Still Dreaming of the American Dream

After the wholly repugnant speech Donald Trump gave in South Dakota — on lands stolen from Lakota and Dakota nations because there was gold alleged to be in the Black Hills — it’s important to remember this one point.

Donald J. Trump is not this country. He may be a product of it, but he is not this nation. He may believe L’etat, c’est moi, but this premise is not this country’s past and will not be its future.

We are the United States of America, including the many citizens he denigrated in his white-nationalist-written speech.

Trump may speak for and to a minority of people who voted for him in 2016, those whose rights were given preference by an electoral system designed to ensure white slave owners would not lose their grip on power to the Black people they once enslaved.

But Trump is not this country, nor are his base alone. We the people are collectively the United States of America.

This country’s origins, though flawed by slavery and oppression of indigenous people, began with the right intentions. The founders sought to overthrow autocratic monarchic government and its oppression for the right of individual self-determination, fairness, and collective effort toward a more perfect union. It is this spirit we should recall and re-embrace each Fourth of July, disregarding the crackpot fulminations of the fascist criminal who would rather see this nation divided. He seeks to defer history’s looming punishment meted out to those who have abused the trust of this nation for their own personal gain under Trump’s administration.

History doesn’t wait, however, not even for a bloviating white man with access to monied and powerful friends.

History doesn’t wait for us, either. Like this nation’s founders we have choices to make and action to take if we wish to ensure the future is kinder and our history more forgiving.

In an 1858 debate with his opponent, Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the Declaration of Independence:

I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal—equal in “certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.

History looks to us to enforce the rights in the Declaration of Independence, waits for us to continue to labor toward a free society. We are called to value the life of all its people, to further the pursuit of happiness across this nation.

I’ll repeat my closing from last year’s Fourth of July post:

We must recall our nation’s identity began with a shared belief that we are all created equal, that we are endowed with certain unalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Seeking to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, we instituted a government to secure our inalienable rights and these common interests.

We can and will check this government of and by the people when it fails us just as we checked a monarch in 1776, just as we’ve checked executives and other elected office holders who have failed their oaths. We have continually refreshed our representatives and justices to the same end.

As we have for 243 years we still have work to do. Ted Kennedy spoke of the ongoing nature of this nation’s mission when he said, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Recommitting to the American dream, I leave off with hope that we can and will continue to pursue a more perfect union.

Wishing you and yours a safe and responsible pandemic-enhanced holiday — wash your hands, wear a mask, maintain appropriate social distance but celebrate together nevertheless.


Consider this an open thread.

78 replies
    • dude says:

      So, John Tesh draws bigger crowds than Trump in Tulsa. Then, Mary Hart “hosts” Trump at Mt. Rushmore. Is this Trump’s idea of rebutting an Al Franken tweet?

      Entertainment tonight……la la lala la laaaaa

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Apropos of Rayne’s response, does anyone want to tell Mary Hart what her sign means to those outside of the US and maybe Canada? A double one, at that. Personally, I think she deserves to find out for herself.

    • Nehoa says:

      One of the reasons the Roman Empire became great is because they extended Roman citizenship to many far and wide in their empire. These new citizens had a stake in its survival and growth. Might there be a lesson there?

      • P J Evans says:

        Soldiers, when they retired after their hitch (20 years!), frequently got citizenship and a plot of land, often near a “new town”. It gave them a reason to keep the neighborhood quiet.

      • rosalind says:

        still marveling at the rant-writers inserting “to·​tal·​i·​tar·​i·​an·​ism” into it, knowing the man is incapable of handling 2-syllables.

      • P J Evans says:

        I’m hoping the locals have shot off their arsenal over the last 6 weeks. I’m very tired of having “BOOM!!” at random moments all evening.

          • Thebuzzardman says:

            I enjoyed hearing fireworks in the weeks leading up the 4th of July in NYC. Culminating in big neighborhood blowouts by kids and adults alike, though mostly kids.

            Then Rudy G came along and cracked down on all of it and Bloomberg kept the policing of “nuisance” laws going.

            Funny to see the NYPost complaining about it.

            I guess the writers are under the age of 50 and not originally from NYC.

            • P J Evans says:

              Maybe you enjoy them “leading up to” the 4th, but they’re a real nuisance for a lot of us. And a serious fire hazard, in the western half of the country. (I’ll let you try to sleep less than 100 feet from someone setting off cherry bombs.)

    • Eureka says:

      Exactly, PJ. Thanks Rayne for summoning the words today.

      And to PJ @ 801p:

      1246am here: BOOM BOOM BOOM BA’BOOM BOOM

      Dog is taking it pretty well; when they don’t, it is a nightmare.

      • P J Evans says:

        I’ve seen two or three videos of the LA Basin last night: imagine a fireworks display that’s 20 miles square.

  1. RMD says:

    Thank you, Rayne. Happy 4th of July to you and Marcy, Bmaz, and other contributors. This site is always a must-read. Always thought provoking analysis and commentary. Invaluable.

    • John Lehman says:

      After the wholly repugnant speech Donald Trump gave in South Dakota — on lands stolen from Lakota and Dakota nations because there was gold alleged to be in the Black Hills — it’s important to remember this one point.”

      Absolutely! And may it be added…that the Black Hills were and continue to be held as the most sacred temple on Mother Earth by the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people (singular) as these are one people with three different dialects. The names themselves translate as “sacred humans” a name that transcends the very concept of “tribes” a construct brought here by the European culture.

      Oh the irony, such a nakedly avaricious man gives a speech honoring the USA in the heart of the Black Hills, a place stolen by a desire for “the yellow metal that drives the white man crazy”.

      One more point, having attended as a white person countless Pow-Wows never have I witnessed the slightest desecration of the American flag. A veterans always lead a procession with a US flag followed by other veterans of every race. This was the beginning and end of every Pow-Wow I’ve been honored to attend.

      Thanks Rayne for your post.

  2. mass interest says:

    Thanks to all of you, EW principals and commenters, for your expertise, time, moral compass, and energy.

    In our collective hands, may the pursuit continue!

  3. Tom says:

    I think Trump wants to establish his “National Garden of American Heroes” (aka “Pigeon Park”) because he imagines his own statue greeting visitors as they arrive to perambulate the grounds.

    • madwand says:

      And may his statue, should there be one, be pidgeonfied, hopefully daily and continuously.

        • P J Evans says:

          I saw that photo, or a similar one, and yeah, it was much better looking before it got dynamited and chiseled to make white guys happy.

      • Tracy Lynn says:

        Wow! That was an amazing short story, PJ. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. So powerful. Taking care of the pooch and reading stories like that one this July 4th evening.

        • P J Evans says:

          The room was kind of dusty there.
          (As opposed to what it’s like when someone is barbecuing – I’m apparently allergic to the smoke. And it smells like melting plastic.)

  4. Max404 says:

    Before launching into my comment, I just want to remind readers that next week the Supreme Court may decide to allow a man who committed a crime when he was 18 be killed by the state of Texas. If they do not intervene by 8 July, he will be executed. That is 4 days away.

    In the US, killing takes place at a feverish pace. Get in the crosshairs and you are a goner. To me, it makes 4th of July appeals to “The American Dream” seem like drama, like a distraction.

    On to my comment.

    There are a number of countries which have embarked on their own version of the search for “the more perfect union”. Just to name two:

    The first words of the German constitution are:

    “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.”

    Human dignity certainly encompasses the right to life and liberty, and many other desires of all people.

    Articles 1 and 2 of the Italian constitution go like this:

    Italy is a democratic Republic founded on labour. Sovereignty belongs to the people, who exercise it in the forms and within the limits laid down by the Constitution. The Republic recognizes and guarantees the inviolable rights of man, both as an individual and as a member of the social groups in which one’s personality finds expression, and it requires the performance of imperative political, economic, and social duties.

    In this case the basic law guarantees the inalienable right to self expression, within the limits of duties.

    There are many other examples.

    My point is that this time of year, and all through the year, the discussion in America about “what is America” is carried on at high volume and dramatic levels. As if Americans are the only ones who want to live their lives to the fullest, in a free and dignified way.
    All people want that.

    I believe it would be a good idea if Americans spent more time reflecting on how they are humans exactly like all other humans on earth, with the same hopes and dreams. That there is nothing exceptional in their desires for a fulfilling and dignified life. Americans can reflect on the fact that injustice and inequality are plagues on the entire human race, and the American experiment is just one piece of a huge human experiment, to try to make it possible for all people to lead dignified lives, and in which each personality can be expressed without fear, and in which each person performs their political, economic and social duties. And as the Italians note, in a society based on work. That means, work, not inherited wealth or nobility or any modern form of nobility.

    De Toqueville in Democracy in America asked the question, why did democracy evolve in North America and not (at the time) in South America? His answer was that the English, for all their awful imperialistic behaviour, nevertheless and as far as the English were concerned, had evolved a system of self-government long before. This, in his view, was transferred to the American continent in the areas they controlled. The idea of self-government was well-established.

    The ideas of liberty, self-government, and of democracy itself, are old and world-wide. Much older than America, and much newer as well.
    Americans of today, in my opinion, would do well to see America as part of this expression, this nearly universal and seemingly timeless movement, and not as any kind of unique or exclusive expression of such hope. The successes of others in this movement could be meditated upon, and made treasure.

    That lowering of the eyes from the dramatic to the right-down-here-on-earth might help.

    • John Lehman says:

      What could be more patriotic than helping an “ever advancing civilization”?
      No matter how humble and “down to earth”
      Keep the faith!

  5. BobCon says:

    The NY Times reports on recent polls showing recent BLM protests to be the largest protest movement in US history, with between 15 to 25 million indicating they took part.

    I am a bit skeptical of these numbers, in the same way that post 2008 election polling showed many more people claiming to vote for Obama than actually did.

    But I have no doubt based on what I saw locally and what was in media reports that the numbers were astonishing and historically important. That is a lot of patriots.

    I think the context is also important, People had significant health reasons to stay away. There was very subdued Democratic political leadership support, especially at first due to to the outsized influence of police unions. There was the significant threat of police violence. And over it all was the longstanding unpopularity of confronting racism in this society. The political press would have everyone believe it was an issue that would rebound for Trump.

    Still, the movement was widely popular in polls in a way that the civil rights protests of the 50s and 60s, and the antiwar protests of the 60s and 70s were not.

    I was struck by an interview I heard with a local black activist who commented on how impressed he was with the wave of young leaders, not only in the protest movement but in local elections, which have seen some of the old guard swept away in favor of people with a strong grassroots background. He noted that he was skipping the intergenerational fights that plagued activists when he started out, and he was happy to step back and do what the young people told him.

    Which is all a long winded way of saying the American dream isn’t dead yet, and people who have every reason to give up are coming on strong. Happy Fourth.

  6. foggycoast says:

    most white people were not slave owners.
    i know of plenty of bloviating black people.
    i am considered white but i and my ancestors had nothing to do with oppression of non-whites.
    the white, white, white thing is tiresome to those who sympathize and support equality but are lumped in with despicable people just because of the color of their skin.
    it’s racist.
    stop it.

    • Doug Fir says:

      It is hard to accept that simply being born with white skin makes us complicit, but there it is. Without trying, and usually without thinking, we white skinned Americans enjoy privileges denied to our brown and black sisters and brothers. That is why we have to WAKE UP! Read James Baldwin. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates. Shut-the-fuck up about how guilty we feel or how innocent we are and get on with the business of USING our privilege to ELIMINATE our privilege!!

      Happy Independence Day

      • Doug Fir says:

        Also gotta say that accepting our role in systemic racism is a picnic compared to coping with the daily burden of being black or brown in the “Land of the Free”.

        • bmaz says:

          And exactly who the fuck are “we”, “us”, or “our”? You have no clue who anybody here is.

          • Doug Fir says:

            “We” and “us” are me and foggycoast and any other white skinned people here who need to shake off our white fragility. I thought that was pretty clear in my posts, but apparently not.

          • Mitch Neher says:

            If there are any African-American commenters on this blog, then . . . they are all doing outstanding jobs of passing for White folk.

            Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m “clued-in” to Black people, either.

                • bmaz says:

                  And that means exactly what?

                  Most people here don’t know squat who the others are. The people that run the joint have known each other, and not just online, for a very long time. A lot of others have been with us since before there was even formally an “Emptywheel Blog”.

                  Don’t presume you know the race, much less race experience and views, of any of the people here, you do not. That is not a known to you, nor anybody else. Please stuff that somewhere dark.

                  • Mitch Neher says:

                    What’s it mean??

                    Is it possible to defame an anonymous commenter?

                    Can an unwarranted presumption of knowledge inflict emotional harm on a pseudonymous commenter?

                    Can a persona sue a blog and remain anonymous?

            • Ginevra diBenci says:

              What?!? It sounds as if you’re saying that simply by forming intelligible sentences in a post, we are either “passing” or (worse) attempting to “pass” as white. I have referenced my race status in previous posts, but feel it unnecessary and/or obnoxious to do so every damn time. I’m not even sure why this makes me so angry, but I guess it’s the same old invisibility crap once again. And in a place where you can’t even see my difference and walk by me as if I weren’t there. Goddam.

              • Ginevra diBenci says:

                I’m sorry, Molly Pitcher. Where did I veer off the rails?
                I’m not white. That’s the place I was coming from. Maybe it wasn’t clear enough.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  No worries. I’m pretty sure Molly was responding to Mitch, not you.

                  The point Mitch misses is that – other than those with their names listed in the About section and those who know each other off-site – no one knows enough about other commenters on this site to make such grand assumptions. All we know is what you say.

                • Molly Pitcher says:

                  Ginevera, I’m so sorry that my comment made you think it was directed at you. E of H does know me well enough to know that it was intended for Mitch Neher. My apologies.

                  • Ginevra diBenci says:

                    Molly Pitcher, I know myself well enough to know that when I’m hetted up, as my mom used to say, my thoughts don’t come out as clearly as I think they are. I was just appalled to think I had inadvertently added my voice to the opposite side, and confused those I respect as much as I do you. Thanks for explaining.

                  • Ginevra diBenci says:

                    Thank you, Molly Pitcher. I appreciate it. You are one of the last people I wanted to offend/confuse.

    • P J Evans says:

      Most slave owners only had one or two – they weren’t all plantation owners. Even 10 or 20 were a lot of slaves to own.

      Some owners were black or Native American. (See: the Creek Freedmen.)

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Most aristocrats did not own a Downton Abbey, nor were they numerically superior to households who could afford to employ only one or two servants. But they set the rules and the ways the culture enforced them.

        Southern plantation owners were not numerically superior to less wealthy whites, who might own one or two slaves. But they were at the apex of their society. They set the legal, political, economic, and social rules regarding slave ownership. They established the cultural model for owning slaves and enforced it.

        • Tom says:

          ‘The true planter aristocracy embraced ten thousand families that owned fifty or more slaves apiece. These were the people who, as the former North Carolina slave William Yancey later recalled, “gave shape to the government and tone to the society. They had the right of way in business and in politics.”‘

          From “The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South” by Bruce Levine published in 2013. This book does a thorough job of demolishing the idea that the Confederacy could ever have stood on its own as an independent nation.

        • P J Evans says:

          The idea that most people have of slavery is the plantations. That’s what the various media have pushed, always.
          (One of my nephews-by-marriage is the descendant of slave-owners. They had 10 or 20, before the war, in NE Mississippi.)

  7. Vicks says:

    Well written Rayne, thank you for reminding us of the power we do have.
    We are in a crisis and I sometimes think that the almost daily stories of cruelty and corruption has many of us (including myself) spending too much time and energy in “I cant’ believe this is happening” mode.
    Getting the facts straight and endlessly discussing the the details are a way to feel engaged, and pounding the able is needed to get everyone’s attention, but preaching to the choir is limited in its effectiveness.
    As you said, we have the power to change this, and after 3+ years of shaming republicans for their inaction, now is the time for each of us to decide and commit to what we are actually going to do about it as the election approaches.

  8. Vicks says:

    I haven’t had time to follow everything that has been going on closely so I apologize if this has already been pointed out and discussed.
    According to reporting, Trump’s briefing on Feb 25 included a description of Russia putting a bounty on the heads of American soldiers.
    On Feb 27 the deal with the Taliban was signed.
    Trump continues to deny he was ever briefed on the topic
    On a similar note, according to reporting, starting in mid January, Trump was given multiple classified briefings warning of the threat of the Covid 19 virus.
    At this time Trump was praising China’s handling of the virus, and the beginning of Trump’s strategy of downplaying it’s danger.
    Trump signed his trade agreement with China on Jan 15.
    Trump eventually admitted he had been briefed on the virus, however it should be noted that he was careful to claim it was not until “late January”
    When you look at all the other stupid and dangerous things Trump has done while in office and throughout his “career” as a phony business tycoon everything that has made the headlines has turned out to be a snapshot (photo op) of success that came ONLY by recklessly endangering the lives, the health, and finances and more often than not leaving those abused in his wake to pay the price with their own lives, health, career, and finances.
    If I am not making myself clear.
    Tens of thousands of people are dead because Trump wanted the photo op of him signing the trade deal.
    Trump chose not to lift a finger to protect our soldiers in Afganistán because it was more important that he be able to announce the deal with the Taliban on his twitter feed.
    He continues to pack people into death traps so he can get off on their loyalty.
    Plausible deniability may work in the eyes of some of his base, but WTF?
    This virus is different, and he f’ing blew it.
    How long can he hold their confidence by battling statues and misrepresenting jobs reports?

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      That would seem to be the question. The answer? His steadily dropping poll numbers, especially regarding how he’s handled the pandemic.

  9. Ewan says:

    Musing out loud: what is the approximate age of the usual contributor ? Not a real age, but you all refer to the fact that you have known each other for a very long time. Assuming you were all adults when you started chatting, and that it was indeed a significant time ago, it must have been at least at the time when usenet was popular, so after the mid-80s. That makes the usual contributor somewhere between 60 and 70. I wonder if a time machine can find the early exchanges.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      I’m confused by your post, Ewan. Do you want to know who comprises the EW core demographically? Or are you looking for archived posts? I haven’t been visible here long. But I can already tell EW is neither WebMD nor a dating site, the only places I can think of where asking about commenters’ ages might be appropriate.

  10. mospeck says:

    spot on, Rayne. I’m lighting a candle tonight. Fingers crossed and hope Roberts’ Court gets it right in the morning. That Art III and I will honor the Founders and be a check back on II. Can’t sleep and wake up at odd hours, like 2:42, 20 past 3 or 25 or 6 to 4. It’s the hour of the wolf and the bad dreams of Anna Politkovskaya. bmaz, sent this expat Russians one far and wide.

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