Or, why the phrase “this isn’t America!” as a reflex to moral & social indignities should be shelved forever.

Black Lives Matter Protest, Philadephia, PA, July 2016 (photo credit: Bruce Emmerling)

Western civilization, unfortunately, does not link knowledge and morality but rather, it connects knowledge and power and makes them equivalent.
- Vine Deloria, Jr.

This past week — hell, ever since November 10th, 2016, its been more and more of an absolute horror show that plays out day by day in these current United States. A slow, garish horror that issues forth like vomit with an orange tinge and a familiar stench of hatred to those who aren’t the default vision of
what America is in the minds of Donald J. Trump or his administration or any of the estimated 30% of citizens on record who voted for him or count themselves among his supporters. This past week is a new low, and that’s saying something given who’s down in the White House. There’s three reported incidents that have sent many buzzing in households and on their social media feeds. And what I keep seeing from some online is a knee-jerk reaction of shock and anger and sadness summed up in three words: “this isn’t America!!”

Hate to burst your bubbles — but yes, yes it is. This has always been America.
Let’s look at each of the aforementioned situations and explain why.

Players from the Washington NFL team kneeling in protest before a game with the Oakland Raiders, October 2016(photo credit: Wikimedia)

Owners in the National Football League this week recently decided to install a new policy regarding their players and the national anthem. To sum up: if any players are on the field as the anthem is being played, they are required to stand and salute the flag. If not, they are free to remain in the locker room as the anthem is being played. This decision by the owners was obviously meant to be some sort of loose compromise. As expected, it was met with outrage, especially as Trump took to social media and applauded the NFL but then decided to take the hate-mongering and manipulation one step further with one comment to his favorite morning show Fox & Friends: “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” To Trump, and his ilk (which includes owners like Bob McNair of the Houston Texans and even the recent
fave and Meek Mill supporter Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots) the
players are to shut up, risk their bodies and get paid. They’re nothing but property. And this policy reinforces the whole conservative and right-wing fallacy that patriotism equals obedience when it comes to the flag and the anthem. Which has gotten so much respect usually at sports games given the amount of people who go for beer runs or have conversations as the anthem is played. And don’t get me started on the flag apparel, which does seem to be a violation of code. We’ve seen this play out before, most notably with Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists in protest at injustices done to Black people during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. The backlash then was just as vicious, with sports commentator Brent
calling them “ black-skinned stormtroopers.” He seemed to have a kindred spirit in Representative Peter King of Long Island, New York who issued a particularly stupid tweet likening players protesting to Nazi salutes.

Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown amidst Milwaukee police officers in body cam video, January 2018(photo credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The NFL’s decision came down the EXACT DAY that the Milwaukee, Wisconsin police department decided to release body camera footage from one of the officers who confronted and arrested Sterling Brown, a rookie for the local Bucks of the National Basketball Association on January 26th of this year for parking illegally in the lot of a Walgreens drug store. Brown was confronted in an aggressive manner, brought to the ground and then tased before being arrested. The department ruled that the officers “acted inappropriately”, and have since disciplined eight of them who were present. Brown’s violent arrest
is just one of the multitude of instances where law enforcement officials have confronted and detained Black people and other people of color, even killing them in the process. It’s an age-old part of American society that dates back to the beginnings of this country with slavery as a driver that has just evolved over the centuries, with an early instance being the Memphis Massacres of 1866 where police officers of the time took part.

Customs Border Patrol officers processing unaccompanied children, South Texas border, 2014(photo credit: Wikimedia)

And then there is the chilling report that states that the federal government last year lost track of 1,475 immigrant children it had placed with adult sponsors. It’s feared by some(and reported partially by the Frontline series on PBS)that some of them have fallen prey to human traffickers putting them to work. This, as Trump went on to speak of these children and teens in his usual disgusting manner this past Wednesday while speaking to donors about his efforts against the MS-13 narco-gang on Long Island. As of now, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Department Of Homeland Security have offered only evasive statements as the furor over such a calamity has grown and has the potential to deepen as this administration has declared their intent to separate more children from their parents who try to immigrate here. Again, this smacks of the same policies that have always existed in the framework of this nation. Again, the system of slavery in this nation saw countless families ripped asunder when it came to Black people and Native people as a matter of practice. In fact, for Native people it still continues to this day within the foster care system, after decades of boarding schools that made practices of forcing Native children to assimilate into white society.
What this new report says is that the agencies responsible are just dealing with historical precedent and the guidance of white nationalist principles a la Trump, Stephen Miller and John Kelly.

To say that “this isn’t America” in the face of all of these incidents is to commit to one of two things. The first is what’s relatively commonplace which is to find that you haven’t been hip to a lot of what’s really taken place in this nation based on whatever you’ve gotten in schooling and within your peer and family environment. The second is that you have been slightly aware but you still hold onto a particular notion that still dresses in naivete that calls up an altruistic idea of the United States that doesn’t speak to the totality of its history, not unlike someone rocking Parasuco jeans & Ed Hardy hats. And in these times, while you can understand the former, there can be no place for the latter. Not anymore.

We are under an administration that is careening towards the worst that Western civilization has to offer, and that is the rise of fascism endorsed by an evangelical base that has anointed themselves and themselves only as the true children of Christianity. This is exemplified in part via the Twitter hashtag
#whitechurchquiet which calls their hypocrisy into view on social justice matters as well as their staunch support of a person in the White House who flouts every single one of their moral tenets. Repeatedly. I mean, all you have to do is to go online and look at the bio statements of every Twitter account and Facebook account of these trolls who attack anyone who calls this out. Note the three things they all share in common — an unbridled devotion to the American flag & blind obedience to “the troops” & law enforcement, deriding Black people and other people of color in all forms and extremes and an unabashed love of Jesus and Christianity. These people DO NOT CARE. They would rather see immigrant families be split. They would rather see Black people, Natives, Latinx and Asians as well be damaged but serviceable to their world as it was in the system that raised their folks and their folks before them. They would see the world be blown to bits because their conception of the Rapture would leave them unscathed. Their morality is defined by power, unquestioned power with money as one major conduit and expression of it. These individuals don’t need to be buttressed by the naivete some folks who know better will exhibit.

This has always been America. America has its periods of insanity sanctioned by law such as the internment of Japanese-Americans, Plessy v. Ferguson and many others. And it’s why there has to be more who realize as such. It’s time for them to bury the phrase “this isn’t America”. Pour out a little liquor for it. Take a shot. And steel themselves for the fight ahead.

Freelance writer. Author of 3 books of poetry. Raconteur. Queens is the county, Jamaica is the place.

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