A year ago this week Donald Trump was elected POTUS. What does that mean to us?
In February 2015, at the start of the Republican Presidential Primary season, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the following about then President Barack Obama: “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. ... He doesn’t love you, and he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up, and I was brought up through love of this country.”
Giuliani was completely wrong about President Obama, but he nailed yours truly, Mike Jones. I’m a 68-year-old fully woke black man whose emotional relationship with America is a function of how I understand the collective black experience. That means on a good day I’m ambivalent about America. Chris Rock accurately captured this ambivalence when he said, “If you're black, you got to look at America a little bit different. You got to look at America like the uncle who paid for you to go to college, but who molested you.”
But what if I were a successful, 50-plus, college-educated, professional, upper-middle-class, conservative white man who claims to love America and believes all the myths that make up the American cognitive reality? What would I say about Donald Trump one year after Americans like this version of me (Trump carried every white demographic ) elected him president?
Let’s start with what I think I’d claim to believe. I would say America is the greatest country in the history of humanity. The foundation of this greatness is its commitment to individual liberty and the rule of law. Because of this, it’s possible for anyone to achieve whatever they’re willing to work for. Just look at me!
I also claim to believe America’s exceptional because it’s more than a place, it’s an idea and an ideal. E Pluribus Unum: From the many, one. If you embrace American values, America will embrace you.
I now have a dilemma. How do I explain my political support that made possible the election of a malignant, narcissistic, marginally intelligent, emotionally impulsive, racist, misogynistic sociopathic wannabe totalitarian as president of the United States?
During the campaign I told myself, and others, the majesty of the Office of President would magically transform him into someone worthy of this high honor. Instead, I’ve watched him do incalculable damage to America’s governing culture and institutions, as well as its international standing.
At this point, a black guy like me has to ask a white guy like him, “My man, given everything you now know, how can you love America and support Donald Trump?”
That silence is your answer. You see, he doesn’t love America. What he loves is money and power, and in pursuit of money and power he will make common cause with humanity’s darkest impulses. He can even rationalize the presidency of Donald Trump while claiming fidelity to high moral values. But then hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.
Now would be a good time to have a long-overdue conversation with ourselves about ourselves and America, and here’s where it must start. Despite whatever success you enjoy or status you’ve achieved, his American story is not, and can never be, yours. We’re all Americans, but the road you traveled to reach this point in history has little resemblance to his. When you ignore that difference in order to placate his vanity, you dishonor the sacrifices of your ancestors, shame yourself, and put your progeny at risk.
Let’s go back to Chris Rock’s Uncle America. Call him Sam. Whenever Uncle Sam would show up, adults would say, “Always know where he is, and never leave the kids alone with him.” And as the kids got older, adults told them why, so they could also protect the younger ones.
Between the fantasy of the Huxtables and the political fiction of Barack Obama’s changed America, we left two generations of our children alone, unprotected in America. Just like that extended family was stuck with that perverted uncle, we’re stuck with America. But to ignore the true nature of either is both immoral and criminal.
Mike Jones is a member of the St. Louis American Editorial Board and the State Board of Education. Has held senior policy positions in St. Louis city and county government. In 2016, he was awarded Best Serious Columnist for all of the state’s large weekly by the Missouri Press Association.