There exists America, the country, and America the idea. One has failed. Depending on your politics, race, income, or gender, you might choose one over another, and you would have felt you have absolutely chosen correctly.
America the country has failed, because America the idea has always been a myth. Ever since 1749, when the African slave trade was economically strengthened and legitimized, America the country was doomed. Slavery and indentured servitude were being dropped and made illegal in nearly every country except in the North American British colonies. Americans went the other way and doubled-down on servitude as their way forward in an uncharted land, a 4500km wide forest filled with unsuspecting indigenous peoples just waiting to be taken.
Eight generations of racism and hate for anyone who isn’t a western European Christian white person, has taken the expected toll. (With apologies to the 19th and early 20th-century aggressions between European immigrant factions.) No place can sustain that level of racial exclusion for so long and be expected to thrive, much less survive. Over the generations, there is an ebb and flow of severity; some moral wins and leaps forward with inclusion, but determined forces steadily conspire to press back any equality gains. From poll taxes to segregation, openly racist laws were subtly weaved into the land’s legality. Preventing non-white people access to healthcare, education, marriage, property, investment, and nearly every other accommodation available to white, God-fearing, good-natured men became America’s de facto governing policy.
Since the end of World War II, a slow acceleration to expand non-white exclusions to the poor, or less educated, or differently-abled coteries of now less-worthy whites has been baked-in to public policy. More recently, predatory economics and employment practices have really finished the job. White or Black, over two-thirds of Americans have less than six months of expenses in a cash reserve. The myth of American exceptionalism was pervasive in the private sector and the government. Sometimes subtly (i.e., university rankings, happiness surveys, innovation awards) and other times on gross display (i.e., Gulf War 1 and 2, the financial investment industry, homeownership dream). Happily, though, America has genuinely achieved absolute mastery in the arts and science from the early 20th century to today, which is a welcome aberration considering the centuries of repression working against those creators. America had to be seen as great, otherwise political and social changes would naturally be necessary.
It is no mystery then that a Trump presidency offering MAGA justice for whites who angrily perceive a loss of their exceptional standing would lead to the cognitive dissonance surrounding vote counting. The massive criminality, which is seen as patriotism to a plurality of the country, won’t dissipate with a new president or Congress. America’s original design is coming back into focus once again: Non-white people are meant to be mistrusted. Poor people are intended to be further economically exploited. LGBTQ people must be excluded. There is no sense to list out all the possible grievances foisted on irrationally excluded groups because the list is long and routinely bent and twisted to serve the needs of those who believe in Making America Great Again.
Millions of people in the majority today are not MAGA infested; they are good people who want to live well-rounded, inclusive lives. Sadly, these good people keep voting against their own best interests. They help elect political representatives that thank them for their vote, then go off and protect the payday loan industry, support $1000 insulin doses, or agree to spend $12B on an aircraft carrier that cannot launch airplanes. Being a good person gets you thrown in the ring with the MAGA crazies. There is no escape. It is a lifelong fight.
Even this last week, president-elect Biden went on about ‘healing’ and ‘reconciliation’ while the Republican Party apparatus and elected Republican politicians are directly, or tacitly, supporting MAGA, Proud Boys, the III%, and other Neo-Nazi groups, each who are hell-bent on white rule and establishing their interests politically and beating down their opposition physically. There can never be any healing in today’s social fracture, especially in a two-party system, while one of the parties supports fascism and racism.
I know it’s a bit sexy in some circles to declare America’s death by its own hand. To pull back the curtain and reveal the hidden nastiness of racism and the politics of exclusion is en vogue for sure. But it is not a new discovery. There has been an unfettered flow of warnings for hundreds of years, from all corners of society, prestigious or ordinary, that America was founded in racism and had never meaningfully tried to delouse itself of its Constitutionally prescribed injustice.
MAGA has always been here. It just only got a red hat and a presidential cheerleader four years ago.