In a recent editorial in the “Twin City Times,” Lewiston mayor Bob Macdonald seems to be confusing the United States with the Third Reich.
There’s nothing too surprising going on here. In the last few years, Macdonald’s anti-immigrant antics have become a relative fixture of Lewiston politics.
In 2012, after he told Lewiston’s immigrants to “Leave your culture at the door,” 1,400 of his constituents even signed petitions demanding he step down from office.
But, in my mind at least, this new piece crosses a line. It doesn’t just ask immigrants to change how they live, it presents a completely bogus narrative about American history to justify his xenophobia.
In the piece, Macdonald writes:
“On the anniversary of our 240th birthday, let us pledge to remake our country into a similar image that worked in the beginning… one culture, one language and one set of values”
Even if you ignore all the genocide, slavery and indentured servitude happening at the time of our country’s founding, Macdonald’s claim that the first US citizens shared a common language and culture has close to zero factual accuracy.
In 1776, the Yankee craftsmen in small town Massachusetts (Maine would remain a state of Massholes until 1820) were incredibly different culturally than the cotton plantation masters in Georgia or the merchants in colonial New York.
The colonies each had different economies.Their governments were different. Their values, traditions and religions all varied widely. Without Internet or TV, let alone audio recordings of any kind, many folks might never hear the sound of a person’s voice who lived more than a few miles away from them, making it easy for accents to remain highly localized.
The first US citizens spoke many different dialects, and yes, even different languages, including English, French, Dutch and German. To this day, despite many attempts over the years, unlike half of the countries in the world, the United States still does not have an official language.
If the first US citizens had all been the same culturally and linguistically, forming this country would not have been about uniting disparate states into a single political entity. We would just be a single state, “America.”
In my opinion, Macdonald’s piece is worse than ignorant. It’s the definition of white supremacy.
Macdonald is conveying the exact notion that justifies all racism in this country, namely that there is a single, pure white America, which is constantly at risk of being tainted by people of color, foreigners, and criminals and must therefore be defended at all costs.
Anthropologically speaking, at least, we’ve always been a country with a whole lot of different kinds of people in it who come from a whole lot of different places, have different cultures and speak different languages.
There is no “pure” white America. There definitely wasn’t at the dawn of our country, and there still isn’t one today. It won’t ever exist. It can’t. It’s fiction. Fiction that justifies a lot of really horrible things. No matter what you see in Hollywood movies or glossy magazine ads, this narrative of uniformity is a story, a weapon, not the objective state of 318 million lives.
So, if whiteness doesn’t hold up under the microscope, what is it? Why tell the story that Macdonald tells in his piece?
The answer is simple. This is the narrative of us vs. them. There’s us white people: enlightened, humane, traditional, polite, uniform and united. And there’s them: the savage, dangerous, threatening beasts who want to do terrible things to our women and our children, and whom we, as white men, must defend against.
Once you believe that, everything else follows. Colonize their continents. Enslave them. Imprison them. If you put them to work, it’s okay to pay them as little as you can get away with – savage beasts like them are lucky to have a job in the first place.
If you don’t need their labor, evict them. Keep them alive on EBT and TANF, but don’t worry too much about helping them build power and autonomy. They aren’t really invited to become part of white America anyway, at least not until they can somehow morph into becoming just like us.
I urge you not to celebrate this homogenized lie about America, but rather, to celebrate the fundamental mission of our nation, which has always been to unify our many varied states.
A week after the largest political coalition of our time splintered apart in Europe, we Americans again must ask ourselves, can we truly tolerate each other enough to share a government together?
I hope we can.
It’s hard to connect across states. States of mind. States of growth.
But we’ve got to.
America is only great to the extent that we are willing to courageously bridge our divides and come together in collective resistance to the greater tyrannies of this world.
Long live our diverse, yet united, states!