Remember the big stink that Trump and the Cult of the Red Hat made over Colin Kaepernick’s demonstrations of support for Black Lives Matter during NFL pre-game National Anthem rituals? Internet memes usually fall short of any attempt at a cogent argument in public discourse but there was a particularly good one on the subject, with a photo of Kaepernick in uniform kneeling on the sideline, declaring that “Racism is so American that when you protest it people think you’re protesting America.”
I make certain assumptions that, since we often have the flag on our minds, people understand what it means that we live in these United States of America. See, here in the USA, we are fairly exceptional among the family of nations in that ours was based on an idea instead of an ethnic identity. Specifically, the American Revolution was based on the Enlightenment idea of equality. While the idea has certainly taken much of our history to refine, we risk becoming the victims of our own success as the complacency of the American Dream allows our bad electoral choices to take a couple-few steps back in the ongoing greater effort “to form a more perfect union.”
Much of our participating electorate today appears to suffer from a prominent symptom of Gerstmann’s Syndrome, namely the inability to differentiate between left and right.
The left-right political spectrum is the invention of revolutionary France. Delegates of the National Assembly met in the summer of 1789 to write a constitution, including changes to the powers of King Louis XVI. The delegates loyal to the king sat to the right of the president of the Assembly while the revolutionaries sat to his left.
Somehow, however, the right wing in the United States has come to claim exclusive rights to patriotism, as if the revolutions that inspired France and the American colonies to overthrow their royalty never even happened. We the People have allowed these Tories to corner the market on American patriotism for too long. By now it has become increasingly clear that a solid block of whatever remains of the American electorate has bought into a heresy that our Revolution meant less about kicking over a medieval colonial European royalty class than it did for allowing us “to cling to our guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like us or anti-immigrant sentiment,” as Barrack Obama once got himself in deep trouble for saying out loud. But it’s all there: the opposition to gun regulation, the passion for harsh anti-immigration policies and the triumph of biblical morality over civil law. It is the flame beneath a boiling pot of resentment that feeds the counter-revolutionary resistance to so-called liberal “political correctness.”
Meanwhile, there really is no one more politically correct than the MAGA hatted Tory teabagger we all know, who you can always find somewhere throwing a tantrum about Colin Kaepernick or Barrack Hussein Obama or Greta Thunberg or any given legitimate news source whose reporting upsets their internal narrative about how America and the world works. We are dealing with not much more than hurt feelings but, in democracies, those feelings have a way of launching unsound public policies that survive political and even legislative processes through the same marketing culture that sells us Doritos, gold commemorative coins and AR-15s.
I tend to assume that demonstrating how they are at least as “PC thuggish” as any academic leftist, whether real or imagined, might cause a compassionate conservative to revisit their cognitive map of our socio-political landscape. But, as the old saying says, “When we assume, we make an ass out of u and me.”
In a news conference on August 12, 1986, when Ronald Reagan said that “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help,” he gave presidential authority to a narrative that has arguably led to the deepest gap in wealth inequality and voter disenfranchisement in a century. As “government” was officially branded as something separate from “We the People,” the focus of public policy priorities returned to private industry as it was back in the Gilded Age of the robber barons and labor struggles.
Our own historical populist moment has now been crystalized by Donald Trump’s verbal tick, “We’ll see what happens.”