A cold white light on America

Posted Tuesday, November 8, 2016 in Opinion

A cold white light on America

Image by Max Schulte

This election night is one we never thought we'd see. Hillary Clinton is poised to lose an election she should easily won, and a buffoon with no experience, no real policy, and no manners is poised to take over the White House from one of the gentlest, most genteel political families in modern history.

More that what it says about the two candidates, however, is what this election reveals, in stark relief, about our fellow citizens. We have all grown up believing Americans are kind, generous, fair-minded, and devoted to the concept that all people are created equal. With this election, we can no longer allow ourselves that delusion.

We are a nation of sexists. That a qualified, experienced woman with 35 years of demonstrable public service should even be in a questionable race with an overblown, four times-failed businessman and "reality TV" performer is sexism. Yes, Clinton had issues, some of them significant. No, she wasn't the best possible choice. But she was qualified to be president, and her opponent was not.

(Heartbreakingly, earlier this day, women lined up to place their "I voted" stickers on the gravestone of Susan B. Anthony, with the poignant hope that a woman would be elected for the first time in America's history, 96 years after women got the right to vote.)

Chief among the sexists would be Trump himself. He has been outrageously misogynistic toward women who had the temerity to ask him questions, or speak out against him, or simply not be the fashionplates he believes they should be.

Women suffer from rape and sexual harassment, are increasingly forbidden from controlling their fertility and health, and then made to suffer shame and financial upheaval when they bear children they cannot afford. Too often, when they are raped, they are faced with the horrifying reality that their attacker's future matters to judges more than their own.

Women who are the majority of our college graduates still earn about 79 cents for every dollar a male earns. We are still not equal citizens in our own nation. We are 52 percent of the population.

We are a nation of xenophobes. For a nation of immigrants, we don't want to extend the same privilege to others fleeing horrific situations. Just this week, our governor chose to exit the refugee program. Trump riled up his base by telling them he would build walls, deport millions, put in place a religious test for admittance, and said he would have Muslims wear identifying badges. Millions of people will wake up tomorrow in a panic that they may lose their freedom, their homes, and be separated from their loved ones for the crime of simply belonging to an ethnic group or religious group that is currently out of fashion.

We are a nation of isolationists. We eschew internationalism, both in controlling our mutual future, in terms of a global economy and in terms of making difficult decisions to try to control military threats around the world.

We are a nation of racists. Much of Trump's support came from people who are speak quite freely of their hatred for specific ethnic or racial groups. Many proudly wave banners that are associated with America's original sin -- slavery -- and use lynchings in effigy as tools of repression.

We embrace anti-intellectualism. We deny science, at the peril of our planet, and our own health. We have destroyed meaningful public education, both at the K-12 level and for higher education. Those who can afford private schools for their children do well; those who can't join the anti-intellectual movement that becomes a death spiral.

We despise the poor and glorify the rich. The poor are considered to be the authors of their own misery, while the rich are considered to have made their wealth all alone, without any assistance from the state or the taxpayers.

We have lost our moral compass. Our people are sicker, less well educated, less financially secure, and less tolerant than our neighbors.

If nothing else, this election shines a brittle, white light on what it means to be an American in 2016. It's not a pretty sight. This is the death of American exceptionalism. And unless we act to change it, we will continue to be a pariah in the eyes of the world, and the worst part is, we won't even care.

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