The past nine days have seen one political rollercoaster after another. From FBI director James Comey’s firing, to the revelation that Trump revealed classified information received from Israel to the Russians, and now James Comey’s memo saying that President Trump pressured him to stop the FBI investigation against former NSA chief Michael Flynn. Wednesday saw encouraging news that Comey’s predecessor, Robert Mueller was named as special counsel/prosecutor to oversee the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia but no matter how this turns out, things are going to get ugly. As dramatic and stress-inducing this very young presidency has been, this is only the beginning–whether something substantial comes of these investigations or not.
Things aren’t much better outside of the White House either. Education Secretary Betty DeVos announced a possible raise of interest rates on student loans by 20% and a proposal to end the public service loan forgiveness program. In Oklahoma late Wednesday night, white police officer Betty Shelby was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter of unarmed black man Terrence Crutcher. On all fronts it seems like the United States is crumbling, from the inside out. From the health care debate, to climate change, to the changing world economy, our government is seemingly doing the absolute wrong thing.
Unfortunately, removing or fixing one thing will not cure what ultimately ails us. Removing Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not stop police officers killing unarmed black and brown civilians with impunity nor will it correct the racial disparity in the criminal justice system. Removing Betty DeVos as Secretary of Education will not resolve the massive problem with student loan debt in this country. Removing Donald Trump from the presidency of the United States will not undo the damage he’s done, either in re-energizing white supremacy and xenophobia, which we thought were behind us nor in repairing the economic and societal divisions in this country that allowed him to rise to power in the first place.
One might ask why? In our 241-year history, our structures are fundamentally unchanged. Despite experiencing a civil war early in our history, a Great Depression, fighting in two world wars, incorporating protections for civil rights and equality, and balancing a cold war for 40 years, the United States as it has existed since 1776 remains in tact. Precisely, and that is precisely the problem.
Our structures have remained in tact, and unchanged. Our politicians claim that a testament to our exceptionalist strength and morality. It also feeds a refusal to change even when the times necessitate it. And it is that inflexibility, the resistance to transformation, that is causing our problems now. No country is perfect or has a perfect history. But the United States has been a world power for much of its history. Like much of the West, it has come at the expense of others. However unlike western nations like France, Spain or even Russia it has not had a moment of transformation. We have not had a Revolution of 1789 or a Civil War of 1936 or a Revolution of 1917. We have not had a moment of truth where we can no longer ignore the reality about being American that is staring us right in the face. The truth that this is a nation founded on white supremacy and economic inequality, and it has not changed. Social mobility is not as present as we are socialized to believe. If we are born in poverty, chances are we will die in poverty. Chances of success for African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans are hindered by racial and cultural biases that restrict us to peripheral roles in American life.
The more we deny this the more it becomes obvious to all, both inside and outside the United States. And ultimately the more disastrous the collapse will be. But with death comes transformation and the ability to become greater than what was before. If we allow it.