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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Who Is "Us," Exactly?

Growing up in the '80s I used to listen to the Howard Stern show on the radio. Now keep in mind that I also used to dress up as Gloria Steinem on the Jewish holiday of Purim. But all of us knew the difference between politically incorrect humor and the actual problems women faced in real life.

Raising my children in the late '90s-early 2000's I entered a far more politically correct world. Everybody got a certificate for everything. They watched Barney saying "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family" and they learned that any kind of intolerance was wrong. Millennials, as a result, are even more polite than Canadians.

Then they got older and there was 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security was formed, and the show "24" depicted all the nefarious ways that "bad guys" were plotting to take America down. This was followed in short order by President Bush's Iraq War, which never made any sense to anybody, and frankly, to me, neither did all the sudden hysteria about terrorism.

Even taking into account the devastating attack, I felt suspicious as to how we could go all of a sudden from a relatively ordinary discourse about foreign policy to the constant drumbeat of fear, fear, fear. Many other people did too, because the Bush years primed the pump for President Obama and "Change." Obama seemed to embody diversity, not only because he was America's first Black President but because he seemed to lift the thoughts right out of our heads. Americans are a good and giving people, and I think we all agreed when President Obama portrayed a vision of a world where all of us could live in peace and mutual respect.

But unfortunately dreams and narratives and rhetoric don't always work in the real world. By 2012 and his second term, the skies had turned more ominous. Suddenly what began as promoting diversity and inclusion became a war along ideological lines. Around this time, there were weird, crazy, artificial-seeming "Occupy" protests on Wall Street, squatters defecating on the streets, and anarchy. The Administration normalized anti-Semitism under the guise of protecting Palestinian rights, and suddenly terrorists and their sympathizers were the good guys.

Meanwhile on campus, freedom was looking like communism, radical ideologies exploded across the college campus scene, and even hinting at a moderate conservative point of view became risky.

Yet President Clinton, who was popular despite his impeachment, was a moderate at heart. I remember wanting to be C.J. from "The West Wing," or maybe Tobey, because as a fake President Martin Sheen was the embodiment, at least to me, of what a real one ought to be. And in doing so he basically espoused the middle-of-the-road Clintonian ideology that was so appealing.

In the 2016 election, of course, all the simmering tensions of the Obama years came to a head. President Trump, probably the most politically incorrect leader one can imagine, successfully won the race. But in order to do so, he had to confront a leftist movement so powerful that it literally took over the mainstream media.

Suddenly there was no "inclusion" when it came to reporting. There was no "telling both sides of the story." There was only "Stop Trump At All Costs."

This attitude is not supported by President Trump's actual rhetoric. Both yesterday and throughout the campaign, the enemy has been very clearly articulated as the D.C. Establishment, which profits off the rest of the country, and the issue is economics. (If you talk to Muslims, they will tell you the same exact thing, particularly with respect to our invasion of Iraq and the consequent deaths of 500,000 civilians there.)

From Trump's Inaugural address:
"For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth."
Repeatedly the President stated that his vision was for Americans to band together for the sake of rebuilding the physical and social infrastructure of our Nation.

In this effort any form of bias is intolerable:
"At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice."
In fact, says Trump, the issue has nothing to do with political parties and everything to do with the system itself. We must restore democracy to our democracy:
"What truly matters is not which party controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again."
It hasn't been just the media, but Hollywood lining up against Trump as well. TMZ had a story the other day about an email circulating there, threatening anyone who doesn't get in line.

So there is a huge machine arrayed to stop President Trump from succeeding. This is a problem because in order to do so, he has to get everyone on the team - all races, all ethnicities, all religions, etc. And so watching the Inauguration, I asked myself: Why wasn't an imam there to say a prayer? Why wasn't there a Black choir to sing a song? Where were the people of color, generally?

One answer, of course, could be that President Trump was sending a message. You could say that, and superficially maybe you would be right.

But another answer could be that Muslims and other minorities who do support Trump -- who do see through the effort to discredit him -- were simply afraid to show their faces due to pressure.

Either way, whatever the reason, the portrayal of Trump's America as White America needs to be corrected, and quickly. And we can't count on him to do it: We will have to just ignore the pressure from haters and unite around moving forward ourselves.

We should remember that this is America. In our country, diversity is welcome. We are a nation of immigrants. That's the definition of us. It's not the exception, it's the rule.

More importantly than that, however, is what diversity is really about. It's not just skin color, not at all. It's not just gender or age or ability. It's what's under the skin -- it is heritage, it is culture, it is ideology, it is belief.

If you are American, you will stand up for the freedom of everyone to speak. Even those whose views make you, personally, squirm with discomfort.

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All opinions my own.