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True Reformers Hall, the first building designed, financed and built by Blacks after Reconstruction is dedicated in 1903 in DC.

Our National Wretchedness

POSTED: July 29, 2017, 2:30 pm

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The debacle we are witnessing in our nation’s capital today has its roots in Philadelphia in 1776. When the human rights of kidnapped and enslaved Africans – men, women and children -was negotiated away to give advantage to the economic interests of white men, the new nation formed was forever singed by its original sin. Now, almost 250 years later, we are a nation of hypocrites and liars, and we are hopelessly enslaved by the hatred the nation’s Founding Fathers embedded in American culture. Though individuals who currently hold the reins of power champion partisan ideals, the wretchedness of America is not partisan. It outlasts presidential administrations and the cyclical domination of political parties. Political transitions produce marginal outcomes, some positive, some negative, but the essence of our national stigma remains.

Our shameless president exhibits this wretchedness when he exhorts a room of police officers to engage in excessive force when making arrests. Trump’s wretchedness extends to his minions like White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who engaged in a profanity laced interview worthy of posting on the wall of a bathroom stall in a strip club. The wretchedness is embraced by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has perfected the art of double-speak while peddling the president’s lies to the White House press corps, and the American public. There has perhaps not been, since the antebellum presidencies, a more caustic and hateful presidential administration than the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The current assault on rights, the disregard for the suffering and the poor, and the wholesale retreat from hard-won protections of the environment are simply symptoms of a nation that may have reached the limits of its ability to become a fully flowered democracy. This is no more evident than in the increase in racial animosity and bigotry, particularly the assaults, physical and rhetorical, upon African-Americans, criminalization of immigrants of color, and the demonization of Muslims. It is clear we have reached a dead-end in the historical expansion of support for policies and programs to make America a more inclusive nation.

How else can we explain the lack of empathy for the deaths of thousands of children and young people due to the unfettered access Americans have to firearms? Not even the spilled blood and mangled bodies of children compel this nation to act in unity to strictly limit possession of deadly weapons. A large swath of the nation clings to an antiquated interpretation of a constitutional amendment that they then use as justification not just to own a gun, but to kill.

Despite the vast resources of America, every night millions of people go to sleep hungry and many of the hungry are children. Yet, we see communities across the country with children who are ostracized for not having the money to buy lunch at school. In a nation of abundance, children are shamed for not having the money to purchase a meal. In many of the same ways, homelessness is projected as an individual failure and not the function of an economic system that puts beyond the reach of many the resources to secure safe shelter. Our solution is to make the homeless outcasts, to make them invisible – a permanent underclass to loathe.

The current debate over health care is the epitome of our wretchedness. In America, living is a privilege for those who can invest in their wellness and negotiate their mortality barring some unforeseen tragedy. For everyone else, it is an unearned benefit that those in political leadership may or may not extend to the masses. The hypocrisy of members of Congress attempting to deny health care benefits to citizens when their taxpayer supported salaries and excellent health care is made possible by the very people they are willing to cast to the grave is a level of betrayal that is pure evil. Yet, in reflecting back on the savage treatment of enslaved Africans and the wicked marginalization of African-Americans during the Black Codes and Jim Crow era, present-day oppression is simply the continuation of what America has always done. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ain’t for everyone.

“The question those of us who represent the ‘other America’ must consider is whether freedom is salvageable and, if it is, what will be required of us to make it so.”

Which brings us to our present mashup. It is the culmination of decades of retreat. It is also the reality that America just got out of the Civil War only 153 years ago. To put this in perspective, there are quite a few Americans who have hit the century mark. I can even trace my fairly recent family to that bloody battle. That is how relatively recent that wretched episode is to our current living. What’s more, despite constitutional amendments affirming Blacks’ rights, it was just a little over 50 years ago when those rights had to be protected through congressional action. Then, similar to Reconstruction, it was just a short 13-year period between the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1978 before the nation became exhausted with the idea of full democracy and ‘reverse racism” became the coded-language of the infamous Bakke affirmative action lawsuit. America has been in reverse ever since, looking at equality from a distance.

The utter chaos we are witnessing today is the natural result of a nation that saw a glimpse of what the ‘Founding Fathers’ had the audacity to tease and decided ‘this land can’t be your land or my land’ because it was never meant to be. The question those of us who represent the ‘other America’ must consider is whether freedom is salvageable and, if it is, what will be required of us to make it so.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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