Saturday, September 03, 2022

The Good and Bad, Past and Present

Reporter Eva McKend, participating in the CNN  panel following the Soul of America speech given by President Joe Biden Thursday, enthusiastically stated (at 4:29 of the video below)

...  Absolutely, without a doubt. And something that really stuck out to me is that he almost seemed to be reclaiming patriotism. Often you hear Republicans argue that they are the pro-America party, like the Democrats are not patriotic enough. But what was more pro-USA than this speech? And I think this is exactly what Democratic voters wanted to hear....

We are still, at our core, a democracy. I mean, all of these things, it was a very, very patriotic speech and I think that is what a lot of what Democratic voters across the country, they want to be patriotic, too. They want to be part of the American story, too, and I think he spoke to that.

She's right. Biden's was "more pro-USA" than virtually any speech, which is a dramatic, albeit totally unacknowledged, departure the mood of the center and the left from a mere two years earlier. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Somali immigrant to the USA Ifrah Udgoon reflected a common spirit, even perspective, of many Americans when she wrote

We see more than just a man in a state of distress. We see our collective history as black people in the United States — a constant state of distress. George Floyd is us, and Derek Chauvin’s knee is the oppressive racist system that’s built this country on the blood, sweat, and tears of black people — all the while denying us life, liberty and our own pursuit of happiness in the land of the “free”.

So a lot of Americans took to the streets to protest what they believed to be an oppressive, racist system built upon the backs of African-Americans, still the victims of white privilege. Joe Biden himself said the (peaceful) protests "speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk" and pledged "leadership that can recognize pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for a long time,”

It was the portrait of a nation so beset by intolerance and discrimination that a huge minority of it has "a knee on their neck." Twenty-seven months later, speaking in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, President Biden would declare of such a nation

We, the people, have burning inside of each of us the flame of liberty that was lit here at Independence Hall. A flame that lit our way through abolition, the Civil War, suffrage, the Great Depression, world wars, civil rights. That sacred flame still burns. Now on our time as we build an America that is more prosperous, free, and just. That is the work of my presidency, a mission I believe in with my whole soul.

That's America as a nation which vanquished abolition; spilled tremendous blood to fight slavery; brought about voting rights for blacks, women, and the landless; defeated Nazi Germany; and established civil rights for all.

Yet, as Pete Townshend might have written, the crowd went crazy as Joey hit the stage as supporters were practically exuberant.  Joe Biden is not Ifrah Udgoon and not every liberal, centrist, or journalist was as upbeat about the President's speech as was Eva McKend.

But McKend uttered truths which needed to be emphasized: Biden's speech was patriotic and pro-USA and  we are at our core a democracy (technically, a republic, but still), messages Democrats crave hearing. And we Democrats are desperate to be seen as patriotic. 

Nonetheless, Biden's version of American history is of the comic book variety which, until approximately five days ago, the American left charged has dominated school systems nationwide.  It is of an exceptional America aside from, well, perhaps some racial discrimination, since rid from society. 

In the summer of 2020, the USA was characterized as fundamentally flawed; now, as the nation which "(does) not encourage violence," and believes in "justice for all" and "honesty and decency and respect for others." And all this from a center-left Democrat.

Joe Biden can do us all a favor by pivoting from emphasizing America the Exceptional to portraying a nation with impressive strengths and serious flaws, somewhere between the widely accepted notion of two years ago and the picture painted Thursday evening.  If he does so, the message "Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic" will have marked not a good (or very good) speech but one which will help ensure our democratic traditions.


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