After many years offering pastoral counseling, including a great deal of marital and pre-marital counseling, I’ve made a few observations. One of them is that when marriages break up, it is because of problems that were present but left unsolved before the wedding day. Challenges within a healthy marriage bring the two people closer together as they work to meet the challenge. The same challenge might destroy another marriage because the two people have never established a deep trust to begin with.
The United States of America is now being challenged by the popularity of a presidential candidate who shows an amazing lack of awareness of what it means to be a republic, a modified democracy. Nor is there any indication whatsoever — and many indications to the contrary — that he is a person of measurable moral stature. In fact, he seems to conceive of the presidency as some sort of tyranny, as did Hitler. He is a highly manipulative con-man. Nothing more.
Were it not for one great flaw in America’s character, a flaw that was visible but not corrected for a century before the Declaration of Independence, Donald Trump would not be taken seriously by a single voter. Nor would there have been a Civil War. Nor would our Constitution say that each slave counts as three-fifths of a person.
Somewhere along the line in 17th century Virginia and Massachusetts (and no one is quite sure how to date it more precisely than that), the enslavement of Native Americans and Africans became not just accepted but legalized. Slavery itself was not the problem. It merely showed up the real issue: the sense of superiority of the Europeans. Or, to put it in the more common term of our day: Racism.
Were there not such a powerful racism in America even today, especially among southerners and poorly educated folk, there would be no Donald Trump. I say this for two reasons.
First, Trump is clearly and openly appealing to America’s racism in the way he talks about other countries and religions. Second, since the loss of the Civil War, the South has felt powerless. That feeling of helplessness has spread like an infectious disease. The poor are powerless before the wealthy and they resent it. The socially unskilled feel powerless before the popular people and they resent it.
Or to put the matter in the bluntest terms: Those who support Donald Trump have the same motivation as those who grab assault rifles and start shooting up our schools.
What is the connection between racism and powerlessness in American society? Racism makes white people feel superior to other colors and American affluence makes people think they should be reaping its benefits more than do those of different color. It is as if racism caused a person to think, “I am superior to those other people and have a right to have more of everything than they do. If I don’t, it is their fault and I have the right to oppress them — or even kill them — if I want to.”
Had we banished racism/slavery from the beginning, we truly would be a light on a shining hill for all the world to admire.