We are in a battle for america's soul.
By Joseph Gallina
Updated 1:00 PM ET, Thu June 29, 2017
On June 6, 1944, some of the bravest Americans who ever lived stormed the coast of Normandy to defend Europe from the expansion of an unspeakable evil. America made a stand against tyranny, and defended freedom in the face of one of its biggest tests.
That perseverance to stand up for what was right despite the risks and incredible loss of life, came to define America's new role of global influence.
And yet, for some of America's soldiers, a battle was fought on two fronts: One against fascism oversees and one against racism at home. Despite serving as heroes on the beaches of Normandy and throughout the war, black soldiers came home to a brutal reminder that America had a long way to go. Veterans were told to leave bars, kept out of neighborhoods, had trouble attending schools - opportunity's doors were repeatedly closed.
But with time, things got better, far from perfect, as we continue to find our way.
What has always been the strength of America is the hope that things could improve simply by appealing to the better angels in our heads, and our hearts. We have never been a nation without mistakes, but it's been the times we have learned from them that counted most.
In 2008, America elected it's first black president. The country was seemingly making steady progressive strides. The Supreme Court recognized it was a Constitutional right for homosexual partners to marry; there was a push for acceptance of people's differences; we recognized the importance of protecting our environment for our children and grandchildren, and our leaders exemplified class, respectability, and graciousness. We were citizens of the world, and were admired in that regard.
Somewhere along the line, this angered a large segment of the population. They felt forgotten and ignored. Cultural concerns outweighed political and financial ones. They felt they were being told what to think, how to act, or how to treat others. The internet grew to become a divisive place of bullying, hurtful, and demeaning commentary. The country was changing and for some it was frightening. They argued "American Values" and "American Culture" was synonymous with answering the wage and cultural impact feared by the inclusion of Illegal immigrants; the fear that Muslim refugees would bring with them sharia law and destroy America; that African Americans would turn violent in the face of a burgeoning movement; that feminists were radicalized and deserved ridicule. Arguably, the left became satirized into exaggerated caricatures of extremism.
And like a 70 year old, white, male Aphrodite, born of the foam of the seas, Donald Trump emerged the leader of this cultural war: his first foray into the fight was a baseless charge that our president was a muslim born in Kenya. He spoke the same language, he brought the election to a cultural battle, not a political one, and because we failed to address him on those terms, he now sits in the oval office.
In 2016, Bernie Sanders lit a match under a brewing narrative that the system was stacked against us, that the influence of big banks and big money threatened to endanger our liberties. It was a valiant effort and was welcomed by the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Perhaps however, the future of the Democratic party relies on the success of bringing the narrative to cultural terms, and winning there. Perhaps you can't counter a cultural revolution with a political one - or exclusively one.
And there is enough material to take Trump down electorally on his own mat. What we now face is a battle for America's soul. The next election must focus on the question of not who we are, but who we want to be. We must reorient what we want "American Values" to truly mean. And that I think, should be the best of America: equality, inclusion, compassion.
If we can succeed in defining our brand of Patriotism, then we can best win the argument that it's the best kind for our country. World War II taught us that a great country leads with an iron fist, that is backed up by a strong heart. Today, we are struggling to find our heart. If we succeed however, our soul will follow.