Shootings at the hands of supremacists testify to the impact of theories pushed by politicians.
Two of the discussions that the United States raised more than 200 years ago are today more valid than ever and show the glory and misery of the world’s greatest power.
Who is a human being? Who is an American? The questions invoked by Howard Fineman in his book “The Thirteen American Arguments,” absurd as it may seem in the 21st century, are at the heart of two of the greatest socio-political debates in American society.
In fact, the discussion is so intense and the sentiments so brutal that they are at the core of what is warned — and feared — could become a fracturing of American society, and even a reframing of the Civil War of 1861-65.
Who is a human being? In the 18th and 19th centuries, it referred mainly to the racial question, to the humanity of Black and Indigenous people. Today, it refers mostly to the debate over abortion and human conception: At what point does a fetus become a human being?
It is an ethical discussion where there seems to be no possible middle ground and where jurisprudence swings back and forth: from the authorization of abortion signified by the Roe v. Wade decision of a liberal Supreme Court in 1973, to the expected prohibition in another ruling of the now-conservative Supreme Court leaked to the media.
Who is an American? Or in other words, who has the right to be an American? According to the interpretation that is apparently still popular on the right, only those who are Anglo-Saxon, white and Protestant. Certainly, there has been an evolution and it is accepted that Irish, Italians, Mexicans, Africans, Japanese, Chinese, etc., can be incorporated.
But the echo of the question is still felt in political movements when referring to “real Americans” or the “invasion” by new immigrants.
Both issues are present in one form or another in the social and political debate in a country where one part is a believer in conspiracy theories, and where there is now speculation about a grand plan to replace “real” Americans with immigrants.
True. It could be taken as a nationalistic expression. But in today’s America it goes beyond that.
The constant shootings and killings of groups at the hands of alleged white supremacists are testimony to the impact of theories pushed by politicians and spokespersons now tied to the Republicans, one of the two main parties in the country, as a way to mobilize their voters.
In fact, migrants are at the center of the current debate, not only in terms of their possible legal status, but as a target of bigoted racist and demographic beliefs that until a few years ago promoted the creation of a white ethno-state in the United States, and today seem to want it to be the entire United States.
The fact is, however, that debates that were meant to be history still define American current affairs.