The 20th Century was a time of great events that spanned from utter tragedies to overwhelming victories and joy. In the middle of it all, the United States became a superpower that thought of itself as standing for Good.
That concept was facilitated by a democracy with strong connections to individual liberties together with a historically convenient enemy, the Communist Soviet Union, that was portrayed as the “Evil Empire” and the opposite of Good. America became the only superpower on the world stage at the end of the 1980s when the Soviet Union collapsed from the weight of its own corruption and left the field.
The country reached the pinnacle of international leadership without a worthy opponent to compete against and a world order controlled for growth through treaties especially as it relates to Asia. The last quarter of the 20th Century were years where the United States also involved itself in a reassessment of its role in this new global community.
Internally, the 20th Century brought major changes in the political outlook of our social and political structure. The minority communities, particularly those of color, woke up to the fact that the country was not necessarily for everyone.
The fight for civil rights that ensued has featured identity politics as people that had been historically marginalized sought a seat at the table. The push for equality was further augmented by a demographic shift that is gradually making America a minority-majority community.
The demographic shift in part caused by Latino immigrants is putting that community at the forefront of a movement toward a majority by plurality. These factors have created a very divisive atmosphere as many in the current majority are attempting to find ways to stay in power by testing the limits of the Constitution.
For them, minorities are the enemy that must be defeated and subjugated in some acceptable manner. Out of the depths of that community rose a “White knight” that incorporates those ingrained biases and who was able to successfully take leadership of the country for a while.
The last four years have exemplified the effort of the relative few to dominate the many by playing their own version of identity politics and insisting that the Constitution was written and promulgated for them. Although the majority of people of this country, in their wisdom, have voted for some measure of sanity and inclusion in the next 4 years, the social, racial and political issues that have brought us to this point are not going away.
The change in the national voices as well as our divided condition will persist despite the national healing messages from political leaders. We need to remember however, that although we are divided, it is not because we are going in opposite directions.
Rather, since we believe in the same democratic principles, we are going in the same direction. It is just that in the evolution of the country, certain segments of our community are overtaking and passing others as we pursue perfection.
The way to overcome COVID-19 and to repair our economy is clearly visible. It is ethnic and racial justice however, that continues to defy our ability to come to terms with the future.
America has faced three major crisis in the 21st Century. There is no doubt that we will have another one to overcome perhaps in the near future.
However, learning to live as Americans is still a challenge. That should be our New Year’s resolution..