What do you want from us?
When will you finally feel satisfied, unafraid? How much of other people’s suffering will it take to make you — the Trumpists, the Tucker Carlson cultists, the white supremacists, the Christian nationalists, the voters who embrace the hate, or do not reject it, which amounts to much the same thing — feel better?
You keep saying we are ruining your America. That we are taking your pride, your tax dollars, your jobs; erasing your culture; diluting your votes; replacing you. You live in a zero-sum world, where every atom of care and comfort provided to others steals something from you. Every bottle of formula allegedly given to an undocumented infant is thievery. Better to let those babies go hungry, so that innocent babies — your babies — have plenty.
Carlson calls you “legacy Americans.” Newt Gingrich prefers the term “classic Americans.” To others, you are “real Americans.” What they really mean is white Americans — straight, Christian, conservative, white Americans — who think and, far too often, hate like they do.
There are so many of you. One in three Americans believes the baseless notion that Democrats are trying to flood the country with immigrants for electoral gain, according to an Associated Press poll. Why wouldn’t they, when so many pundits and politicians peddle this conspiratorial poison day after day?
You feel like the America you love, Great America, is in the rearview mirror. And so you want the women of color among us to have fewer children, even as you try to make abortion impossible. You call yourselves pro-life, but you will fight to the death so that almost anyone can carry weaponry capable of mass murder. You’re all for law and order, as long as the justice system is used to wreak havoc in Black communities and not to stop an attempted coup. You cling to some sections of the Constitution as if the last 235 years never happened and disregard others. You want to erase honest history from our classrooms lest your children learn about this country’s failures and demand better.
It’s hard to see how you’d get back to the America you loved even if you ran everything, which you may well do before long, given how quickly your leaders are gutting our democracy. Do you expel all of the immigrants you dislike? Undo all of the civil rights gains that gave Black, brown, Asian and Arab Americans, women, and others equality, at least on paper? Undo same-sex marriages and send gay and transgender people back into the closet?
There’s no logical remedy for your grievances, but that’s not really the point. It feels good to find villains to blame when life is complicated or hard. And it sure as heck works as an electoral strategy.
So you live in a giant web of bigotry and victimhood. And every so often, one member of your sprawling, ungovernable network goes off the rails. He plagiarizes a screed that hits all the racist and antisemitic high notes of “the great replacement” derangement, albeit in balder terms than politicians and Fox personalities dare deploy.
Using a weapon you say preserves freedom, he guns down 13 citizens at a supermarket in Buffalo on a warm Saturday afternoon. Eleven of his victims are Black, and 10 of them are dead.
They include Katherine Massey, a beloved neighborhood activist; Aaron Salter Jr., a former police officer and security guard who tried to stop the carnage; Andre Mackniel , buying a birthday cake for his 3-year-old; Pearl Young, a Sunday school teacher who ran a local food pantry. They were just living their lives, doing ordinary jobs, mundane errands.
They were Real Americans. Just like the Jewish congregants killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston were Real Americans. Just like the Latino shoppers gunned down at the Walmart in El Paso were Real Americans. Just like the victims of anti-Asian and anti-Muslim and anti-trans hate crimes were Real Americans.
So, too, are those of us who want equality and bodily autonomy for all, who believe in voting rights and a living wage and a safety net and learning from history and gun control Real Americans. Real, and grieving, and angry beyond measure.
And we are not going anywhere.