We’re not “overthrowing the revolution,” we’re finishing it.
Last night in a divisive and hateful speech, Donald Trump accused, essentially everyone who isn’t with him of wanting to “overthrow the revolution.”
It was billed as a speech where Trump was going to teach us about history. Instead, he exposed even the most basic grasp of it. I’m not saying that as an insult, but as an observation.
It was as if, at times, he was just shouting names with no concept of their role or place in history or in the development of the American story.
The “us vs. them” reduces what it means to be “American” to being one of “us,” and that“us” has a largely homogenous experience of being “American.”
Chiefly, the “silent majority,” or the “middle-class Americans with economic anxiety.” It’s a big part of the history of our country, but it’s not all of our country.
Being an “American” is not a singular thing and it’s not a single experience.
There is the black experience of being an American.
There is a Latinx experience of being an American.
There is an indigenous peoples’ experience of being an American.
There is an Asian American experience of being an American.
There is a gay experience, a trans experience.
There are generational differences as people grew up in different eras with changing circumstances and changing technology.
And all of these experiences are “American” experiences because they are the experience of Americans growing up.
What Trump is doing in all this “us vs. theming” is excluding all other experiences as being invalid, ironically on the pretext of “overturning” it.
The problem with our national understanding of our history is that it is too focused on “people” and how they are “great” while ignoring their faults.
We teach idols, not history. No wonder our history literally just becomes idols.
We need to teach the story of history. And we need to teach that story in all its various perspectives.
America is emancipation, but it’s also slavery. We can’t avert that evil.
America is the civil rights movement, but it’s also segregation and Jim Crow and red-lining. We need to teach about lynchings and the mass murder of blacks in places like Tulsa and the Red Summer of 1919.
We need to teach the ugly underbelly of our history to our children because you need to know that in order to understand how we got to where we are. We need to teach the truth about our founding fathers, not glossed over fables.
We’ve made them into nearly infallible idols. And those childhood idols become adult idols.
Our history is a complex narrative and we need to teach all of it.
We need to teach the truth about class differences, and how they have been used by the elite going back to the beginnings of slavery to pit the poor whites against the blacks, telling them if blacks have equality, they will take from what little the poor whites have.
We need to teach the history of how we violated thousands of treaties with Native American nations.
We need to teach the history going back to the 1800s of our vilifying Mexicans as we stole Mexico’s land.
We need to teach the history of how we treated the Chinese in the 1800s. We need to teach the racist history of the 1924 Immigration act.
White Americans think their American experience is “the” American experience because it’s the one they see on TV and read in books and grew up learning about in history class.
That’s all a lot of them know…especially the high-school educated group that largely composes Trump’s base, also known as poor whites.
It’s part of our historical identity, ironically, as much as the idea that “all men are created equal.”
The story of our history that of the constant push vs. pull between the idea of the nation we want to be, where all people are created equal, and the country we are, where all people are not treated equally and never have been.
Our story is truly becoming a “we” where every American can freely and fully participate with equality, be it in education, the workplace, the voting booth, or just in how we’re treated the police.
And if we teach that as our national history, that will become our national goal.
That’s the real irony of Trump’s position. He wants to talk about history, but his talking points expose the absence of any understanding of it and takes advantage of his base’s lack of it.
The beauty of what is happening right now is that America, collectively, is finally growing up into an adult. She is deciding to be the nation the founding fathers may have envisioned, or beyond what they envisioned.
She wants all people to be equal.
If you can’t get with that, get out of the way.
We’re not “overthrowing the revolution.” We’re finally living up to it.