On America’s Continued Legacy Of “Dumb White Men”
If only because hindsight is 20/20 and modern humanity is easily analogous to a raging garbage fire does any of this make sense. But trust me, it all makes sense. When simply explained as “America as a nation borne of centuries of commingled racial privilege and social ignorance is coming home to roost,” why we’ve reached the juncture we’re at right now in the world becomes abundantly clear. Furthermore, in considering what, exactly, we think are “dumb,” “smart,” “legal,” and “illegal” notions, plus as well, what constitutes “human decency,” the sense that “dumb white men” aren’t going anywhere anytime soon becomes readily apparent. Also, realizing that the King of England 500 years ago was Henry VIII should give us all a sense of, if the “second verse is same as the first,” where Donald Trump’s presidency could be headed.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure is not just a proverb related to the relative worth of ideas that could easily be related to Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch. Rather, in relation to the polarity gap between what is very right and very wrong in America (and by extension the world), there’s the idea that Donald Trump’s plain-spoken “dumbness” is rather a showcase of his unique ability to colloquially connect with his blue-collar American voter base, as compared Barack Obama’s “intelligence” being more a construct of him as being an outlier of a Black liberal Democrat and less a reflection of his 1991 graduation from Harvard Law School.
Here’s a short list of “dumb” things that white men who have been privileged enough to govern England and America have been rumored to have done, or absolutely did.
- John Kennedy did a lot worse in the Oval Office than engage in the oral sex for which Bill Clinton is renowned.
- Henry VIII — who was the King of England 500 years ago, and thereby the historical “grandfather” of the American presidency — was, similar to Donald Trump, an extravagant spender who was oftentimes at risk of total financial ruin, a grand political disruptor, and was also likely guilty of grabbing no fewer than four of his six wives “by the pussy.”
Extrapolate the reasoning further, and it’s a simple argument to make that racism, classism, sexism, and genocide are now unfortunately — because “dumb white men” from England didn’t find these antagonistic concepts to be dumb, and thus unnecessary, 500 years or more ago — still intrinsically attached to the governing notion of what everything from Henry VIII’s English-ruling Britain to British-born America in the age of Trump, considers to be socially permissible and oftentimes desirable behavior.
The ignorant behavior of our 45th American emperor-of-sorts fits a half millennium-long narrative of “dumb white men” doing incredibly “dumb” things. However, it’s in truly understanding that a) the American President following the very intelligent and African-American Barack Obama is a white man borne of both socioeconomic privilege and Scotch-German ancestry and b) legal systems predicated around preserving centuries-old notions that caste systems “work” are what those with a heritage linked to the United Kingdom know best, fosters the space for “dumb white” Donald Trump to be empowered and comfortable in so seemingly gleefully celebrating his “ignorance.”
To dig even further into what history has wrought, we should probably use the teachable comparative lesson of the Three-Fifths Compromise and the Constitutional Convention of 1787 versus how the US Congress has handled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act.
The Three-Fifths Compromise was an agreement reached by northern and southern delegates to 1787’s Constitutional Convention that determined how slaves would be counted when determining a state’s total population for legislative representation and tax purposes. Scottish born James Wilson of North Carolina and ancestrally Puritanical English Roger Sherman of Massachusetts proposed the compromise, which, given that Wilson was a slave owner who was against the practice and Sherman believed slavery to be against his religious beliefs, truly makes the idea that they negotiated 60% citizenship for African-born slaves most intriguing. Sherman, Wilson, and the Continental Congress, at a time wherein the “dumb” idea of slavery was a significant part of burgeoning America’s economic stability, still realized the need for a modicum of respect to be paid to a dissenting opinion.
Fast forward 230 years, and well, we’re in a place in America where either James Wilsons and Roger Shermans don’t exist, or more likely, we’re too ashamed that the idea of pursuing partial legal personhood for our immigrant communities is something that, 230 years later, still makes sense to do in America.
After five years in service and over 800,000 people positively effected, the Barack Obama-signed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act was recently rescinded, as have many measures Obama championed while president, by current American president Donald Trump. DACA allowed for those who entered America illegally as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation, as well as eligibility for a work permit.
Prior to being rescinded, data showed DACA increased immigrant wages and labor force participation, which allowed for a reduction of the number of unauthorized and impoverished immigrant households. But, in a country wherein Trump was quoted as saying in a manner intended to convey his honest human opinion to curry electoral favor, that Mexicans who immigrate to America are largely drug trafficking criminal rapists, well, the data — no matter how it may appear to denote otherwise — just seems irrelevant as compared to the sociopolitical weight of the now president’s then very racist sentiments.
America in 2017 lacks what was a sense in 1787 that so many of the -isms that define modern America were more means to very unjust ends than absolute laws that demanded to be followed. Instead of those like James Wilson and Roger Sherman rising to aid the cause of compromise, there’s people like House of Representatives member from Virginia and House Judicial Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte, who the New York Times notes that “criminal alien gangs and border security” are his next greatest issues of concern before even considering any legislation to protect the rights moving forward of those who were protected by DACA.
While yes, it’s certainly embarrassing and shameful that we’d need to consider a three-fifths compromise to keep immigrants’ rights safe, as compared to 800,000 people who could be significant contributors to America’s economy being denied that chance, it’s precisely emblematic of the strange place we’re at as a country where after 241 years, and for 500 years of “dumb white men” haven’t evolved to a place where granting someone 60% citizenship — if not for legislation and taxation, but in this case for kindness and decency — is a valid and necessary bargain.
500 years ago, “dumb white men’s” “dumbness” could be directly linked to society’s level of “modern sophistication” and social awareness being directly linked to a world that lacked the trains, airplanes, cars, refrigeration and indoor plumbing that bring us all closer together. Because of this lack of technology and industrial evolution, we were a society of inconvenienced and isolated people who sparingly interacted with neighboring cultures, these interactions oftentimes leading to the brink of, or eventual violence.
In 2017 we have trains, airplanes, cars, mobile devices, entertainment innovations, digitally connected and fully automated homes. In a society defined by never before experienced over-convenience of travel, over-connection and inter-relation via the internet and hyper-evolution of society as a perpetually multicultural space, the idea that “dumb white men” are still “dumb” is astounding. Yet, this is entirely where we are, and we’re guided by a white man who on some level could be the “greatest dumbest white man” ever.
By the end of his reign some 38 years later, Henry VIII had evolved into “one of the most charismatic rulers to sit on the English throne to being “lustful, egotistical, harsh, and insecure.” 38 days into Donald Trump’s presidency, he tweeted the results of a poll that found that the percentage of those with positive views of the Republican Party outweighed the percentage of those who view the Democratic Party positively. Yes, it can be statistically noted that , once he ascended to what can be related to something of an “English throne,” Donald Trump took nearly 100% less time to eclipse the standard set by one of the most ignominious leaders in world history.
But hey. Maybe I’m dumb for even writing this. After all, one man’s trash is clearly another man’s treasure.