We hold these truths to be self-evident"
On his visit to the US, in this year, 2019, the president of the Republic of Finland began his remarks to the US press by stating that he had visited three American museums on the way to the press conference.
Did the US media hear him? Did any American hear him?
"Ladies and gentlemen," President Sauli Ninistö began, before meeting, I had some spare time, so I visited a couple of museums here. Museum of American History, Museum of African American History, and Museum of American Indian History" Mr. President, you have here a great democracy. Keep it going."
While I'm not sure we have a democracy here in the US. Not yet. We certainly have a press and an educational system and thus an American public suffering from a keen aversion to hearing the truth. Most press outlets referred only to the last line, "Mr. President, you have a great democracy. Keep it going." I couldn't locate anyone who referenced the statement about visiting museums that featured American history, particularly focusing on African American and Indigenous experiencesafter the conquest of the Indigenous and the enslavement of Africans in the New World.
Try to hold on to this experiment in democracy! This diverse convergence of people NOT all of Anglo-Saxon origins! Try to remember that American culture is spirituals, blues, jazz, rock, countrya mix of the black and Indigenous diasporas, appropriated, reassembled, dispersed into the mainstream, nullifying a preexisting culture of violence.
Keep it going. America!
I doubt if Ninistö believed democracy reigned in a land where he was standing at a podium next to the leader of the "free" world, a leader declaring anything but democracy. Instead, Ninistö and the world were witness to what blacks and other people of color experience daily in the US. A silence that is so deafening it's violent. He must have come close enough to it to see it. Feel it.
It arises when you witness how a white American can't imagine one of their racial family actually being racistunless, of course, that person referred to clearly identified with one of the many white supremacy organizations in the US.
And the you that this white sees reminds them of some vague memory of terror situated just behind the more familiar and comfortable statues of Robert E. Lee, the singing of the National Anthem and the Pledge Allegiance to the Flag, and the salute to husbands and sons in military uniforms traversing foreign lands to confront "the enemy." Of course this land of the cars and homes and children attending private schools and exceeding thanks to hard working parents. The natural norm of American life. Even if something vague nips and tugs, every now and then, at this narrative of American democracy.
Blacks, Indigenous, and Latino/a populations are what threaten the natural norm. Dream killers! Reoccurring nightmares!
The one rotten apple in the bunch is just "rude" not, for heaven sake, racist, like the individual urging, actually demanding you to shush! Sleep in the knowledge that white supremacy's reason for being, it's first baby steps in conquest and enslavement on American soil, is a thing of the past, a bad dream, over now, and it's memory is contained in old relics (copies of broken treaties and iron ankle chains) at the museums, similar to the ones the Finnish president visited last week.
The contents of these museums should be every Americans collective living memory. How can we move forward as that experiment in democracy when we haven't a clue about where we've been. Worse, when we know but refuse to allow the silence to be shattered as it must if America is to move forward and contribute to solving any of the world's global crises, particularly climate change.
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