America has not become the earthly paradise about which the poet Walt Whitman dreamed. It has not become the planet that President Roosevelt envisioned. Rather it has become the vision and model of satirists like Ginsberg, Corso and Miller, whose works acknowledge hatred, love and the desire to be better.
In the film “This is America,” we recall the scenes that exposed America’s contradictions and social inequality, including the reaping of the evils of American society such as seething racism, McCarthyism and spiritual emptiness.
Those contradictions break out of the bottle and surprise everyone, with the exception of those who have been there from the beginning. Like T.S. Eliot, those who understand the roots of contradiction will not be surprised by the fruits.
In every major issue in history, the story of racial discrimination has been featured, beginning with the bus incident where a woman was egged by white men to prevent her from sitting with them. But such facts retain their symbolic importance because social and cultural phenomena are more complicated than that. Though laws made it possible for non-whites (the so-called WASPs) to gain access to the White House, the social fabric does not easily respond to such laws as the result of centuries of cultural inheritance.
America witnessed multiple cases of violence that are difficult to attribute to a particular political, religious or ethnic motive because such violence is often the result of all of these elements.
The America that appeared in rainbow colors on screen has a geology with underlying layers of black and white tension that appear from time to time. And much more time will pass before America unburdens itself from its heavy heritage and before the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., echoed by President Obama, will be realized.