Image: Adobe Stock

Is This the America We Deserve?

Our nation was built on a legacy of hate. So why are we so surprised that we elected a craven, defiantly ignorant fascistic administration to lord over us?
Written by

“Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species.” 

Who said it?

 

a.              Charles Darwin

b.              Susan B. Anthony

c.              Alexis d’ Tocqueville

 

In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election, hate crimes spiked. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in partnership with ProPublica began the #ReportHate campaign and began collecting and cataloging hate incidents from people around the country. Swastikas appeared on buildings, Jewish cemeteries were vandalized and bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and schools. As of February, SPLC took in over 1,300 reports. ProPublica noted a surge in visits to white supremacist websites and partnered with outlets like The New York Times opinion page to ensure ongoing coverage.

Senator after senator, congresswoman after congresswoman stood up and repeatedly declared “This is not the America I know!” Muslim travel bans? “This is not the America I know!” A misogynist president refusing to shake hands with Chancellor Angela Merkel? “This is not the America I know!” Two Indian men shot—one killed—in Kansas because they were brown. “This is not the America I know!”

Repeating something over and over does not make it true. This is the America we know and Donald Trump in the West Wing is proof. The only thing shocking about the election outcome is that polling data was so wildly off the mark. That our country that is owned by the NRA, corporations and white right wing Christian men who don’t care about women or children is something most of us have known all along. The rest of the country wasn’t paying attention.

Some people in the media, in activist circles, and within the DNC are trying to make lemonade out of the diseased lemons of a Trump presidency. That this is a wakeup call! That maybe in the long run, Trump’s election and horrific presidency will be the crucible for a truly progressive United States of America. That feels nice; a similar balm to the This is not the America I know mantra. But it too is untrue.

The America I know is an inhospitable place for people of color, women, the disabled, the poor, children, and the otherwise marginalized. It is undeniable as American women we begin our lives with advantages through accident of birth; a fact that must be recognized. But, the America I know won in November, despite losing the popular vote by millions. An America where in 2008 Obama noted correctly on the campaign trail that people cling to religion and guns.

Statistically, single-issue voters turn up for elections – even less charged mid-terms. Statistically, those voters are Republicans. This isn’t new or particularly shocking information. Republicans are masters of energizing their base, just mention the words planned and parenthood and they are lining up at the ballot box. Democrats don’t turn up or have been disenfranchised and gerrymandered out of relevance. Or in this year’s presidential election millennial voters, well, that’s a discussion for another time.

Shortly after the election, I posted on my personal Facebook page that we the people get the government we deserve. This isn’t a new idea for me. It is something I happen to believe as a political philosophy. I can tell you my ‘government we deserve’ statement did not go over well. I got a lot of angry comments. Boiled down to their essence the gist was this: we don’t deserve Trump!

A part of me feels that way. Women don’t deserve this. People of color, immigrants, “the other” don’t deserve the whittling away of our already waning rights. We (as in the majority of American voters) did hand Clinton a huge popular vote victory after all. I started thinking about our antiquated electoral college system and my episodic verve to abolish through a constitutional amendment.

But the idea that America is immune to proto-fascists is dangerous. It's American exceptionalism, that somehow we are immune because of our young, albeit impressive system of governance. But we broke that system: The America I know wasn’t ready to have its first female president on the heels of its first African-American president. That is the America I know.

It is the America where Congress voted to make sexual assault, C-sections, and being the victim of domestic assault preexisting conditions. What isn't a preexisting condition? The inability to get and maintain an erection. The America where religious freedom means it is legal to allow discrimination based on the dictates of one’s so-called faith. Of course, this measure will ensure an uptick in gender-based discrimination, a brand-new avenue to impose religious litmus tests for employment and as always, make women’s health care a sitting duck. The America where #BlackLivesMatter is controversial. Where a woman’s right to end a pregnancy is left up to ancient white men who, unfortunately cannot get pregnant themselves. Where all Muslims are terrorists and white people shoot up Sikh temples.

That the U.S. Constitution embodied liberty through “radical equality” Tocqueville warned America could create new forms of tyranny. Our ability to self-determination could lead to self-indulgent individualism. One resembling hedonism insofar as a person’s “relaxed love of present enjoyments." While we enjoy immediate individual pleasures the danger is this: losing sight of the needs of our future republic and our future generations.

Total civil disengagement could lead to civic ignorance. This is where an especially virulent despotism becomes more powerful than a military coup because, “It does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them, and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born.” Despots lie, they promise quick fixes where none is to be found, they favor bluster and ego over substance and service. Following a despot is easy because he tells us what we want to hear.

Trump is a vulgar chauvinist, a misogynist, a bigot, a racist, a liar, and a fraud. He told us throughout his campaign through his actions (e.g., making fun of a disabled reporter) and words (e.g., Mexicans are rapists). We even got to hear that he likes to grab women by the pussy just walk up and kiss them without asking. Over a dozen women attested to his penchant for sexual harassment and assault.

The America I know has elected a despot with its eyes wide open. I reckon we deserve whatever we get.

 

Answer to multiple-choice question: Voice-over narration from the movie Idiocracy. 

 

Andy Kopsa, who was raised on an Iowa farm, is a reporter based in New York City. She has written for The Nation, Al Jazeera, Cosmopolitan, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and others. She won a 2012 Society of Professional Journalists Award for Reporting Events of Public Importance and was a fellow in USC Annenberg’s Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion in American Public Life.
More by:
Andy Kopsa