So the primary results are rolling in. Donald Trump is absconding away with an alarming number of Grade-A American votes and yet what bothers me most is the mass amount of people I’ve encountered who are feigning shock at the outcome.
Listen…un-clutch your pearls now because after I’m done you might not ever let go.
In this moment I’m reminded of the eulogy Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered at Jimmie Lee Jackson’s funeral where he posed the question to all of those in attendance: “who murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson?” The answer was rhetorical, as everyone there knew the man responsible for the death of young Jimmie Lee was a racist state trooper eventually identified as James Fowler, but MLK felt he had some help. He went on to call out “every white law man who abused the law to terrorize, every white politician who fed on prejudice and hatred, and every white preacher who preached the Bible and stayed silent before his white congregation.” Dr. King named, too, “every negro man and woman who stood by without joining the fight as their brothers and sisters were humiliated, brutalized and ripped from this Earth.”
That was 1965.
Here, in 2016, as we are still grappling with the sins of our nation’s past, and as Donald Trump makes his ascent from Hell with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue programmed into his GPS, we the people of these United States are faced with an alarming dilemma. America is dying and while it is convenient to try to place blame at the feet of President Obama and foreigners, introspection should be the first order of business. In the spirit of Dr. King, when I ask myself “who is murdering America” I can’t avoid the reality that the harrowing fate of this country is and always has been in the hands of its very own people and their political system.
What have we done?
A few weeks ago as the primary results were announced my Facebook feed was plastered with lamentations of friends and associates who in their foresight just knew that things would turn out differently. I’m not sure what lured them into this false sense of security, but I knew better. In the beginning, to me, Trump’s campaign was a bad joke. Toward the end of 2015 the idea of his success was absolutely incomprehensible. Eventually these thoughts gave way to fear, that is until I began to understand what was at work. Donald Trump is merely a reflection of the black heart of America: glitz and glam on the outside, but all of that just to hide the fact that the values we champion so strongly are really in deficient supply. We were taught to revere freedom without actually understanding how to protect it beyond the use of war. We were taught to value equality without coming to know the importance of recognizing inequality and inequity when they rear their heads in modernity. We were taught to pledge allegiance to a country without making any kind of commitment to each other, those of us who truly make America what it is. This is our greatest failure as an American people.
The 2016 election so far is a prime example of when there aren’t enough Americans to take a moment and think critically about how their actions or lack thereof have dire consequences. So many people want to be shocked that Trump is such a huge success, but I say you can’t be surprised when you’ve bolstered him to these heights yourself. It’s all been done through social negligence.
People like Trump rise to power when we, the electorate, fall prey to the compulsion of rigidly aligning ourselves with a specific political party or identity regardless if doing so is against our own best interests.
People like Trump rise to power when foolish pride for a political party overshadows the amicable brand of American pride which highlights the obstacles we have overcome as a nation and informs our overcoming those obstacles we’ve yet to face.
People like Trump rise to power when Americans who claim to be decent folks, some even piously religious, fail to operate within their political system with a moral conscience and common decency.
People like Trump rise to power when Americans who claim to love their country refuse to vote in the first place in order to maintain the country’s overall upkeep.
People like Trump rise to power when there is no accountability amongst us, when we fail to rebuke our misogynist friends for their inappropriate sexist jokes; when we fail to call out our racist family members for sideways comments and attitudes towards people of color; when Christians fail to embrace people who believe and worship differently than them in the true spirit of Christ; when we fail to show our loved ones how their words and actions, however innocently conceived, are problematic. Whether we like it or not we are responsible for each other and we do each other a grave disservice when we do not challenge our neighbors to be their best selves. Your inaction on this front allows hate, confusion and disillusion to breed within our community, the same hate, confusion and disillusion that fills out a ballot and makes Donald Trump the frontrunner of a major American political party.
I didn’t write all of this just to say how ashy Americans are. As ever, I am hopeful. As I approach this election season, I’m careful to guard my mind against all of the distractions of “he said, she said,” all of the statistics and polls, and I focus on what my heart says, on what one of my greatest desires is—to see this nation healed and truly united.
The primaries still press on. We see what we, not one political party, but as an American people, are up against. You know what you have to do. Do not antagonize each other by inaccurately arguing some politician’s platform. Do not disparage political and socioeconomic ideologies you don’t understand (honestly, y’all, please research ‘socialism’). Do not continue to ignore toxic social mores like racism, misogyny and classism. Come together. It is our only saving grace, the strength found in numbers. Get behind each other, not the idea of one man or woman with media appeal, and let’s make America great for ourselves.