President Trump’s Tulsa City Blues

President Trump spoke Saturday night in Tulsa, Okla. (Photo Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times).

The protean qualities of our democracy call for the civic friction we allow ourselves to experience as we go about the quotidian activities of life: raising children, showing up for work, pursuing an education, electing local and national leadership. In order to truly surface the best of our public intentions — and put them into democratic action — we allow for the fullest flow of ideas for causes and concerns, no matter how much we may disagree with them. With deep respect for pluralism and patience in the market place of ideas, we Americans opt for transparency over intolerance. We sway mostly toward deliberation and integrity over open cynicism about public life. No matter how ugly America has looked in the past, and despite the blood encrusted present moment, our inclinations inexorably bend toward light.

These values came to mind last Saturday night as I watched President Trump performing in Tulsa, Oklahoma at a rally intended to re-ignite his reelection campaign. As of late, Trump has been slumping in public support. The highly scrutinized police murders of young black people across the nation in recent weeks, and the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 110,000 Americans, has sapped Trump’s re-election possibilities, eroding the enthusiasm of his voter base.

But for Trump, rallies of the sort he orchestrated in Tulsa last week, have historically worked to raised the adrenaline levels among his supporters. The Trump rallies have become festivals where tirade and braggadocio are marked by arched xenophobia and racist sensibilities. The rallies serve as temporary cathedrals of racial animus where chant and homily are proxy for prayers to spiritual obsolescence.

What marked Trump’s presence in Tulsa was that he is now confronting an enormous cultural and generational backlash that very well may predict his political demise. The rally seemed to many observers as the beginning of a long ending that will result in his one term presidency.

The conclusion that Trump’s days are numbered may be as tentative a statement as can be made during these days when the American pyche is so fragile in the wake of racial tensions and economic stress. Anything is possible in American politics — the leaps forward as well the stunning reversals. But a cultural and racial inflection point seems near. Given Trump’s mendacious ways, his tendency to trade in hurtful hyperbole, and willingness to engage in racially demeaning tropes, he is more often seen — especially among the young — as a bane to democrac. He is the cause of much civic friction, which we allow so that others may enjoy it also as a part of the perduring social contract.

With the deepest respect for pluralism and patience in the market place of ideas, we Americans opt for transparency over intolerance. We sway more toward cool deliberation and integrity over open cynicism about public life. No matter how ugly America has looked in the past, and despite the blood encrusted moment, our inclinations inexorably bend toward light.

But there is soon coming a point at which the goods Trump is selling will reach its expiration date. His smoldering rhetoric of hatred will no longer commodity in the civic marketplace. His clamor for the ancient habits of social division will become the diaphanous sentiment of decrepit and past yearning.

Since the founding of the nation, the diabolic of American racism has been able to reproduce itself with fierce intensity. It has been the continuous blues note that have give texture to the unsatisfying aspects of our social reality and the spheres of the spirits. This explains why the burden of race has had such longevity.

Yet, a high advanced technology driven world has driven — perhaps forces — American of all races and persuasions together like never before. In slowly integrating nature of the workplace has also becoming a stage on which black and white Americans share stories about home life, children and cultural differences.

There is a certain blues myopia possessed by Trump and his followers who fail to see the inexorable reality of an old America that is falling away. White people still have a long road until they find the means that disclose the nature of whiteness — in all of its horrifying existential dimensions. Until then, we will struggle with the ghosts. Time will tell. But that day of reckoning is coming.

Kevin Peterson is founder of the New Democracy Coalition and Convener of the Fanueil Hall Race and Reconciliation Project. He is a social and cultural critic.

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