Apart from Mitt Romney’s very gracious concession speech, his campaign over many months was dismissive of, and not very pleasant towards, just about everyone – women, Latinos, all other minorities too, poor people, and the rest of the world.
Despite attempts to suppress the vote that haven’t been seen in this country for many decades, voters turned out in record numbers, waiting in long lines for up to eight hours. It seemed that the more the right to vote was threatened, the more determined people were to vote.
As many others have noted, the key factor in this election was not the economy at all, it was demographics – the changing population of America. Those who voted for President Obama were overwhelmingly the young and a huge percentage of Latinos, African-Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and other minority voters – and just 39% of the white vote, which was this year only 72% of the whole, down from around 90% in the 1970’s.
This has been noted by many observers, yet these demographic facts are a significant source of dismay (or, to be more blunt, fear and terror) to some white people. This fear, conscious or unconscious, leads to a compulsion to hold on to the status quo for dear life, even while one perceives it to be slipping away. And, in a few people, the impulse to dominate, to subjugate, to oppress, bully, invalidate, deride, and dismiss — takes over – and leads to the sorts of endless absurdities that suggest that President Obama is somehow “other” and “not one of us.”
The impulse to dominate is a very fascinating thing. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived on the shores of the New World in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, they committed horrific atrocities, slaughtering and enslaving Native Americans. At the same time, in Europe, the Inquisition was in full swing, and women were being burned as witches in towns all across the European continent.
Later on, when the British arrived in America, a similar sort of vicious behavior toward native people continued, on down through the centuries. The Age of Discovery was really no such thing, since people were already living in all the lands being “discovered,” so “discovery” wasn’t really needed. Nonetheless, the European powers felt obliged to colonize the rest of the world – Asia, Africa, North and South America, nearly every tiny island in the oceans – all must be given the gift of “civilization” – nevermind that some of these countries; like India, Egypt, and China, had been civilized for at least 5,000 years and possibly many thousands of years longer than that. Certainly, they were civilized long before Rome attempted to curb the hordes of Vandals and Goths making their way through Europe.
If we are feeling that things have taken a better, more progressive turn since those dark days, that isn’t so. The wars of the twentieth and early twenty-first century were of unparalleled brutality.
After the Colonial Age, as the European powers were forced to withdraw, with regret, from the lands they had occupied, a new form of colonization arose – this time it was cultural and economic. And this is where we are at the moment – the invasion of CocaCola and McDonalds – and the insidious belief that creeps into the mind of people all over the world, that perhaps their own culture and traditions are somehow backwards and not quite modern enough.
The same individuals who are fiercely loyal to their own nations may still fall subject to a kind of unconscious drive leading them to cast off their own traditions and seek instead what seems “modern” and “western.” I remember with sadness that in Kenya, I met so many people who were very proud of their Christian names and their Christian faith. When I asked them about their heritage — their stories, myths, and traditions, bits of wisdom their grandparents might have passed on to them, they looked bemused or slightly embarrassed; they had no idea, they knew no traditional stories, and there was the sense that they felt that all these things were to be left behind, as somehow unworthy or best forgotten. What a sad way to lose one’s language and culture.
One could write many books outlining the ways that ancient, traditional medicine has more healing power than modern, allopathic medicine, or the ways that traditional agriculture is more sustainable and healthier than western agriculture, or ways in which traditional artisans and artists create art that is much, much more beautiful than anything the modern world can produce, or how even the oldest science, mathematics, astronomy, and knowledge of the universe is really not at all inferior to modern knowledge; how, in short, human “progress” is a myth that only serves to disguise the devolution and progressive ignorance of our present civilization. This may be a minority view, not generally accepted, but there is something to be said for it.
A great loss of culture and true civilization has happened, one way or another, all over the world, as this western wave has swept over the earth, despite the valiant efforts of many people to preserve their own culture. It is only these courageous efforts, like a mighty flame in the darkness, that have kept alive the beauty, truth, and knowledge of ancient traditions that have been under such fierce attack. Now the tide may be turning.
To be continued in part two. To read part two, click here.
Top image: Author: Margaret Duncan Coxhead / Source Romance of History, Mexico Date 1909 / The conquistadors entered Tenochtitlan to the sounds of martial music. / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.”
Second image: Author: D.F. Barry / Sitting Bull / This image is in the public domain in the United States. A Sioux holy man and chief who led his people in resistance. / Wikimedia Commons / “This image is in the public domain in the United States.”
Third image: Artist: Nicolaas Pieneman (1809–1860) /The submission of Diepo Negoro to Lieutenant-General Hendrik Merkus Baron de Kock, 28 March 1830, which ended the Java War (1825–30). / Wikimedia Commons /”This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.”