I do not write about America; I write about Americans, and most recently I wrote about Americans who’ve abandoned the vision of our Founding Fathers and surrendered their moral and ethical selves to a racist, narcissistic, demagogue who believes there were “very fine people” on both sides in Charlottesville, surrendered to a bully who daily serves Kool-Aid to fevered disciples.
I write about thirsting Americans who swallow the Kool-Aid.
Today, as we mourn the first anniversary of the Charlottesville tragedy - as we support those who confront bigotry and prejudice - let us challenge the enemies of the people.
Challenge those who believe, as someone wrote to me in 2016, that “Americans have adopted and advanced Western civilization mainly because we were colonized by Christian Western Europeans.”
Challenge those who claim that “… there is a reason why so many are willing to overlook Trump’s flaws and support his agenda…” and who point to Trump’s economy and foreign and personal policies to justify support of and complicity with nativism, xenophobia, and racism.
Today, a year after “very fine people” assembled in Charlottesville, Trump’s “flaws” - which so many are willing to ignore - include kidnapping children, illegal detentions and immoral removals of people legally seeking asylum, making payments to porn stars, attacks on Gold Star families, attacks on allies and vital alliances, embraces with tyrants and oligarchs, attacks on Americans who advocate for social justice like LeBron James and journalists like Don Lemon - all driven by a president who by Aug. 1, 2018, had uttered 4,229 false and misleading claims.
This week, not long after their son-in-law tweeted “CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!” Melania Trump’s parents, having navigated the path of ‘chain migration,’ became American citizens.
Congratulations to them - along with condolences for having to suffer a fool as a family member.
Today’s economy is performing no better than it did in President Obama’s second term as America was emerging from the Great Recession. More jobs were created in the last 18 months of Obama’s administration than were created by the Trump administration in its first 18 months - and wages over the past 12 months have barely kept pace with inflation. Further, there’s no evidence that the Trump tax cut has yet spurred increased investment. Indeed, it’s mostly spurred stock-buybacks that have generally benefited the 10 percent of Americans who control 84 percent of America’s wealth.
As for foreign affairs, only a loyal disciple could believe that Trump exhibits “personal charm that … makes friends in large and small countries.” The Saudis are still committing genocide in Yemen using American armaments, the North Koreans are still building nuclear-capable missiles, the Chinese are matching Trump tariff-for-tariff, and Putin is still meddling in the American democratic process.
Today, I find it nearly incomprehensible to accept that there are Americans, even if they’re temporarily profiting with a few more dollars - from tax-cuts that will soon expire -who’re willing to sell their souls to Mammon and deny the truth of all America aspires to be.
Today, I find it nearly incomprehensible that there are Americans, especially those of non-European origin whose parents came, often at great risk, to find opportunity in America - many of whom remember the Great Depression and who’ve served this country honorably - who can today embrace an unreconstructed white-supremacist.
Wednesday, in a gratuitous, now-deleted, hateful and ad hominem tweet, Corey Stewart, the GOP Senate candidate in Virginia, attacked Michigan gubernatorial candidate Detroit-born Abdul El-Sayed, a Muslim and a Rhodes Scholar who completed his MD at Columbia University's College of Physicians & Surgeons, as an “ISIS commie.”
Such a tweet comes as no surprise; today, Donald Trump, Corey Stewart and their ilk are well beyond dog-whistles.
Today, they use bull horns.
Today, on one side American athletes take a knee advocating for social justice; on the other an American president calls them “sons of bitches” and suggests they shouldn’t be allowed to live in America.
Who is the enemy of the people?
Today, I’m grateful I’m not an American who’s turned his back on America’s immigrant experience. I’m grateful my mind hasn’t been poisoned by the exclusionary rhetoric of Fox News or by white supremacists like Laura Ingraham and Pat Buchanan, by a world where, according to Pew, only 25 percent of Christian white evangelical Protestants believe that America has a responsibility to welcome the stranger fleeing persecution in other countries.
I’m especially grateful that my soul has resisted colonization by “Christian Western Europeans.”
“And how stands the city on this winter night” Ronald Reagan asked in his farewell address in 1989? “… She still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”
When those pilgrims “hurtling through the darkness” arrive don’t offer them Kool-Aid.
Welcome them and remember Matthew 25:35: “[F]or I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,”
Welcome them, then, with the immigrant’s preferred drink; fresh lemonade with mint and rose water.
It’s better for you.
It’s better for all of us.
Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.