The new American century, started with Bush, Obama and then Trump administration, is beginning to have its effects on American people. With the first year of Trump era America really showed to be great again, but not as the POTUS would think, rather in its opposite side: less racist, hating and sexist then last century. At the end of 2017, after the start of removal of Confederate monuments and memorials, to stop glorify white supremacy; the National Football League kneeling during national anthem, to protest racial inequality; the issues on ‘Free Speech’ at Berkeley, to avoid “hate speech” of far-right; and the ‘Me-Too’ movement, to denounce sexual harassment against women that got the first page of Time, we can say: The Times They are a Changing in the US again, similarly to 50 years ago.
Obviously, the changing of the skin creates a contrary reaction, as human beings adapt to the progress gradually, also trying to conserve the status quo. The strongest reaction is obviously the one of who has more power to conserve, and so the reaction of ‘white rich protestant supremacist men’, often together with the far-right haters and the misogynists, trying to pull back the change with their traditional phobias: the Black-phobia, the Socialist-phobia and the Gino-phobia. The Black-phobia – expanded later to Latino-phobia and all the others ethnicities, religions and in general “civilizations”, like for example with the Islamo-phobia – is based on the fear of losing an identity and so becoming racist or “religionist”; the Socialist-phobia, is based on the fear of losing wealth and in general of creating a powerful state against individual liberty; and finally the Gynophobia, the first step to Misogyny, that makes men afraid of losing their power over women and in general communities. All these phobias were represented in the former POTUS, not only being black but accused to be Socialist, Muslim and having a first lady very present and active in the American Presidency. But they came out at full speed under the recent “hot-autumn” of the Trump presidency, characterized by a lowering of the Trump support – not only for his character but also because of some real issues like Russiagate – even if with some winning of Trump administration, like the “Muslim ban” and the tax reform.
We can say that these anxieties and aversions are the “normal” effect (to be deal with) of the current world change and human transition passing through three main shifts in geography, gender and culture. The first is represented by the appearance on the world scene of most of human population coming from the Global South (as the Western world represent only 1/7th of world population) moving fast towards rich countries and asking to share the wealth with the inclusion of new “minorities” that step by step are becoming majorities; the change in the relationship between genders, with women trying to erode the still strong patriarchate first of all coming out against violence, and with different sexual orientations or gender constructions now freer to come out and live a happy life; and finally the growing of new ethical forces on the world scene respect to the traditional leadership of Western Christian ethic of individual liberty, coming from other traditional civilizations, first of all China, India and Islam, with their propositions towards new human relationships, without creating clashes, as Huntington suggested, but yes challenges to the old status quo based only on one small part of the world. Take Islam for example with its new proposition of human relationship based more on brotherhood and charity than individuality and a new women position based first of all on a different approach to her body (Nike for example just launched the first sports hijab).
These phobias can be clearly seen with the negative and often angry reactions to the current social change by the White Supremacists, with far right and misogynist revivals, with the attempts of historical revisionism – for example making the case for a good colonialism like a recent article on Third World Quarterly – the attempts of division of the already strained social fabric – for example with the highest institutional representative, the President, twitting insults, attacks and divisive visions – and the attempts of destroying the human dignity of people that differ from them – for example with the violence of speech and the internet of hate. Nevertheless, these hatreds are representing the “ontological insecurity” of the most isolated people, the ones that don’t live in multicultural urban spaces but in homogenous rural areas or suburbs, who don’t speak other languages and don’t even understand foreign accents of English, and who are not interested in travelling or learning deeply from different cultures, religions, political or economic systems. These phobias therefore are what they are: fears, worries, preoccupations of the unknown. Because the known is not scaring. But on the contrary, when the unknown become known it can become interesting. So, we need in the current world to study and know more, socialize and empathize more and in general be more exposed to diversity. As one recent conference organized by Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality & Equality (WISE) in DC titled: Knowledge ends Extremism.
The times they are a changing and this can be said because also this time, like in the 1960s, not the political leadership but “WE THE PEOPLE” are guiding the change, demonstrating that American democracy hast still strong backbones. The previous 8 years has been the intellectual leadership of an ex educator, citizen of the world, that guided the masses through the labyrinths of the current world complex transition, which will bring us towards a new planet, a new species and a new life. But now they are the people, the cosmopolitans, the progressive, the looking forward new generations, that want a world where all should have a better life thanks to inclusiveness, all should be freer thanks to technology, and all should have the possibility to pursuit their happiness, for having the chance to make the life they desire.
We don’t know how long will be this process of change in America, as cultures take time to change. The problem is that today the things happen fast but to change our habit, customs, ideas, and identities quickly is almost impossible. So how should the US do? Just live up to its values and extraordinary ability of adaptation, and work to reopen that public sphere, that moderate space, that market of ideas that made this democracy great, this country special and these people fascinating, as always ready to learn and improve. In particular my dear fellow white Christian American men: use your common sense, your intuition and your trust in the future. I know it is hard to stop being the chief, the padrino, to pass the baton or at least to share it and to accept that you are not the only one anymore to have power in the world and to have the right to say what is good and what is bad. If you do that I am positive that this unique country will keep being the “shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” Otherwise the decline is unavoidable.
 Hot Autumn (“Autunno caldo”) is an Italian term used for a series of large strikes and protests during 1969 in Italy
One thought on “Making America changing skin again: 1968-2018”
Well said as usual, I like your refreshing look at this, it is important when we think we are stuck in darkness.