Happy 232nd Birthday, USA.

Our Republic, that grand experiment in human freedom, is 232 years old. It has endured much and achieved triumphs undreamed by any other nation that has ever existed on this Earth. Pharohs and Emperors built grand tombs and monuments to their glory; the greatest relics of the American Experiment are on the Moon and have soared past the heliosphere of the solar system. Certainly there were Earthly political motives behind the achievements of the United States space program, but from the muck of nationalistic and militaristic posturing something arose that transcended all of that. For all of it’s faults our Republic has done things no other nation even dreamed possible. Of this and more I am proud to be an American.

It has just been announced that former Senator Jesse Helms has died. Helms life spanned over one-third of the 232 years of our Republic’s existence. Surely there will be many tributes to the Senator that will gloss over the uglier aspects of his career. He was an unreformed racist who fought against the Civil Rights Movement and its legacy throughout his life. He certainly has his apologists who will argue he wasn’t a racist but rather a great patriot who fought for the preservation of traditional America; but they will fail to explain what specific traditions he sought to perpetuate. 

This is a very special year for the USA. Racism has been the central problem of this nation for over two centuries. The United States has been the single greatest proponent of liberty the family of nations has ever known but has always had great difficulty squaring reality with the rhetoric. In this year when a black man is not only a candidate for the Presidency but actually appears to be able to win the office the smouldering racism in the heart of America is rekindling with a terrible heat. White supremacist groups are increasing in membership as the possibility of an African-American President becomes more likely.  The ugly racism underlying many of the attacks on Obama is easily apparent even as the attackers cry with mock outrage that Obama is using race as a shield against scrutiny or exaggerating the racist nature of the attacks. Of course, blaming the victim is nothing new. 

Americans who look to Jesse Helms as a hero have been reduced to lies, distortions and smears to make their case, and as a result their argument is a diseased monster stitched together out of rotting corpse parts that is so convinced of its own beautiful perfection that it mistakes its own reflection for that which it hates. The reek of decay that the right wing is complaining about is their own festering corruption; they are so infused with their own filth that they blame everything around them for the stink without realizing that they are the ones who are producing it.

The thing to do with a festering carcass is to bury it; even better would be to cremate it and scatter its ashes without a memorial of any kind. The racist past of America is an ancient undead thing that claws at our throats and has us still struggling in a fight that was won long ago and keeps us from looking to the future. This thing wants to drag the living into the grave with it to keep it company in the long night of the past. We the living are the inheritors of the Declaration of Independence. It is incumbent upon us to finally put the ghosts of the past to rest; otherwise we will join them in the Hell of their making.

On this Independence Day, I remember the America that was, I toast the America that is, and I celebrate the America that could be. Every day we all must choose between fear or hope, brotherhood or strife, and the past or the future. We must all decide what a patriot is for ourselves; for me, patriotism is loving your country enough to be honest with it. Happy 4th of July, everyone.

4 Responses to “Happy 232nd Birthday, USA.”

  1. The Prof Says:


    Whoa. I guess one of the double-edged swords of the Internets is that psychos can post anything–it’s all out there, even from the guy who says it’s okay to beat your wife. But at least it’s out in the open. The reactionary backlash to Obama’s candidacy is something else, though, and it’s gotten worse in the last couple of weeks–I think it stems from certain pundits and right-wing groups feeling entitled to be in charge and becoming aware that it could very well slip away, as well as the obvious racism in some quarters. But these people will say anything. And it is only going to get worse–I predict that, come October (unless there’s some huge shift in McCain’s direction) you’re going to see the true nature of a few social conservatives come out in the form of open race-based attacks and attempts to keep black people from voting (much worse than last time around, which was bad enough). I do not believe any of it will come from McCain himself, or his campaign–despite what I’ve come to think of his policies, I would be absolutely shocked to see him go that way. But the pundits and the 527 groups are another matter. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see some pundit on FOX explaining, in terms he/she feels are quite rational, why a black man shouldn’t be President. These people want respect for their bigotry…and they ain’t gettin’ it from me.

    It will get much uglier than this.

    That being said, this is still a nation where a black guy with a funny name, who grew up in a modest home, has a legitimate shot at being President. Or in my case, the son of a factory worker can grow up to be a college professor. On this day I won’t so much say I’m “proud” to be an American, since I had nothing to do with the circumstances of my birth–but I am deeply, sincerely grateful that, 232 years ago, a bunch of farmers and small business owners and lawyers signed Jefferson’s manifesto about freedom and equality and all that good stuff, and decided to see what would happen if they actually ran a nation under those principles.

  2. Prof-
    The problem with it being out there in the open is that racism flourishes when it feels it has a receptive audience. That sort of rhetoric is thriving more than it has in a generation. The economy is very rough right now and that makes for a very fertile soil for racist enmity to grow. The right wing is feeling very threatened right now and a healthy persecution complex has always been a part of their worldview. The popularity of Barack Hussein Obama fills them with unreasonable terror. Just as they were feeling their inevitable dominion was immenent their most unthinkable anxieties are coming to life. This is dangerous.

    A few weeks ago I mentioned an article at Orcinus about the Phineas Priesthood. They’re sort of like the Fundamentalist Christian Al’Qaida, they just haven’t had a big media moment yet. The article was from a book about the Patriot Movement and was a chapter about the Phineas Priesthood. There’s evidence to suggest that a many assaults on interracial and homosexual couples over the past several years are the work of this group. In their ideology and actions they are quite radical and criminal. They are also determined and dangerous.

    When major figures like Limbaugh and the rest of the usual suspects express racism and general hostility towards the Other it emboldens groups like the Phineas Priesthood. Remember how the right wing noisebox was shouting about the government during Clinton’s administration? Timothy McVeigh listened. If you read the letter he sent to Fox News, you can tell. He thought he was a hero. I am concerned about the turmoil that could await us. The election of Abraham Lincoln precipitated the Civil War. These ‘Patriot’ groups often strongly identify with the Confedates. Things could get much uglier than words. That’s why it’s important to have a united front against these ideas.

    Of course, it is by lucky accident that I was born here. My pride in being an American is a result of my identification with this country. I do not subscribe to the idea of Manifest Destiny or of an inherent American Exceptionalism or Superiority. Surely the USA has unique and exceptional achievements, but the rules of history, economics, and physics still apply to us. In other words, our standing as a shining city on a hill is something that we must sustain through effort; it is not something granted from above. We must participate in our society and take pride in it; if something is special then it should be treated as such. Otherwise it loses its shine. The Constitution only is significant if we obey it. The Declaration is only meaningful if we believe it.
    Gotta run!

  3. The Prof Says:


    Was recently watching an old clip of Bill’O–yeah, I know, but it’s good to see how the other side thinks–and he was expressing concern about non-whites becoming a majority in this country. Specifically, he said he feared the end of the white male power structure.

    And there you have it. It’s my belief that these constant appeals to racism, as well as racism itself, and Christian fundamentalism (as it relates to the public and educational sphere) are all part of the same thing–people’s desire to feel special, even at the expense of others. In the case of racists, they seem to fear losing that one thing that they think sets them above…someone else. After all, if the game’s not fixed…they might not win. Ain’t nothin’ scarier to some than a level playing field.

    I do, however, still believe the best way to destroy these people is to let them speak their trash in a public forum–when it all comes out into the light, the vast majority of people will shun them. Yes, there are some crazies, and the Internets gives them ways to organize and see that there are, in fact, people just like them. But others, like yourself, can demonstrate the craziness by linking to their very sites. You yourself have indicated to me several times that you like to provoke these people into letting them hang themselves with their own words. Now if only some high-profile people would do the same…


    P.S.–love the monkey puppet. Cute and strangely compelling. That woman should get herself an agent.

  4. Prof-
    I must concede your point and agree that expressing the pus from the wound is sometimes the best thing to do. I suppose that I worry this will only spread the infection. I must also admit that there are few pleasures teh internets provides me that are greater than the spectacle of naked ignorance exposed. I suppose one of those greater pleasures is Fillup Munkee the Monkey Puppet. He is just so darned cute.

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