I’ve spent the last week working in Italy. It has been a great “vacation” from American media and constant political coverage. As I scan the headlines this morning in Florence I see This week the world saw the power of a single image — that of the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying face-down in the sand on a Turkish beach. The boy drowned, along with his brother and mother, trying to reach Europe from Syria. The heartbreaking image crystallized the growing refugee crisis, and personified the more than 2,600 people who have died this year trying to reach Europe by sea. Many are coming from Syria, where civil war has killed over 250,000 and displaced 11 million. As debate rages in the media here in Europe about running the horrific photo, there was no argument about whether Europe and the rest of the West could be doing more to alleviate the horrific suffering. Already David Cameron has announced the U.K. will take in more refugees. I spent a great deal of time in Iceland this last year and was proud of the people there offering to take in many refugees. But the image was a moral challenge to us all. As a tribute in an Australian paper read: “Rest in peace Aylan Kurdi. May God forgive us for failing you.”
I wonder how the American press viewed this? Was this someone else’s problem? We’re there calls from the righ to build a wall? Or sink the boats?
Because of the media, we (Americans) are viewed as extremists.
My question is, is this the last hurrah for the angry white men and women in the USA?
They have been enraptured as Donald Trump tells respected TV anchorman Jorge Ramos to “go back to Univision” and suggests that a woman who dares ask him a tough question had “blood coming out of her wherever.”
(You do have to admire Trump’s ability to hold back just a little – “Go back to Univision” was perilously close to “go back to Mexico,” though even that would not have harmed him, and would likely have caused gleeful paroxysms among his supporters.)
I am old and white (well, not old, (and my summer tan has faded a bit)but old enough to squirm in embarrassment when Hillary Clinton, the unhippest human in public life makes reference to Snapchat). And I get angry now and then.
But I don’t get angry about immigration, legal or otherwise, or about women in power, or about people with Asian or Spanish accents trying to make lives for themselves or their families in the United States. The Italians here do not seem to be angry at me with my accented Italian.
This is, old angry people, the future of America. You can rage against it and try to build fences and you may win in the very short run.
But in the long run, you will lose.
The numbers tell the story, and even if a fence could be built (it can’t) or Donald says he can round up 11 million people and put them on buses headed south (he can’t), the country is changing. Whether that is for the better or worse, it is an unstoppable development.
So fight it and be seen as the xenophobes you may well be, or embrace it – or at least accept it – and participate in the change.
The angry white man who told Jorge Ramos to “get out of my country” after Ramos was briefly removed from Trump’s “news conference” didn’t appear to be Native American, so one has to assume that at some point in this nation’s history, someone told his great, or great-great grandparents, to get out of their country.
When I look at the people in back of Trump when he takes the podium, I wonder: Is it by design that there are so few non-white folks in his audience? Would including such people send a message to Trump supporters that he doesn’t want to send?
Every pundit – most of whom dismissed Trump at first – has concluded that he has “touched a nerve.” Maybe. But even as Trump’s support hovers around 30 percent of Republicans, remember that is 30 percent of roughly 40 percent of people who describe themselves as Republican, or about 12 percent of the general population. (Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are touching that same anti-Washington nerve, but their base does in fact include a broader demographic.)
But yes, he has touched that nerve and made it scream, a loud, ugly scream.
I don’t discount the pain these mostly older and mostly white angry people feel. It is real. They do believe they are losing or have lost their country, and they do want to “take it back” and “make America great again.” But take it back from whom? Who has actually “taken” their country?
I don’t doubt they are hurting. They may feel they have lost jobs or opportunities to the immigrant population, or that their children or grandchildren will.
Those are hard facts to accept. But that is the new reality, and yelling at people to go back to where they came from or hatching absurd schemes to send 11 million people packing won’t change that.
So enjoy your summer of Trump. Or maybe fall and winter of Trump. But it will end soon. The world and the country are changing, and no amount of anger will hold that back.