When I saw the President’s tweets aimed at the four young women of color, elected Representatives from U.S. House Districts in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Michigan, I thought of George Wallace.
When a college student in Alabama, I recall vividly his political career, especially his now-infamous declaration in his 1963 inaugural address, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”
Governor Wallace ran for President in 1972. Now, 47 years later, you can buy online original lapel pins that carry the slogan, “Put your heart in Dixie or get your Ass out. Wallace in ’72.”
The President expressed the same sentiment when he said in his tweets to those four members of the U.S. House of Representatives, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came?” and “If you hate our country, if you’re not happy here, you can leave.”
The President’s screed and the Governor’s declaration are not the same words of course, but they do rhyme, so to speak, expressing the same attitude toward those four U.S. Representatives as Wallace expressed toward those whose hearts were not “in Dixie” --disdain, anger and arrogance.
The President’s statements are unacceptable for several reasons.
First, they are anti-democratic, failing to accept that, in a democracy, policies are worked out among opposing sides through fact-finding, discussion, debate and accommodation.
In a democracy, the rules are not made by a single man asserting that he speaks for all citizens.
That’s what dictators do, Kim in North Korea, Xi in China, Putin in Russia. Second, these Trump/Wallace words are unrealistic.
They presume that there is out there a possible perfectly unanimous position on each issue.
In Dixie, Wallace asserted, we are all on board; we all believe the same way, have the same values and permit no dissenting voices. In the real world, however, other voices always emerge; other perspectives always arise.
Dissent is what created Protestant churches; dissent is what separated the colonies from Great Britain. Dissent is what created President Donald Trump.
But some of you may disagree with my position, which of course would prove the second point, affirming that differences are inevitable.
As to the first point, some may just not believe in democracy, freedom, government of, by and for the people, all people.
If that is so, then we have a royal struggle on our hands in this nation, one that will call for the utmost courage and wisdom we can muster. God help us. May our better angels prevail.
Dick Conville is a retired college professor and a longtime Hattiesburg resident.