Time to hit the books and learn Italian

No joke, as Biden would say. Between the calls for Biden to move aside (for who[m]?) and finishing Stuart Steven’s new book, The Conspiracy to End America, my trip to my grandparents’ birthplace in Agnone, Italy looms as a turning point.
While I would love to use this space to discuss the many intervening factors between now and a Trump win in November, I just want to state my intentions.
I am working harder than I thought I would for a win for the America I grew up in, with all its warts. Here, in this space, I have laid out what it was like for a working-class White kid to marry into a working-class Black family in the early sixties. Those sixties contained harbingers of coming reaction and then, as conservative forces gained strength, of coming disaster. And then along came Trump, the igniter, the very accelerator who made racism respectable once more, showing it has always been there under a thin veneer. As I have told my grandkids, it was imperative that I marry their grandmother because, at that time, society’s judgment was that our marriage was at least improper and, to some, against nature and rightfully illegal in many states. My job number one was and is to protect her. Marrying her was step one, getting out of a country dominated by members of the Federalist Society (not MAGA; they’re just cannon fodder) is step two sixty years later.

Our Supreme Court membership, six people educated entirely in an authoritarian tradition called Catholic doctrine, are overturning the gains of the sixties. Those gains are disappearing as I write this with the overturning of the Chevron decision. Unlike Dobbs, this decision will not attract attention but is more momentous than Dobbs. Even if Biden or some other liberal Democrat takes the presidency, SCOTUS will retain the power to upend our liberal order, the liberal dispensation founded in our essential documents and executed by FDR. The latter is what the old GOP was in opposition to, but a loyal opposition. No longer.
The MAGA GOP has been swamped by forces coming out of the darkest corners of our society, dark since the society’s very beginning, entangled in slavery and then defined by specifically African slavery. NO BREAK IN TRANSMISSION. Bear in mind, White people in the South have sacrificed a great deal, their economy, their religion, their morals, and more to maintain the Black/White divide. Their culture has spread in what is referred to as The Southernization of America; one might say, echoing or mocking the trope “We are all liberals now,” “We are all Southerners (Whites only) now.”
In the very earliest 60s I began reading book reviews, urged to do so by my John Bircher (no kidding) employers. Constantly appearing in those pages were accounts of and by exiles, persons, often literary figures, sometimes political. I wondered how they felt, living in a society they were not raised in, perhaps feeling they had abandoned their former lives and their former country. Did they maintain ties, at least to family?
Now I face that same fate, whether Trump wins or not, because MAGA will now never go away, like a lion that has tasted human flesh. My dad always said, “Always leave a back door.” My back door has been a very attractive offer (not specific to me) of Italian citizenship by virtue of descent and of inexpensive housing. Coincidentally, friends invited us to join them on a riverine cruise through Europe and we will drop down the east coast of Italy to my grandparents’ birthplace. There I will inquire about my citizenship, showing documents found through Ancestry.
What would I lose? While my family, of Appalachian background (my mom lost her accent only after moving up north), was filled with kind people who did not express any of the typical prejudices about Black people, the culture as a whole was a bit bland. When I stumbled into Black culture and later married into it, perforce separating myself from White society generally (not my family or friends), I found Black culture to be deep and expressive and just exciting, conversations often turning into performace art. As usual, Wikipedia provides a definition/description of that term that fits Black culture to a T, viz. “It involves five basic elements: time, space, body, and presence of the artist, and the relation between the creator and the public. The actions, generally developed in art galleries and museums, can take place in the street, any kind of setting or space and during any time period.[4] Its goal is to generate a reaction, sometimes with the support of improvisation and a sense of aesthetics. The themes are commonly linked to life experiences of the artist themselves, the need for denunciation or social criticism and with a spirit of transformation.[5]

While it may be impossible to convey the reality of this despite many attempts to do so by writers and artists, the reality of its power can be assumed from the way the rest of cultures around the world but especially here among White people have adopted and adapted elements of that culture. (and here I depart from “all seriousness”) In fact, it began 405 years ago when 21 Africans got off a ship and were so glad to be on dry land after a long and difficult (!) voyage one of them broke into a little jig. A reporter there to note the ship’s arrival jotted down what he heard and saw on the part of one of the bystanders: “Did you see that little dance that Black guy did? Let me try that,” and 405 years later little White kids are mastering hip-hop. 

Anyway, I’ll miss that vibrancy, most of all the congregations in Black churches breaking into song. I will maintain contact with the resistance just as I am working with other Democrats to elect Democrats up and down the ballot, because that is exactly what Republicans have been patiently and relentlessly doing for decades now, taking over local politics and especially legislatures and state houses. It has been a takeover from the bottom, and therein lies a frightening point: is that democratic? To fight on a large scale to put like-minded people into political positions to promote your preferences in governance? What that means is that if enough people vote for Republicans and if Republican politicians, operatives and activists further those preferences, isn’t that democratic, even if the goal is to end democracy? Even if that goal is based on racist fears and falsified information? Despite my grief, despite the morass of ignorance and hate, that would be the decision of a majority of my fellow citizens. It is, right now, is, what they want. From a distance I will experience schadenfreude as the true face of an authoritarian state reveals itself. But I will still grieve for my country.

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