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Robert Azzi: The menace in America today

For the Monitor
Published: 10/17/2021 7:00:12 AM

Recent video coverage showed shocking images of Donald Trump supporters chanting “F**k Joe Biden” at public and sporting events across the nation. While witnessing such, sadly not uncommon, public expressions of vulgarity I was reminded, once again, of how columnist Richard Strout described a “George Wallace for President” rally in 1968:

“There is menace in the blood shout of the crowds...”

Trump revels in the adoration of such vulgar crowds and prejudices. His votaries don’t see the world as it is but see it as they themselves are; and what they are is a confederacy of unrepentant born-again colonialists willing to attack and destroy our constitutional republic in order to re-install their vision of a white, mostly Christian, nation.

In response to such attacks, I frequently read in the press, and from well-meaning friends and colleagues, fervent arguments I can only describe as pro-democracy-apologetics that Americans just need to learn to talk to each other again.

If they didn’t appear so oblivious, perhaps because so many of them are white and privileged, to the imminent danger we confront I might be more sympathetic to arguments favoring comity and bipartisanship, favoring finding common ground in the Public Square.

However, the reality is that engaging in such wishful thinking is buying into a delusion that Trump’s followers are arguing about policy. The truth is that they don’t give a damn about policy or the Public Square. They care about power and vengeance; care about de-legitimizing and disenfranchising all those who don’t look like them and re-colonizing America into the white Christian-nationalist state it once appeared to be.

Arguing with such people is like negotiating the division of a pizza with people who, while negotiating, continue to eat it.

Today, “Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue,” writes Thomas M. Nichols in The Death of Expertise. “To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything.”

An America where ignorance is an actual virtue!

An America where such virtue means embracing the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen.

An America where such virtue means voter suppression; means being anti-vax, anti-Critical Race Theory, anti-climate change, anti-immigration, anti-voting rights, anti-choice, anti-evolution, anti-The Other.

Means embracing Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine while rejecting vaccines and science.

Where virtue means rejecting reason, facts, rejecting the Constitution.

Virtue for such Americans includes indifference to the pernicious legacy of colonialism when the world traded in enslaved humans, when white British ruled India and Palestine, white Spanish conquistadors massacred and mutilated Acoma men, white French annexed Algeria and disenfranchised its inhabitants, white King Leopold slaughtered millions of Congolese, and when a white United States, first at home where they exploited and oppressed enslaved and Indigenous peoples, and then abroad, from the Americas to Asia to the Middle East, were all driven by greed and by their sense of racial superiority and entitlement.

Of a dystopian time, as Margaret Mead once told James Baldwin, when, “The white world built its dignity and built its sense of identity on the fact it wasn’t black …”

Today, in spite of an increasingly inclusive and diverse United States, in a struggle to sustain that racialized identity, America’s enemies are Americans.

Its enemies are descendants of the colonialists who hanged witches in Salem, and of nativist Know-Nothings who burned churches in the 1850s. Descendants of those who lynched 1,000s of African Americans, and those who murdered hundreds during a pogrom in Tulsa.

Descendants of those who marched in Charlottesville carrying burning tiki torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” Of those who spawned a white supremacist who committed the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue.

Enemies who followed a well-worn guidebook that led them to January 6, 2021 — the day insurrectionists invaded and ransacked our Capitol, smearing its walls with human excrement.

“There is menace in the blood shout of the crowds.”

There is menace in America today and the response to it is not negotiation but to identify and isolate the contagion which has corrupted America for generations.

The menace today is from those unable or unwilling to recognize the tension between an America immorally birthed in slavery in 1619 and the moral, aspirational nation later imagined in freedom and liberty.

While some in the Republican Party call for supporters to vote Democratic in 2022 and 2024, today’s GOP is too deeply infected, from national to local ranks, to fight off the anti-democratic impulses that threaten its existence.

Menaced by people who don’t read for knowledge or facts but who are drawn to opinions that simply reaffirm their prejudices and biases, people unable to recognize that the struggle to reconcile between two Americas is what we’re called upon to do.

America today is menaced by faux-patriots who fly Confederate flags, bemoan the loss of white-supremacist monuments built to glorify treasonous secessionists, and falsely blame the loss of Native American mascots, Aunt Jemima, Dr. Seuss, and the NFL’s Jon Gruden to “cancel culture.”

Menaced by politicians like Chuck Grassley, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Steve Scalise and Kevin McCarthy who continue to support the “Big Lie,” politicians willing to ally themselves with misogynists, homophobes and racists in order to stay in power.

“There is menace in the blood shout of the crowds.”

American democracy is under attack, not from foreign terrorists or China or a virus but from vulgar insurrectionists, cultists and born-again colonialists who, in their hunger for power and vengeance, and in obeisance to their leader, are willing to continue rubbing excrement on the walls of our Capitol.

(Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.)

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