Still We Reap (#225)

In my AP history class in Northern Virginia, we held an annual debate about the Civil War.

I know, right? What’s there to argue about? Slavery bad. Confederacy wrong. I thought captaining the team for the North would be a slam dunk.

I forgot I was in Virginia, Confederate flag central.

The South got to fire the opening salvo. They whined about how much money ending slavery would cost them. They threw out numbers and words like “recession” and “economic hardship.” The math whiz on our side tried to counter, and it turned into an argument on numbers. That morphed into aggrieved Southerners insisting that the North was tyrannically forcing an abhorrent lifestyle change.

The South never conceded that slavery was morally wrong, let alone a horror show of torture, rape, and children being ripped away from their mothers to be sold. Their arguments were all “states rights” and economic hardship.

After class, I cornered the Southern captain and asked him where the hell he got his numbers.

He laughed and said, “We made them up.”

*****

Decades later, I’m still arguing. Conservatives are still making shit up. Our conversations generally go like this:

Me: Trump is terrible. He’s a self-admitted assaulter of women –

Conservative: No, he’s not all those women are liars.

Me: He was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the pussy.

Conservative: He only did that once and that was 13 years ago and didn’t you ever do something you were ashamed of 13 years ago?

Me: Clinton got impeached for having an affair with an intern. You don’t think Trump should get the same treatment for a) cheating on Melania with Stormy Daniels, and b) paying her off during the campaign?

Conservative: The Democrats just made it up to sink Trump. And that porn star just wants to make money, she’s hardly credible, there’s no proof. She’s dirt and he’s the President of the United States. (Think I’m making up these excuses? If only!)

Me: But Trump admits he paid her off!

Conservative: Powerful men do that. And if he did, that’s between him and the Lord and it has nothing to do with our country which he’s doing an amazing job running.

Me: Are you outta your goddamned mind? We’re in a trade war, the tariffs are hitting everything from steel to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, we’ve got internment camps for babies, plus racists assaulting and killing people because Trump encourages other racists.

Conservative: He is not a racist!

Me: Yes, he is! He was sued by the government for racist landlord policies. He says that Mexicans are rapists, Latinos in general are animals, and only wants white immigrants! He called the white supremacists in Charlottesville “very fine people!

Conservative: I read his speech. It wasn’t racist.

Me: You’re saying it’s not racist to support racists?

Conservative: You Democrats. Always with the name-calling.

Me: How is calling a racist a racist name-calling? And the hypocrisy of it all – you support a man who constantly insults anyone who disagrees with him, calling them liars, losers, fat, ugly, stupid, low IQ, etc.

Conservative: He speaks his mind!

Me: So actual insults by Trump are okay, but calling him a racist for his racist insults is not.

Conservative: He’s the President and he’s a great man, and he made so many sacrifices, giving up his privileged lifestyle and his paycheck to be President and we should support him.

Conservative: He’s using the Presidency to make far more money for his businesses than a Presidential salary.

Conservative: See? He’s a good businessman!

Me: He’s both unethical and a crap businessman, which is why only Russian banks would lend to him, which is why he’s susceptible to Russian blackmail and why the Russians interfered to make him President –

Conservative: That’s fake news!

Me: No, it’s a real investigation, and all intelligence services agree there was Russian interference—

Conservative: Because they’re all Democrats who hate Trump! It’s just a made-up witch hunt by the Dems!

Me: Even the Senate Intelligence Committee Republicans agree that the Russians interfered!

Conservative: They should be investigating Hillary!

Me: They did investigate Hillary! For Bengazi, like eleven times. Then for her private email server – twice! They found no evidence—

Conservative: Lock her up! Lock her up!

*****

I wish I could say the above argument was a parody. It’s more of a daily occurrence. All efforts to introduce facts that don’t support Trump are met with cries of “fake news!” Debate is impossible. As Obama once said, “One of the biggest challenges that we have to our democracy is the degree to which we do not share a common baseline of facts.”

That’s bad enough, but I’d take it one step further. Trump supporters no longer share a common baseline of MORALITY with the rest of the country. When they can’t write off Trump’s own racist and misogynist statements as “Fake news,” Trumpers excuse or ignore their hero’s racism, misogyny, and even his traitorous stupidity. Men who screamed bloody murder about Hillary’s private email server don’t care that Trump uses an unsecured cellphone or allowed the Russians to have the run of the Oval Office.

And don’t say that “the Democrats would do the same thing.” Democratic Senator Al Franken’s sexual misconduct wasn’t nearly as bad as Trump’s affairs or harassment of women, yet he was forced to resign due to tremendous Democratic pressure.

How is such blatant Republican hypocrisy possible?

Let’s go back to the Civil War.

American culture is centered on winning. We love a winner, right? Trump’s most popular campaign promise was so vague as to be laughable, but it resonated with his people: “We’re going to win so much, you’ll be sick of winning!”

Many Americans ate up his promises, perhaps because we’ve never fully understood the value of failure. You can learn from mistakes, but only if you admit you made them and have the fortitude to analyze your own shortcomings. As a country, we celebrate “the American Dream” of success; rarely do we examine our failures.

Much like Trump, who ran business after business into the ground and survived on million dollar loans from his father before he switched to Russian banks.

Perhaps he is the hero we white people deserve — a giant, grabby toddler who has never been told “no” or faced consequences.

When a child makes a mistake and hurts someone, we teach them to recognize the injury and say, “I’m sorry. I did wrong. How can I make it better?”

Yet the entirety of the United States never managed the self-awareness of a kindergartener. Slaves were freed, but we never actually said to Black America (or the Natives we slaughtered), “My God. That was wrong. We should never have done that. What a moral failure. How can we make amends and never do that again?!”

Without contrition, without apology, without amends, the lesson was lost. The Confederacy was venerated instead of reviled.

There was no admission of guilt.

Statues of slave-owners were built.

Americans learned that rich white men a) aren’t wrong, and b) don’t have to say they’re sorry. We allowed them revisionist history that insisted slavery “wasn’t so bad” and slave-owners were “good masters.” We let them get away with Jim Crow. We let them gaslight generations into thinking that states rights are more important than human rights. We let them fly a traitor’s flag and name boulevards after traitorous generals.

Only in 2009 did Congress issue a federal apology for slavery, immediately followed by, “Nothing in this resolution authorizes or supports any claim against the United States.”

Never mind those kidnappings. Forget about the genocide, whippings, lynchings, the inability to build up assets — there will be no amends made in the USA.

Compare our attitude with Germany’s. Germany apologized for World War II and paid billions in reparations. (In fact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is still apologizing for WWII.) Because Germans acknowledged both their guilt and the full horror of the Holocaust, there are no Hitler Highways or Goebbels Boulevards in Berlin. Nazi flags and emblems are outlawed.  Germany vowed to do better and they did — the Germans were the first European country to open their borders to refugees during the crisis a few years ago.

Meanwhile, in the United States, we’re STILL shifting the blame. Conservatives insist that Black Americans are responsible for their own poverty or even being shot in the back by white policemen. Brown migrants seeking legitimate asylum at our borders are ripped away from their children  — and conservatives believe those brown folks deserve it for trying to encroach on white America.

Republicans have given up worrying about facts. Their morality is a sham. Which should surprise no one. For more than one-hundred and sixty years, the majority of white Americans have excused, ignored, or flat-out lied about the horrors we perpetrated on people of color. How can we be shocked when Trumpers excuse, ignore, and lie now?

We taught them it was okay.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

21 thoughts on “Still We Reap (#225)”

  1. “Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”

    Jean Paul-Sartre

    1. I could see Miller or Bannon acting like that. But Trump’s rabid fan base? No, I think they really believe. And many have been brainwashed into accepting the moral contradictions since childhood.

      1. Well, the quote works well for alt right in particular… It’s just frustrating to use words and logic with those who reject all thought process

  2. A lot of the white people who are now in the USA have noting to do with the slavery in the US. Their ancestors came here after the civil war. Many of them are descendants of white people who were slaves when slavery was a way of living in human history. In recent human history. Some people left Europe because they wanted to be richer, but most left it because they were dirt poor, barely making it, escaping famine, etc. How many were welcomed with open arms? Ask the Irish need not apply, the Italian and Polish communities, the Jewish who were not allowed to land while trying to escape the nazi.
    And then we have those passages in the Bible where it lists the prices of selling a man, a woman and a child (I’m ashamed to say that the smaller price for a woman disgusted me more than the fact that the Bible lists prices for selling people).
    In every race, on every continent, there was slavery. There were forbidden cities and casts and lords. I’m not sure if there is one peaceful nation under the sun. Even the Inuit, you’d think that they had it too hard to fight, but they did, over trade rights.
    I’m not saying it is time to forgive, but maybe just to accept it and not hold it against one race, or one nation. People who were heroes based on how many other people they have killed don’t change that easily. Not in a few generations. Why isn’t there such a huge problem about slavery in Europe or in Asia or in Africa? Not because there wasn’t slavery. But because when a slave descendant walks on the street by what could be a former owner descendant, they don’t recognize each other. Their skin has the same color. Those slave descendants had no choice, but to take history for what it was, be grateful that they live in better times and move on. Do the best that they can do. What if we tried to present this side? What if we start from: humans, for the most part, made it here through violence. It’s horrible, but that’s the blood that flows through our veins, under our skin, regardless of its pigment . Some of us are so ashamed, they can’t even say “sorry.” Some haven’t realized it yet. But we are in a major transition period. Something similar to those times when, for some reason, people stopped thinking of dinner when looking at other people. If it helps, let’s think of us as being lucky. How does it help waiting for apologies and retribution? Why give others more ownership? Why not own it?

    1. It’s true that a lot of the white people now in the United States arrived after slavery. But they still benefit from white supremacy and privilege.

      And certainly my little post is not The Definitive Reason for the Rise of Trump; there are already multiple volumes on his success.

      The only thing I’m saying is that our white culture has, by refusing to confront the horrific cruelty of our past and admit our guilt, created a society wherein white supremacy flourishes and white people can still refuse to admit it exists.

      It is, as you say, a uniquely American problem; the idea that whites are superior was the cornerstone of slavery and the Confederacy. That cornerstone has sunk so deeply into the white psyche that unless we identify it and root it out, Black Americans will never have the same opportunities. Neither will indigenous communities or migrant communities. So while of course it’s nice to say, ‘Why can’t Black Americans be grateful they live today, where they only have to cope with environmental injustice, racist work environments, racist health care systems, racist school policies, the school-to-prison pipeline, and being shot in the back by white cops?” that’s still not acknowledging that white supremacy created all those systems. White supremacy’s greatest triumph was rigging the American dream against Black Americans and then insisting that the Black community’s poverty was due to an innate lack of intelligence or laziness. If we white people don’t look critically at our past and see where our own action/ inaction led to today’s tragedies in Flint and Ferguson and challenge the white supremacist narrative, we are complicit every time a Black man goes to prison for an ounce of pot while a white man gets probation for rape.

  3. Every single word you wrote is true. Next week will you write us the answer. What am I thinking? There is no answer to these people. And yet, we’re the majority. There must be a way. I keep hoping.

      1. I think the backlash is coming … eventually. But with the gerrymandering and the electoral college, it may take a while. Maybe we’ll get angry enough to push it faster.

        1. I’ve always felt that the Republicans are fighting a rearguard action, because the youth of this country are overwhelmingly progressive. It’s race to see if they can dismantle what’s left of our democracy before they’re voted out.

  4. You might not like what I’m about to write but still, I want to warn you beforehand. Even with 5000 years of history, Chinese people fare no better. Modern slavery exist until today. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-maid/hong-kong-woman-jailed-for-six-years-for-abusing-indonesian-maid-idUSKBN0LV0AA20150227

    In Chinese, there is a concept known as yin and yang. So, unfortunately, it will always be a battle between the evil and the righteous. The thing that often surprises me the most is that other races tend to harbor so much unrealistic expectations towards Chinese people. As if marrying a Chinese will solve existing marital or personal issues. The institution of marriage itself is the real problem.

    By the way, your country’s President is really a force to be reckoned with in a negative way. Basket of deplorables indeed! God bless Americans!

    1. Oh, no argument there. Our President is, sadly, too stupid to know he’s ignorant. Partly Dunning-Kruger effect, partly being surrounded by people who stroked his ego and never told him no. God grant me the confidence of a mediocre white male.

      Oh, I think a lot of other bloggers have covered Chinese and Japanese xenophobia, especially Chinese racism toward southeast Asians. Just like in the United States, any kind of racial supremacy can be used to justify human trafficking. But it’s particularly hypocritical in the United States, where for 200+ years we’ve been quoting a slaveowner’s declaration –‘all men are created equal” — while our government allowed slavery, internment, and genocide against its own people of color. The we ignored it, excused it, and still do it in our criminal justice system. That kind of blatant gaslighting has become acceptable among white people; they get all huffy when you call them on it, too.

  5. Your post is spot on, Autumn. Spot on. It really breaks my heart. Maybe all we can do is wait for the tide of history to shit all over the conservatives. Maybe when China is the new world super power all those uneducated, white conservatives will finally know what it’s like to be a second-class citizen (not saying the world will be a better place, but the white-male can get a slice of humble pie for a change).

    My father is also a Trump supporter, which is mind boggling considering his mother was an Irish immigrant and his wife is an immigrant from Vietnam. It’s mind-boggling how morality and common sense go straight out the window when it comes to voting for your party (or against your enemy). I honestly can’t even begin to fathom how he justifies his support of Trump.

    My French cousin has a theory that rich, white Republicans keep the poor, red states poor and uneducated so that they can continue to brainwash their voter base. I mean, rich conservatives get votes from constituents who essentially vote against their own self-interest (like, eliminating obamacare or medicare). I feel like maybe that conspiracy theory has some weight.

    Note on civil war history: Hearing about how people in the South still defend the Civil war and confederacy was a HUGE shock to me. In Utah (and most of the West coast) we are quite removed from the proximity of that history, so we’re taught point-blank that slavery was wrong. Revisionist history and it’s ability to survive this long… it’s frightening.

    1. Thanks, it’s always nice to hear that someone thinks I’m on target.

      Your French cousin’s conspiracy theory makes as much sense as anything else these days. I think some of the “pride in our ignorance”/ lack of red state educational standards dates back to the Civil War, some to local control of education, and a big chunk of it to Southern Baptists fighting Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The voting against their own economic self-interest is baffling, isn’t it? It’s like the Trump guys who don’t care if they get a worse deal as long as the liberals are unhappy. Yet we’re unhappy because EVERYONE except the top 1% is being screwed. INCLUDING THE TRUMP SUPPORTER. Sigh.

  6. My dad is a Trump supporter too 🙁 which is odd because we are political refugees from Russia and happen to be Jewish; yet some of his stances are more liberal than conservative. We also came to America through my grandparents, the option that Trump is trying to remove.

    Unfortunately there is no reasoning or talking about politics politely anymore. I wish I can offer a nugget of wisdom, but only thing I can say is that the lesson of Holocaust was lost, and to resist.

    I am resisting by reading and reviewing all sorts of books, be they written by minorities or whites. Very soon I will start featuring diverse books that take place I different states. Why? For my Hapa son.

    1. Good for you. The “We Need Diverse Books” is a fantastic movement, long overdue. The more people can read and empathize with non-white cultures and characters, the less likely they are to be able to dehumanize them.

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