Have you heard what Roy Moore said? If not, I’m about to ruin your day. But fair warning: do not attempt to drink any beverage while reading the next sentence.
You see, Moore, credibly accused child molester and Republican senatorial candidate from Alabama, said that the last time America was great was during slavery. He said families stuck together back then.
You tried to drink coffee and read that sentence anyway, didn’t you? Well, while you clean up the mess, I will provide the details, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times:
In response to a question from one of the only African Americans in the audience — who asked when Moore thought America was last “great” — Moore acknowledged the nation’s history of racial divisions, but said: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.
This head-snapping observation came in September during a campaign rally. It says something about the incredible political moment we are living through – the bizarre is now commonplace – that nobody noticed. That changed a few days ago when the quote resurfaced on social media.
And here, I will state the obvious. Among the many deeply ignorant and offensive things about that statement, perhaps the most ignorant and offensive is that bit about how “families were united” prior to 1865. In a word, no.
In nine words: This man must be out of his damn mind.
During that period Moore regards with such longing, African-American families were not “united.” To the contrary, they were torn apart, sold apart, babies literally snatched from their mother’s arms, by men and women who looked and sounded just like Moore.
There are no words powerful enough to plumb the affront of him describing that as an era of American greatness, so I won’t even try.
It should have been obvious to every sentient human person that “Make America Great Again” had not a damn thing to do with you unless you were white, male, Christian and straight. The more of those four boxes you are able to check off, the more possible it is for your look back to the 19th century – or, as Donald Trump once did, to the 1940s – as a period when things were right and America was great.
Why not? Those were periods during which every lever of American power and authority was manned – a word I use advisedly – by someone who looked like you, loved like you, believed like you.
Conversely, the fewer of those boxes you are able to check off, the more apt you are to say that no era of American life has ever been “great” for you, though for awhile there – a black man in the White House, a woman set to succeed him, the Supreme Court coming down on the side of same-sex marriage – you were able to glimpse a little hope.
But all of us, I think, failed to truly appreciate the intransigence of those folks who have learned to think of access to those levers of power as their birthright. We did not understand the lengths to which they would go – not to avoid losing power (that was never in the cards), but simply to avoid sharing it.
I have said since the first tea party rally that what we were seeing was not a tax protest, not an uprising based in “economic insecurity” but, simply and obviously, a movement based in straight, white, Christian, male resentment. People have been telling me I was wrong for just about that long. But it has become more obvious every day just how right I was.
Indeed, from the unprecedented name-calling and the coordinated obstruction that attended Barack Obama’s presidency to the hyperventilating over the so-called “War on Christmas” to the misogynistic complaining over Hillary Clinton’s voice to the deadly Charlottesville march, it is, by now, as glaringly obvious as neon in the dark.
Now, here comes Moore, pining for the days of slavery.
Those of who don’t check off any of the aforementioned boxes – and those who do, but are also possessed of functioning consciences – can only regard this moment with awe and a renewed determination to make this country right. We will have our work cut out for us.
Thanks to the party of “family values,” an accused child molester who praises slavery days is poised to join the U.S. Senate, where he will support a confessed sexual assaulter who tweets Islamophobic videos, and vote for legislation that rapes the poor in order that the rich might have tax deductions for private planes.
Make America Great Again, they say.
Some of us have never been part of the greatness to which they aspire to return. Some of us saw that greatness built on the oppression of our forebears.
But if we don’t remember when America was great, we do remember when it offered us glimpses of hope. We do remember when it was good.
Right now, I’d be happy to settle for that.