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Guest view: A multiracial, multicultural America is not something to fear

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Henry Gonshak

Henry Gonshak

While in his editorial, "We Must Conquer Fear with Hope," I wish John Ray had supported his generalizations with more specific examples, I agree with him that the autocratic impulses of Trumpism, the radical right and almost the entire Republican Party are driven by fear. Trump's central slogan, "Make America Great Again," is a coded promise to return America to the era of white supremacy, when white men (especially conservative, Christian ones) ruled the roost, and everyone else knew their place.

But even if returning to this time is a good idea (which it isn't) Trump's promise is a lie; there is no going back. Blacks are never again going to agree to being disenfranchised by slavery and segregation. Women are never again going to agree to having their lives limited to being wives and mothers, subservient to their husbands. Gays are never again going to agree to hide in the "closet," fearing exposure and filled with self-loathing.

Demographic trends indicate that relatively soon America will become a nonwhite majority nation, even if Donald Trump somehow succeeds in building his Wall in a desperate attempt to keep out brown-skinned Latin American immigrants. Whether we like it or not, the future of America is multiracial and multicultural.

While there are many things about the nation's future Americans should fear — especially climate change, which threatens to make the planet uninhabitable for human beings — a multiracial, multicultural America isn't one of them.

Perhaps it's because I'm Jewish and grew up in New York City, the most diverse place on earth (and because three of my four grandparents were immigrants) but a multiracial, multicultural American future has always struck me as something to welcome, not fear. It will certainly be a country more truly allied with Thomas Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal."

America is a nation based not on race but on certain basic democratic principles: freedom of speech, the rule of law, one person, one vote. So long as Americans obey these simple but essential principles, it doesn't matter whether the citizenry is white, black or brown, male or female, gay or straight; the country will thrive.

Here in Butte, these are ideas we should all embrace, since Butte is the most multiethnic place in Montana, founded by people from everywhere on earth, most who came to work in the mines.

White, rural Americans are genuinely suffering today. But they are not suffering because of the nefarious machinations of Democrats, liberals, feminists, gays, blacks, Jews, urbanites, academics, or any other of the right's usual suspects. They are suffering because of income inequality, globalization, deindustrialization, underfunded public schools, a dysfunctional heath care system, the fraying of the social safety net for the poor, the decline of unions, environmental devastation, trickledown economics, pandemics.

These are the problems we should be confronting as a nation, rather than hating the "other," fearing some "Great Replacement," and yearning for a utopian past that never existed. If we do that, we can make America great: not again, but for the first time.

Henry Gonshak is a retired English professor at Montana Tech. For many years he was a regular book and theater reviewer for The Montana Standard. He is the author of "Hollywood and the Holocaust" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). His views do not necessarily reflect those of Montana Tech.


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