbius post (Ashes, ashes, we all fall down).

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In his book, Why We Are Polarized, Ezra Klein helpfully differentiates polarization and sorting [pp 31-32]:

Let’s start with polarization versus sorting, using cannabis policy as an example. Imagine a hundred person America, where forty people want cannabis outlawed, forty want it legalized, and twenty aren’t sure. If the Democratic and Republican Parties find themselves with an equal number of members from each group, America is totally unsorted. 

Now imagine that everyone who wants to legalize cannabis moves into the Democratic Party, everyone who wants to outlaw it joins the Republican Party, and the undecided voters are split evenly between the two parties. Now the parties are perfectly sorted butand this is the crucial pointno one’s opinion has actually changed. The country still holds the same mix of beliefs about pot in both examples. It’s just that in the second example, those beliefs are sorted by party. 

So that’s sorting. Now let’s tweak the example again. Imagine the undecideds make up their minds . Now fifty Americans want to legalize cannabis and fifty want to outlaw it. That’s polarization: the opinions themselves changed to cluster around two poles, with no one left in the middle.

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Well sorted, AND polarized

The above, of course, illustrates a natural result of the “sorting” process that the U.S. has been undergoing over the past thirty years. Legislators have become little more than the mindless/heartless avatars of money interests and an electorate that has been sorted with scientific precision into two tribes who live in worlds with different colored skies. Both tribes are primed and ready to cancel (shame/shun) anyone who speaks in any way that does not line up favorably along the tribal axis. Both tribes have even demonstrated a willingness to eat their own youngthink of Al Franken and Jeff Flake as examples of each party turning on their own.

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Image by Džoko Stach from Pixabay || CC0  

As I have previously suggested, the process of sorting has been supercharged by the presence of talk radio, cable news, and (especially) social media. Then, in 2015, into a hyper-polarized society along with its supercharged media environment, with “birtherism” already in his résumé, down the escalator comes a reality-show media personality shamelessly spouting racist, nativist tropes.

Fast forward to the present, Trump supporters are free to say they are simply ignoring his racially inflammatory antagonism. However, while some people still want to make the claim, I am through believing anyone remains who is really unable to see Trump’s miscreant behavior. Rather, I feel they are choosing blindness. The ‘dog whistle’ cover allowing any deniability regarding Trump’s highly charged racial rhetoric is long gone. Whatever subtlety his approach used before has given way to proud plain bullhorn pronouncements, like, “They’re coming for you in the suburbs!” [see, “Trump is shouting his racism. He must be stopped.“]

The irony is deep. Trump sets and fans the fires of civil unrest with the very political technology that he claims is the answer to the problem he is creating. Trump is like an arsonist who sets a fire and then appears from around the corner, putting on his fire chief hat, and claiming to be the only one who can put the fire out. Yeah, it’s really that messed up right now. 

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Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc., speaks while announcing he will seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Billionaire television personality and business executive Donald Trump formally began his Republican presidential campaign today in Manhattan, saying that the United States has become “a dumping ground for other people’s problems.” Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

History

The history in America is plain and grim. Emancipation freed the slaves but it did not end the sense of many white people that White supremacy is a human reality. The Lost Cause, and Jim Crow laws/policy, kept white people secure in their White superiority. The American church is far beyond being merely complicit. A New Yorker story, “American Christianity’s White Supremacy Problem,” raises very serious issues for the church. In a recent NPR “1A” interview, Robert P. Jones, author of, White Too Long: the Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, relates that the Ku Klux Klan was thought of as a good Christian organization in the early twentieth century (White Christians Grapple With Their Faith’s Racist Past And Present). Clip re KKK:

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The American education system expressly taught White supremacy, and in full alignment with Jim Crow policy it embodied racist segregation. When Brown vs Topeka Board of Education was decided in favor of school integration, many people (and some states) openly resisted and declared an oath to never integrate their public schools. When in due course the law insisted, some areas basically abandoned funding of public education, and many white people simply sent their kids to private Christian schools.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Voter Rights Act of 1965, secured the (practical) right to vote and other rights for Black Americans. Again, however, the law changed but that left unchanged the hearts and minds of many people. Making racism illegaland in time, political incorrectnessonly served to send racism underground. The Trump era has allowed overt White supremacist identity to surface and has even empowered those who consciously claim the ideology a place at the table of societal debate. Now, many (not all) Trump supporters feel that the Trump era is an opportunity to re-negotiate the outcome of the civil war. Even more problematically, this has also allowed silently-complicit white persons with latent, not-conscious racism to project the entire problem onto overt racists (e.g., “a few bad apples”). Perhaps it is not so for you (or, at least, not-consciously so), but make no mistake, for many MAGA people, White supremacy is openly on the 2020 ballot. In any event, it is past time for Trump’s supporters to own the composition of their coalition to include the White supremacist wing of the MAGA party.  

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I do not pretend to know how the hearts and minds of American voters are aligned, or the effect of that alignment on the 2020 election. That’s why we go to all the trouble of actually having a vote, to get an official snapshot of where we are at an appointed time. What I do know is that, as of early September, President Trump’s campaign is designed to make the November 3rd presidential showdown a referendum on whether the civil war is over or not. A significant portion of the president’s support base feels the issue was decided poorly and responds positively to the White Christian nationalist posturing that Trump does as well as the racially-charged rhetoric that he consistently employs.

Drawing a clear line in the moral sand

People are free to delude themselves, however, I will no longer stand by quietly while Trump supporters who I know and love pretend as though Trump’s overt outreach to those with racist ideologies is not happening. It is happening, it has been happening, and blatantly so. You may love his policies if you wish. You may deny that you are a part of his racist faction if you like. Please do not, however, try to deny that the president, his campaign, and a sizable segment of his base, tangibly support White supremacist ideology as part of the Trump MAGA phenomenon. Granted, not all Trump’s base support him for racial reasons, but many do, both consciously, and not-consciously.

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Alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi, Confederate, and Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. // Date 12 August 2017, 10:58 // Source Charlottesville “Unite the Right” Rally

Charlottesville ought to have been the end of debate on this. I wrote back in July, 2019 (see, Is the POTUS a racist?), that I don’t know for certain if the president is a racist but that people who openly declare they are White supremacist racists believe that Trump is racist. They feel Trump is one of them and that he has their backsee, White House directs federal agencies to cancel race-related training sessions it calls ‘un-American propaganda.

In the past couple of years I have written in this blog about White supremacy and racism fourteen, now fifteen, times. Last week a friend posted an insight they had noted someone making. The observation was that Trumpian White America has now (largely not-consciously) collectively concluded that it’s easier to deny/ignore the racism charge than to try and actually do something about fixing capitalismsee, Trump Bans Diversity Training, Claiming It’s Divisive, Anti-American Propaganda.

It’s a human tragedy that it has taken the approaching loss of white majority, George Floyd’s life, and, the Covid-19 Apocalypse to bring the needed societal reckoning to the United States of America. In any event, the time has finally come to repent of our two original sins: stealing the land of American First Peoples; and building our economic system on the free labor (and backs) of enslaved Africans. Repentance and reparations are the way forward for the U.S.A., if any way forward indeed still remains.

One of the most powerful from-the-heart sermons I’ve heard in a long, long time was offered on August 25th by Julia Jackson. It’s only five minutes long, and so I offer it here for you to hear:

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Image by Alfred Leung on Unsplash || CC0

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Next week: “Will you be indelibly marked?Come and see. 

[this post approx. 1,600 words (7 min. read)]

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say? Note: I know, trying to introduce a big-picture idea like Spiral Dynamics (a complex developmental anthropology) in this format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Blog introduction (June 30, 2018). First in series (July 1, 2018).

2 thoughts on “American civil war revisited?

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