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America the Terrible

By Elizabeth Dangerfield

America is broken because a whole lot of people are fighting desperately to maintain their delusion that America has been and should always be the greatest country in the world, that they as individuals should be able to do whatever they want because that is what freedom is all about and that is the American way.

They try to maintain the delusion that they are the supreme patriots and everyone else is an enemy to be taken out. The list of enemies is a long one – anyone who is even slightly progressive, anyone of colour, women who don’t toe the line, people who want abortions, people who support family planning, people who are not heterosexual, people who come to America seeking a better life from Central and South America, people who want to get them to wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19, Muslims and people who are non-Christians – basically anyone who is different. They want to maintain the delusion that Trump was actually telling the truth, that he actually cares about them, that they are the chosen ones.

White supremacists are very insecure – their basic fear is that they are losers, insignificant and powerless and this is due to all the progressive changes that have occurred in America so that white people no longer can lord it over all others. These changes have undermined their status and their ideal place in the world. Everything is topsy turvy and it is outrageous to them that they should find themselves misplaced, insecure and even considered inferior in a world that is passing them by. This is why no amount of evidence and facts that you throw at them will ever hit the mark because they are clinging desperately to their identity in a very uncertain world. Maybe if America were great again, they could feel proud patriots in the land of the free. And what better way to feel better about yourself than to think that white people are genetically superior to all others.

An article in Business Insider Australia describes what motivates individuals to become white nationalists. Experts say that they are typically motivated by feelings of ‘insignificance’ and feel minority groups are responsible for their disempowerment. It is hard to identify who will become an extremist but people who are narcissistic, paranoid, and aggressive are most likely to become white nationalists. To my mind, these also seem to be the characteristics of most dictators. The article quotes one social psychologist as saying that:

“… people become white nationalists for three reasons: a desire to feel significant, attribution of their lack of personal success to another group, and a sense of belonging among other white nationalists. These motivations could stem from feeling ‘humiliated’ or ‘insignificant’ at school, in relationships with loved ones, or by society at large.”

The top 20% richest Americans owned 77% of total household wealth in 2016 – and the top 1% alone holds more than the entire middle class. Meanwhile, one in five American children live in poverty. White nationalists feel deprived, but they don’t seem to blame the successful wealthy people but rather minorities. The murderous hate associated with this can be shown by the El Paso massacre by a white supremacist in Texas and the storming of the Capitol Building in January 2021.

The growth of this movement of hate is totally terrifying. Arwa Mahdawi says in an article in the Guardian that the Squad shouldn’t have to feel terrified of their colleagues in Congress, but they are. The ‘Squad’ are 6 Democratic members of the House of Representatives in the USA. They are all coloured and progressive. Five are women and two of them are the first Muslim women to ever be elected to Congress. They are targets for unthinking American nationalists. A Florida Republican running for Congress openly suggested that Ilhan Omar be executed for treason. The newly elected Congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, posted a Facebook picture of herself holding an assault rifle next to Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib with the caption – “We need strong conservative Christians to go on the offensive against these socialists who want to rip our country apart.” It seems to me that the right-wing, white nationalists are doing a good job of ripping the country apart on their own.

But the threats to the Squad are real. Ocasio-Cortez fears for her life, not just from rioters, but from white supremacist members of Congress. Rioters carried guns and other weapons into the Capitol building, it seems with the intention of kidnapping or even killing members of Congress. One member of the Squad, Ayanna Pressley, reported that every panic button in her office had been torn out before the riots. This seems preconceived and there is conjecture that some members of Congress and the Trump administration aided and abetted the storming of the Capitol. New safety protocols that have been put in place in the Capitol following the storming of the building including having to walk through metal detectors and leaving their guns behind to vote. Some Republicans are blatantly circumventing the security measures because they see it as their right to carry loaded guns into the Chamber. As Arwa Mahdawi says “nobody should have to go to work every day wondering whether one of their colleagues is going to kill them.

White nationalists see themselves as victims, but they are quite different victims to the ones protesting that Black Lives Matter. As Tristan Bridges, a professor of sociology at the University of California says in the Business Insider Australia article:

“Because Americans view inequality as a personal – not structural – problem, white people may blame other individuals for their lack of money. White life expectancy has fallen, and more than half of white Americans believe they face discrimination despite being the racial majority. Not surprisingly, people who get screwed by economic transformations look for something to blame, but they’re sending their mail to the wrong address.”

It should be noted that white life expectancy has only fallen slightly mainly due to drug and alcohol abuse and higher suicide rates and while more that 50% of white people believe they face discrimination less than 20% say that they personally have experienced it. Whites and blacks and Republicans and Democrats have very different views of discrimination in America.

While there is no doubt that some white people in America have difficult lives, the facts are indisputable. Overall, you are much worse off being a black in America than being white. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014 the median adjusted income for households headed by blacks was $43,300, and for whites it was $71,300. Blacks also lag behind whites in college completion, but even among adults with a bachelor’s degree, blacks earned significantly less in 2014 than whites ($82,300 for households headed by a college-educated black compared with $106,600 for comparable white households). These differences are due to systemic discrimination against blacks which affects all areas of their life such as health.

It is not surprising that Trump supporters tend to display a sense of egocentric victimhood rather than believing they are the victims of systemic discrimination. Psypost reports on recent research that shows that people who voted for Donald Trump and feel warmly towards him tend to score higher on a measure of egocentric victimhood (e.g. I rarely get what I deserve in life and I usually have to settle for less). Those who exhibit heightened levels of systemic victimhood (e.g. the system works against people like me, the world is ‘doing it’ to me and there’s nothing I can do about it), in contrast, tend to be more hostile towards Trump. Americans tend to blame the individual for their situation and disadvantage, but black Americans recognise that they are the victims of systematic discrimination hence the Black Lives Matters campaign. There is no comparison between the Black Lives Matter protests and the storming of the Capitol Building in Washington despite people like the Acting Prime Minister of Australia at the time trying to make one.

One way of dealing with systemic discrimination is via cancel culture. Charity Hudley in a VOX article on cancel culture pointed out that cancelling someone is akin to a boycott, but of a person rather than a business. What’s more, it promotes the idea that black people should be empowered to reject the parts of pop culture that spread harmful ideas.

“If you don’t have the ability to stop something through political means, what you can do is refuse to participate. Cancelling is a way to acknowledge that you don’t have to have the power to change structural inequality. You don’t even have to have the power to change all of public sentiment. But as an individual, you can still have power beyond measure. When you see people cancelling Kanye, cancelling other people, it’s a collective way of saying, ‘We elevated your social status, your economic prowess, [and] we’re not going to pay attention to you in the way that we once did. … ‘I may have no power, but the power I have is to [ignore] you’.”

Not long ago the Australian Government was concerned that GetUp! was asking its members to boycott certain companies that were supporting the continuation of the fossil fuel industry in Australia. Somehow it seemed outraged that ordinary people had the power to do such a thing. The truth is that our power as a consumer, including our consumption of social media, may be the only effective power we have to change things; to send a strong message that we don’t approve of certain behaviour. Collective action this way works as is shown by the number of superannuation companies that have divested themselves of fossil fuel companies in their portfolios. No matter how certain individuals may have distorted the process it is a valuable way of addressing systemic discrimination when, like in America, all else has failed.

There is some suggestion that the left needs to listen to those on the right such as white nationalists to find out where they come from, to be able to understand their concerns and to empathise with their situation. First of all, I don’t think the division of people into left wing and right-wing is particularly useful. It is a typical way that humans look at things, one or the other and nothing in between. I rather see the situation as people who tend to believe that we can improve on what we are doing and therefore support progress (the progressives), those who think that what we have now is good and shouldn’t be changed (the conservatives), and those who want to go back to sometime in the past when everything was much better (the reactionaries). Of course, as with all things, there is a spread of opinions across the progressive and conservative approach depending on the issue. Hopefully, most people are moderates in the middle but there will be a few extremists at either end wanting revolution or total control.

One can find people who are kind and happy to listen in either camp. But it tends to be the people who are progressive who are most tolerant as they can see possibilities and accept that there are different ways of being. Consider who you would prefer to be governed by – President Trump re-instated by an unruly mob or a democratic president who is going to serve for all Americans? Under the Democrats people won’t be forced to have abortions, undertake family planning, accept their status as inferior if they belong to minority groups, stay out of the country because they are Muslims, threatened with violence and intimidation if they don’t agree with extremists, ridiculed for being articulate women politicians. In the whole time that President Trump was in the White House no left-winged person tried to shoot him, it was a right-wing mob and their supporters that threatened peaceful democratic congress men and women. I worry that reasonable people are going to be away by unreasonable people using violent methods.

This all seems to stem from the desire to make America great again, to make white people feel great again and to restore what is seen as lost entitlement while not entitling anyone else.

In a country that seems obsessed with individual freedom, even if it kills other people by giving them a dreadful disease, the idea of putting society first, and helping those less fortune seems akin to communism. It seems ironic that the countries that are truly great are Scandinavian countries that are social democracies on the whole. For example, consider performance on valuable attributes such as happiness (Finland No. 1, USA No.18), education (Finland No.1, USA No. 20), community (Iceland, No. 1, USA No. 21), and life satisfaction (Finland No.1, USA No. 17). Given its enormous wealth, America is consistently outperformed by other developed countries on things that really matter to people. It seems the problem is that for far too long many Americans have believed their own propaganda.

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24 comments

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  1. Roswell

    Simply wow, Elizabeth. A stunning piece of writing.

  2. Lawrence Roberts

    So, we can kiss The Yanks goodbye?
    Yes it is an air-conditioned nightmare but more than half of the citizens are on side.

  3. Roswell

    Matters Not, I don’t think the smug sarcasm is necessary.

  4. Michael Taylor

    MN, I concur with Roswell. And what about this:

    “She must be burnt at the stake.”

    Are you inferring that Elizabeth is a witch? To me that’s no better than “putting her in a chaff bag and tossing her in the sea”. Some would say it was also a sexist remark.

    I expected better from you.

  5. Michael Taylor

    PS: It’s comments like that that make me think sometimes ‘why do I bother’.

  6. Kronomex

    Matters Not, at the moment you are a classic case of, “Every time you think you weaken the nation.”

  7. Michael Taylor

    MN, your comment has been deleted.

  8. Michael Taylor

    This site will be closing shortly. I’ve had enough.

  9. Lurline

    I’m sorry to hear that Michael. I value this site very highly, but understand your frustration.

  10. Michael Taylor

    Thank you, Lurline. That was very kind of you.

    It’s either that or I need a long break. I’ll consider my options over the next few days.

  11. wam

    It is hard for a country that wont work:
    to acknowledge their guilt for wounded knee bud dajo the desecration of bodies in the pacific, no gun ri, my lai and the modern massacres and atrocities, as means to accept their frailty and the risk of collapse.
    to see nothing wrong with saying ‘london, england, paris france because their country has a town with the same name, to remedy the arrogance of the insular inmates.
    The concept of cancelling may give some hope to a country with half its population hating what biden and kamala has done before the doing has started.
    I am an americophobe but the obamas tempered my phobia and kamala may end it.
    ps your line about guns is a real fear for kamala. so war weapons in citizen hands need addressing and the NRA is weak???

  12. wam

    There must be a PhD in the archives, Michael. You could go back to Uni??

  13. Michael Taylor

    Carol said the same thing, wam. She’s been pushing it for over a year.

    But I prefer this other project I’ve been working on for a few months: a book. A book about racism in the years leading up to federation, and how all this racism was codified in the White Australia policy. I’ve put together about 10,000 words. Only a few hundred thousand more to go.

  14. ChristopherJ

    Thank you, Elizabeth, good read and perceptive.

    Thankfully, there are still good people in Australia and we lead the way in how to control an out of control virus.

    The causes of the American malaise are numerous, but the Federal government there has simply failed to lead, to control the movement of people with hard borders and lockdowns, supported by money so that they can stay at home. No, businesses, more Teslas etc. come first in the land of the free.

    Michael, there are many long time lurkers of this site and the appreciation from me for the insights you and your team provide is large. 10,000 words is impressive and, when you’ve done the next 10, you will start to believe that you have the makings of a book. I’ve done two novels, the easy part is the writing, getting them read and making any sort of a living… need a lot of luck, imho.

    Have a great Australia Day everyone, be kind

  15. Carina McNaughton

    Michael I love this site and I don’t feel alone because I know there are other progressive people who want to see society change for the better. I would really like to read your book when it’s finished. Keep up the good fight.

  16. A Commentator

    I think the USA gets more criticism than it deserves. A friend recently said to me – “I used to hate American culture, but then I realised I love their music, I read lots of books by American authors, I enjoy travelling there…” The same people that elected Trump elected Barak Obama… twice. Obama probably wouldn’t be tolerated here. He’s the wrong colour for our political parties.
    Now the intelligent and capable Kamala Harris is likely to become president in 4 years. She is also unlikely to meet the complexion requirements of Australian political parties.
    The US has plenty of problems but many are due to scale, it’s population is 14 times the size of Australia. Imagine if the rampaging through Australia’s parliament house a couple of decades ago was 30,000 drunk militants rather than 2,000.
    The overt patriotism is odd, and it is ironic to drive through their trailer trash towns and see America flags flying on a third of the trailers.
    In Australia, only indigenous people live in our dusty, fly blown shanty towns. In the US all completions get that opportunity.
    If there are to be superpowers, I’m glad one of them is a western democracy.

  17. wam

    The combination of wave after wave of men and women with a religion of superiority, an unstable population of underprivileged and criminal supervised by an army of cruel uncivilised conquerors and a stable civilised culture unrecognisable by a cultureless race, was disastrous. I saw, years ago a picture description of Gov Phillip’s idea of justice. It had two panels black spearing white black hanged and and white shooting black white hanged. But settlers soon put the lie to that.
    Our racism in unique in that we blame ‘them’ for not being ‘us’. It is dishonest because we avoid and let ‘them’ shuffle unseen. I may be wrong in my memory of ‘shiny black’ on your site but the treatment of shiny black is vastly different from the history of ‘ignore them and they will die out’. A la the stolen kids and the kahlin compounds survivors. I consider myself so fortunate and privileged to have been a teacher when ‘yellow fellers became Aborigines’, when Kormilda college had its beginnings and when we were no longer required to look at fingernails to decide whether a student was an Aborigine or not. Even more privileged to be welcomed into their life and homes.
    I have lots of immigrant friends(mostly philipino, european and chinese with a couple of American and a few poms) and the first thing they pick up is our stereotyping attitude to Aborigines. Even in these modern times our particularly nasty racism is rife in schools with many teachers, some in ignorance, others in belief, reinforcing them in class. With children reinforcing them in the yard. With parents reinforcing them at home, at kid’s and adult sport. With the media reinforcing the every day. Our Aborigines will reach a critical mass and BLM will burst into our psyche. Your book has one sale, already

  18. wam

    in 69 the kormilda students got to my year 9 class. The city Aboriginal called them native kids.
    The stupidity of ‘they’ when talking about Aboriginals was so obvious when I had a small group:
    Joy Lungurra Yirrkala
    Betty Herbert Groote
    Barbara Foster Amungoona
    Barbara Golder Santa Theresa
    Wesley Lanhupoy Elcho Island
    Not only different languages and culture but the differences are more diverse than poms, scots irish, french or german.
    That class also contain kids from the influential darwin Aboriginal families, muirs, coopers, damasos, bonsons, lew fatts.
    What fabulous memories.
    The memories and me look forward to your book.

  19. Jack Cade

    Michael Taylor

    Although I understand and share your despair at some of the comments/views of some posters, you know that you cannot change them and censoring them merely gives them power. Because that is their aim. White-anting. It begins whenever an idea gets currency, and AIMN is just the sort of idea they deplore. But white-anting (and ‘white’ is an apposite word ) works. The Democrats white-anted Sanders, and the Labour Party white-anted Corbyn.
    We all have notions that are not admirable. That is part of being human. But all the ideas that arise that are admirable get targeted, and the targeting usually works.
    We delude ourselves if we believe that the ‘milk of human kindness is’ widespread and popular. Our last federal election, in which the intentions and tactics of the rancid Morrison and the appalling Dutton were obvious even to readers of Murdoch rags, saw a majority of voters prefer them to a respectable ALP, proving that ‘the people’ get what they want, and deserve.
    The Labour Party in the UK was swamped by Israel propagandists, and Corbyn labelled an anti-semite because he had the temerity to suggest that Israel – not Jews, it should be noted, but Netanyahu Israel – was an apartheid state. Anti-Semitism destroyed the UK Labour Party, and Starmer has now appointed a former Israeli security chief onto his staff…
    Stick with it, Michael. Be a voice in the wilderness, but don’t censor – censure, certainly – dissident commentators. Banning lets them flourish. The only effective argument is the truth, and ridicule – let them expose themselves. They are not going to affect AIMN people, anyway.
    Sorry!
    By the way – Israel has been given kudos for its tackling of the American virus – but it is not treating its Palestinian people.

    QED

  20. Michael Taylor

    Thank you, Jack. You’re a good ally.

    I’m just warn out, Jack. I’ll probably take a month off and come back rejuvenated.

  21. DrakeN

    Michael, perhaps your excessive tolerance for the ones abusing their imagined “right to free spech”, when no such right exists in reality, has contributed to your fatigue.
    People might have the right to express their personal opinions, but do not have any right to dispoil a private blog with factually incorrect statements.
    They have even less ‘right’ to claim that you have no business debarring them.
    Where you perceive deliberate attempts at derailing intelligent, factually based discussion, then it is your right – almost a duty – to eliminate such chicanery and refuse the perpetrator access.
    “Fair go” is not fair when it is not reciprocated, as in the case of these contrarians.
    Do take a break to let the dust settle if you need, but I, for one, will miss my visits here.
    Whatever you decide, I sincerely thank you for having persevered so long and wish you all the very best.

  22. Michael Taylor

    Drake, you are too kind.

    The site won’t need to shut down if I take a month off as Kathy and Roswell can pick up the slack. Roswell doesn’t have my tolerance, so he won’t take any shit.

    Yes, I am suffering for fatigue. And yes, this site has been successful and I believe that I have ran it the right way.

    And yes, many people don’t like the way I run it. But that’s their problem.

  23. DrakeN

    “Drake, you are too kind.”

    Not at all.
    Just honest in my observation 😉

  24. wam

    oh carol and michael
    Betty Herbert won one of two NT Police medals. (the other was a superintendent).
    Congratulations to the police for nominating such a wonderful woman.

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