America never was the harmonious melting pot we like to imagine. Newcomers have always struggled to find their place in our society. More often than not, they did it by overwhelming those who came before with the same racism and violence shown to them.
Native Americans, Africans, Italians, Jews, Irish, Asians, and many others took their time in the barrel being denigrated and discriminated against. Some, like Native Americans, didn’t survive the onslaught. Others, like the Irish, and Germans moved from being the evil race du jour to members of the middle and ruling classes.
American divisiveness is a special breed of cat. American-style democracy is an anomaly in the world and so is the American way of trying to bridge divisions to balance the needs of the many and the few.
Sometimes this is a knee-jerk, willful, or greatly misguided bunk — as in former House Speaker Tom DeLay’s contention that, “We stopped realizing that God created this nation, that he wrote the Constitution, that it’s based on biblical principles.” Sometimes it is a matter of forcing opinions on your opposition — like Richard Dawkins’ claim that, “What a child should never be taught is that you are a Catholic or Muslim child, therefore that is what you believe. That’s child abuse.”
LBJ’s Great Society was a great idea. Enact anti-discrimination laws and economic reforms to pull the country out of Civil War-ear reconstruction and bring equality to the masses.
How’s that working out for America? Not so well as it turns out.
The reforms weren’t worthless. Racism is still rampant, but lynchings are a lot less common and even middle class, passive racists think the KKK is a losing proposition. That is progress, if by progress we mean a slight dip in rope sales.
Busing, tried to send some of that nice middle class school money to the inner city and failed — but not for the reasons everyone thought. After the initial white flight, things stabilized, but school funding dried up for everyone. Busing was the ancestor of school flight, not white flight. Voucherists want the government to pay them to take their kids out of school and STILL leave poor kids to fend for themselves at the cost of poor public schooling.