I thought this would all end with a whimper, not a bang. Now, I’m not so sure.
It’s a dependable truism that no one ever willingly gives up power. In 1814, Napoleon, after his crushing defeat in Russia, was exiled to Elba. Hungry for the power he’d known, Napoleon escaped and mounted a successful, if short-lived, comeback. In 1981, right-wing Egyptians assassinated President Anwar Sadat for having the audacity to make peace with Israel. In 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by right-wing Israelis for signing the Oslo Accords that sought peace with the Palestinians.
Wherever you drop the needle on the historical record, you’ll find men (always men, for men have ensured women don’t have the power to fight the power) angling to hang on.
Now comes a demographic landslide that threatens to overpower our system of White male superiority, so it comes as no surprise that they’re not going quietly into that good night. My naïveté didn’t allow me to understand that it was going to get this ugly.
I didn’t see state legislatures changing the laws so they could control election outcomes. Sure, I figured, they’ll gerrymander Congressional and state districts to try and lock in minority rule, but I mistakenly thought, the courts would stop them.
Yes, I thought, they’ll stop immigration of the poor and downtrodden, but I expected a surgical strike, not a blunt instrument, since everybody knows that historically our strength has been derived from the fresh thinking of immigrants whose drive and imaginations made ours a stronger country as they enriched themselves and assimilated into our culture.
As a boy, I found neither tacos nor bagels in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Columbus, being a college town, easily accommodated social, racial, and ethnic change.
By high school, there were Mexican restaurants and Jewish delis all over the place. Our white-bread middle-western town was better for the expanding menus. True, our collective beltlines suffered an expansion, but our consciousness (and palates) were raised.
Still, there were lingering efforts at exclusion, and power-sharing was decidedly not on the menu in the suburbs. Initially, the little berg I grew up in had restrictive covenants on real estate that guaranteed Blacks and Jews could not buy houses there. (Had the powers that be thought to exclude other minorities, they would have, but Asians and Hispanics were not yet a threat to power.) From 1920 until 1970—yeah, I said 1970, as in a mere fifty years ago—the language of enforced legal segregation was built right into real estate contracts.
Our universities and tech companies have been a magnet attracting the world’s best and brightest for two centuries. Now the fearful who have already ascended to the tree house are pulling the ladder up behind them. Silicon Valley has spent the last five years pleading with Congress to allow the inflow of the very people that made these last dizzying decades of technological progress possible. Under our current system, riven with paranoia and fear of the other, Steve Jobs’ dad, a Syrian immigrant would not have seen our shores. Poof: no iPhone, or at least not one invented here.
Progress, like most change, consigns winners and losers to history. In their vain attempt to stop gains from other quarters, the anti-change agents are crippling us all. I guess for them, ending the Age of Enlightenment is a small price to pay to stay in power. Apparently it’s fine to send immigrants with ideas to Canada, the UK, and China for a superior education.
The demographic destiny of our country is undeniable. Whites will be outnumbered by the world’s rainbow of colors. You see it in the meat packing plants of Iowa, the universities of Boston, and the streets of San Diego. Women will increasingly gain power. Bet against Georgia’s first female governor—and first black female governor in the country, the redoubtable Stacey Abrams—at your own risk. A mixed race daughter of California, a former attorney general and U.S. senator is already occupying the vice president’s office in the White House. Those truths are uncomfortable to the established power elite.
Surely, though they try with all their might, the current establishment will lose its power. It has happened before. It is happening now. It will happen again. The status quo has a predetermined role in the drama of the human experience. It holds power until it can’t. Then it is usurped by a new status quo that is destined to itself be replaced by a new status quo. It’s the nature of change. And we know that the only constant in our world is change.
So, the establishment men will bend some rules, destroy others, but in the end, they will succumb to progress.
©2021 Jon Sinton