The great becoming by @BloggersRUs

The great becoming

by Tom Sullivan

Mountaintop Removal site near Kayford Mountain, WV, January 4, 2006. Photo by Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

America is forever reinventing itself. Synthesizing today and yesterday and turning them into tomorrow. It was folly to believe a reality TV star could turn back time and recapture some halcyon yesterday. Yet many did.

But those many are growing fewer, argues Joy-Ann Reid at the Daily Beast. We are two countries, she argues, "one lurching for the future, one yearning for the past." The latter are losing to the inevitable becoming. There is not just an urban-rural rift in America, but a generational one. Pew Research finds America is getting younger and more liberal. Opinions on race and immigration are trending liberal.

The trend is accelerating writes Jonathan Chait:

It is hard to focus on this trend at a moment when Republicans have full control of government, and are heading into an election where gerrymandering gives them a large advantage in maintaining Congress. But this fact runs headlong against a much longer deterioration of the conservative position within the electorate. Many conservatives supported Trump precisely because they were panicked about this trend. So far, Trump is merely accelerating the demise they feared.
Instead of making America great again, Donald Trump is instead hastening "the very decline his supporters so feared," Reid concurs. There will be no return to a world where white men rule and all others know their places and remain in them:
But here’s the thing: the past really is past. Coal is still a dying industry and America will never again have an industrial revolution. It’s other countries’ turn to do that now. Black and brown people aren’t giving up our dignity, including the right to protest and to survive mundane encounters with police. Immigrants aren’t going away (and in fact we need them to keep the economy and the safety net flush). LGBT people aren’t going back into the closet. And women are staying in the workforce, with many aiming to become the CEO, while insisting on hanging onto our reproductive liberty. There is indeed a sizable minority of Americans who want to go back to the old times. But we aren’t going back.
Change is as inevitable as the tides and just as impossible to hold back. What the rising anger over the Parkland, FL shootings demonstrates is that the old cannot hold ground against the next generation either. They are coming. For those holding onto the past, it won't be pretty. Even as the president boasts of renewed American greatness on his terms, his tenure has, Reid says, "the feel of a decrepit regime looting the palace in its final days."

Reid explains why:

Far from becoming more conservative with time, young Americans are staying right where they were when Barack Obama was first elected—on the left of center—if not growing more progressive. It’s why Republicans are so keen to suppress their votes. Where my generation, Generation X, polls at 51-41 percent blue over red, for Millennials the Democratic-over-Republican preference is a daunting 62-29, while Boomers are 48-46 D versus R and their parents, in the Silent Generation, tilt Republican 51 to 45 percent. The main reason for the increasing liberalism of the younger cohorts? These generations (including the youngest group, Generation Z) are chock full of young people of color. They are the most racially diverse generation in modern American history. And by next year, Millennials will be the single largest generational group in America, with their ranks swelled by immigrants (which explains the urgent right wing push for mass deportation.)
Reid's essay suggests that forward-looking America resides in "hundreds of counties versus Trump’s thousands." But that characterization does little justice to the diversity in areas portrayed in black-and-white (if not daguerreotype) imagery as "Trump country."

The New Yorker's Benjamin Wallace-Wells examines the West Virginia teachers' strike for signals of where the American middle class is headed and spoke with historian Elizabeth Catte, author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia. She argues that while Appalachia is handy shorthand for Trump country, that flattens the perspective. The region may have voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2016 general election, but there was also strong support for Bernie Sanders in the primary. “Where were, for example, the ‘Bernie Country’ pieces about Appalachia?" Catte asked the New Republic.

Wallace-Wells writes:

She points out that the diversity of the region is badly underrecognized (“There are more people in Appalachia who identify as African-American than as Scots-Irish”) and emphasizes the region’s radical labor history: the mine-labor fights of Harlan County, Kentucky; the community health clinics; the training school for civil-rights organizers. “If you saw through my eyes you’d see hands in pockets and hands on guns and toes on picket lines,” she writes of Appalachia.
Teachers protesting in Charleston, West Virginia last week donned red to echo the costumes worn by picketing mine workers in 1921 at the Battle of Blair Mountain. Teachers were striking for better pay and benefits, but for more than that.

“One of the things they are really fighting for is to be recognized as professionals of value,” said Stephen Wotring, the superintendent of schools in Preston County. Yes, there is economic anxiety, but more of a concern about where their state and, for that matter the middle class, is heading.

Wotring believed that a certain political understanding had crystallized for the teachers, a sense of where they stood. “If I really think this was fuelled by anything this year, as opposed to any other year, it’s probably been in the political culture that we find ourselves in—that everybody is willing, at this point, to stand up and state their opinion and stand for it,” he said. “People feel more entitled to do that than ever before.”
"Forward together. Not one step back!" as Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II exhorts crowds.

Wallace-Wells concludes:

“Appalachia was not different from the rest of America,” the Appalachian historian Ronald Eller wrote ten years ago, in his history of the region, “Uneven Ground.” “It was in fact a mirror of what the nation was becoming.”
Perhaps the tensions we now feel, Wallace-Wells writes are because "it isn’t at all obvious what the nation is becoming."

The future will come of its own accord whether we acquiesce to it or work to shape it. But the future will belong to those most willing to fight for it.

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