We saw an amazing melting-away less than a year ago, when the Confederate flag was lowered at the state house in Charleston.
With it, we saw an evaporation of the “gentility” that had surrounded that flag: the age-old argument that it stood for “heritage, not hate.”
That flag always stood for hate.
It feels good to say it, right? It always feels good to come out with the clean, full truth, after years spent polluting it with compromises and bullshit.
I’m writing this post because of Paul Krugman’s tweetstorm yesterday, which was brought to my attention by my friend Michael Jaeger (follow him on Twitter - he’s got some of the best antennae out there this election season).
Krugman’s words hit me like a ball peen hammer to the forehead. Twitter-newbies (hi, mom!): read this chain from the bottom up:
What is this election really about?
Why are we all so shaken, as Michelle Obama put it so powerfully yesterday, to our core?
Is the truth complicated? A “multitude of factors, all coalescing at once” A "black swan event"?
Or is it much simpler than that?
The Civil War was never about “states’ rights.” It was about white supremacy.
The more words we try to attach to that truth, the less true it becomes.
Flying the Confederate flag was never about anything more than keeping the spirit of white supremacy alive. End of story.
This last half-century of the Republican party - and I’m really starting to think that I do mean last, as in final - from Goldwater to Nixon to Reagan to the Bushes - was simply the last stretch of our country’s history that white people were able to express the values of white supremacy with a so-called civil tongue in their heads.
The n-word had given way to TV-friendly phrases like “law and order,” “the war on drugs”; and “small government.” But the underlying goal was always the same, same as it ever was. Like a silver-haired major leaguer curling a home run around the foul pole in his last-ever at bat, white America, in the Civil Rights era, found the language to hold onto the power structure for one last trot around the bases.
What is this year’s election about?
Is it an out-of-nowhere, black swan event?
Or is it simply the next chapter in our autobiography?
This election is about that old man starting to die. Because the real end is ugly - the part that comes after the victory lap in front of the adoring crowd. The real end is full of rage, confusion, and coughed-up blood. It’s about the refusal to accept that which has become obvious to the world around you.
This election isn’t about “economic anxiety” any more than the Civil War was about “economic anxiety.” Southern white supremacists didn’t fear what would happen to them economically if their slaves were freed. They were afraid of black people slitting their throats in the middle of the night. The only harvest they were concerned about was karmic: of seeing at long last, in the flesh, that vengeful fruit, grown from the seeds they had themselves sown.
That’s our story, people. The rest is commentary.
Does the passion that animates Donald Trump and his followers make any sense if it’s about something rational, like “economic anxiety”?
Nope. It only makes sense if it’s about fear.
The protagonist of this election, I am starting to think, is Michelle Obama, not only because of her speech yesterday, which crackled with as much truth as any speech I’ve ever seen in my life, but because of her all-timer of a line at the Democratic National Convention: the only other time this year I felt struck in the forehead so squarely, with that ball peen hammer of truth:
“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my two daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House Lawn.”
That’s the story we’re telling.
Pick a side, y'all.
[If you haven't seen it yet, I can't stress enough how remarkable Michelle Obama's speech was. Link below. And if you're not yet a subscriber to this blog, and you'd like future posts emailed to you directly, go ahead and subscribe in the form below this video. Thanks. - Josh]