Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

America, redefined

27th February 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Rev. Susan K. Smith
Guest Columnist

Langston Hughes, the African-American poet, wrote a poem entitled “I, Too,” where he shares that people of color are Americans, too. He was bemoaning the plight of the “darker brother” who is always considered second-class, or lower, in a land which prided itself on welcoming the tired, the poor.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, another celebrated African-American poet, reminded readers that Black people had the burden of wearing a mask “that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes.” The pain of being tossed aside by a country which brought us here to make it “great” is a pain that not many Anglo-Americans know about or care about. Laurence’s poem reminds readers that “we smile, but O, great Christ, our cries to thee from tortured souls arise.”

The souls of people who are not white are still tortured, and this America, it seems, is filled with people who do not care. Yes, there are those who do care, but the fact that so many people dress in their racism on a daily basis is devastating.

I thought, even with all its faults, that America was better than that. I thought there had been some radical progression away from racism to the concept of inclusivity.

I was wrong.

It has been gut-wrenching to hear people applaud what is being done to Muslims – those who live here and those who live in predominantly Muslim nations. Yes, it is gratifying that many Americans are protesting loudly against the “ban” which the current administration says is not a “travel ban” or a “Muslim ban,” but underneath, I can feel bubbling the spirit of racial hatred that applauds what is being done.

It is equally disturbing that this administration refuses to acknowledge that not terrorists are Muslim. Last week, a white nationalist who is said to be a Trump supporter, shot and killed six Muslims in a mosque in Quebec. It was clearly an act of terrorism, just as the shooting of six Black people in a South Carolina church was terrorism – white, radical Christian terrorism – but the Quebec shooting got little press once everyone was clear that it was “only Muslims” who were shot and killed. An article this week, which again didn’t get much press attention, said that the Trump administration has decided to clarify what it means by “terrorism.” In that article, it is noted that “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

In other words, white people get a pass. They can shoot and kill people and not be called terrorists.

The new administration has in place and in power a man, Steve Bannon, who has admitted that he is a Leninist and who has said that he wants to bring the establishment down. He believes that “a Western country, and America in particular, needs capitalism, nationalism and Judeo-Christian values” to be successful. He believes that capitalism is suffering, because too many people are suffering, which led to the formation of socialist policies that encouraged dependency on the government.

He wants to take America back to a time where, he believes, capitalism worked well. He references Edmund Burke, an 18th century political thinker, who said that “societies should not be abstract notions like human rights, social justice or equality.” (italics, mine.) Bannon, who, remember, advises the new president on nearly everything, believes that America should go back to practicing nationalism, modesty, patriarchy, and religion. Concepts and beliefs which have evolved over the past 50 years, including pluralism, sexuality, egalitarianism and secularism should be abandoned. Adoption of those new beliefs have led to social chaos, Bannon believes.

This is taking America “back again.” This is how one “makes America great again,” by closing doors, building walls, shutting people out, ignoring white Christian domestic terrorism, rejecting pluralism and egalitarianism in favor of authoritarianism and practices which can only be called fascist.

This is what a lot of people wanted. And many, many people are enthralled at what is being done to take America “back.”

American redefined. America, thrust backward into a time when sexism and racism and homophobia were honored principles, and where other religions were tolerated but kept in check.

In spite of the rhetoric that the administrations actions and policies are making America safe, it doesn’t feel that way. Antagonizing both our allies and our foes, it feels like the table is being set for war, a war in which America may not have as much support as she once did. Bannon has called for a “Christian holy war;” (, not unlike the late Osama bin-Laden did.

So, here we are, being remade. It is being done right in front of our eyes, with the blessing of a lot of Americans who think this is the way to go. There is a lot going on that is not yet known, and a lot going on that nobody wants to talk about but be that as it may, this America, our America, is being redefined.

And the redefinition feels very, very frightening.

This article originally published in the February 27, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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