My wife went to the beach a few days before Robert Mueller clarified in front of Congress the only thing holding him back from charging Ol’ 45 with obstruction of justice was the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion to not indict a sitting president. While my wife was cooling off from July’s heat wave, a man (wearing a baggy swimsuit with an American flag pattern) rolled down to crowded Kure Beach with his kids in tow and set up his gear. The woman with him took her seat under the umbrella and fired up a smoke. The man set up a rock-show-sized speaker, linked it to his Bluetooth, and blasted tunes up and down the strand. He rejected a request from another beach-goer to turn down the music.
My wife is generally outspoken, but she said nothing. She chose to give Ol’ Glory butt and his family a little space to enjoy the beach in their own way, while she continued to enjoy the freedoms of the beach in hers. Even though my wife disagreed with the way Ol’ Glory butt enjoyed the beach—and the way he desecrated the flag by wearing it—she restrained herself from telling him to go back to where he came from. Instead, she took a long walk, a short swim and headed home.
My wife held her tongue at the beach, but Ol’ Glory butt’s discourtesy irked her enough to tell me about it when she got home. She concluded by saying, “He definitely wasn’t from around here. People from here respect each other; fishermen, surfers, swimmers, sunbakers. Everybody tries to respect everybody else. That jerk made absolutely no effort to assimilate.”
Our local economy depends on tourism, but by this time of year many of us really want to stand guard at I-40, turning around minivans. Some of us might even want to imitate our temporarily unindicted sitting POTUS, and set up detention camps on I-40 west of the Corning plant outside of town and shout, “Send them back!”
Those of us with a grain of sense don’t stoop that low. Seasonal immigrants add their stories, their vitality and their money to our community. After having awesome vacation experiences, some even relocate here and contribute to our community where they can. That’s what I did, and I don’t regret my choice. I love it here, but from the day I got here, I’ve heard, “If you don’t like the way we do things here, go back to Jersey.” (Fun fact: I’m from Philly. Saying “go back to Jersey” hurts more than you know.)
I committed to staying here, despite occasionally running into aggrieved locals that want North Carolina to remain pure, carefree, and white as it was when local plantations had a captive labor pool, and long before the nation had a black president (legitimately elected).
Maybe there is not a racist bone in either Ol’ 45 or the faithful collective MAGA body. But the roots of the “send them back” chant run straight through Archie Bunker and ‘70s “America: Love or Leave It” crowd and bury themselves in several brands of militant exclusionary nationalism. This kind of racism isn’t uniquely American. It’s been practiced around the world throughout history. It’s making a comeback globally, thanks in part to America getting back in the game. Other nations still do racism far better, but we are catching up thanks in part to Ol’ 45’s unwillingness to put out the fires he starts.
Why would he? Let’s say (hypothetically) that any president rose to power exploiting a racially motivated “birther” conspiracy and blaming immigration of non-whites from “shithole” countries for America’s problems. Why would that president ever want to put out fires of racist rage that put him in the White House?
Before August heats up again politically and meteorologically, I asked my wife why she didn’t handle her dissatisfaction with Ol’ Glory butt the way Ol’ 45 handled his dissatisfaction with “The Squad.” She said simply, “Because that’s not the way we do things here.”
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