The threat from within
Sometime last month, a middle-aged resident of southern Chester County walked into the mushroom composting plant he has worked at for the past two decades and recognized a broom propped in the corner of one of the houses.
It was the same broom he held in his hands years ago, just weeks after he migrated undocumented by dark cover of secrecy from Mexico, when he could not speak English and had no means of earning a living in his new country.
It was the broom he saw when he tried to get the owner of the company to understand that he had come to the mushroom plant in the hopes of being given a job, manifested as an opened door and one single chance. It was the broom he used to feign sweeping that helped him get the job in the company that has since awarded him several raises for his excellent work.
The man has long since redeemed the sins of illegal migration and is one of the most respected and reliable employees of the company. He is now fluent in English and a U.S. citizen -- as is his wife -- and together, they are raising two teenage daughters born in Chester County who have assimilated entirely into the culture of America and have started to bring home pamphlets from prospective colleges. Every Sunday morning in the same parish he and his family have belonged to for two decades, the man privately gives blessing to the country that gave him an opportunity to make a better life.
Within the solid framework of his construction, however, the man continues to shield his family from the verbal assault on his culture that echoes across the country he loves – an enveloping and reprehensible fog of dissent and discourse that has taken residence in the minds and actions of those who categorize him as a criminal, a drug trafficker, a scapegoat for all of America’s problems and, perhaps most horrible, a rapist. In the dialogue of his detractors, he is responsible for a single drop of the blood that is poisoning our country.
The truth is now undeniable; what was once veiled racism has been reintroduced into the American lexicon and mainstreamed into what has become the ugly tenor of a movement that calls itself a campaign.
Through the prism of hate words, the man in the church pew has chosen to remain silent. He is afraid to rise up; rather, he privately collects the vocabulary and packs it deep into his heart, where it burrows and festers, away from his wife and most especially his children. It is there, within his seething and raging gut, where it must and will remain.
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Before signing off on every issue of the newspaper he helps to edit, the Chester County journalist reads the small print included at the top of the editorial page that includes the sacred script, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” Indeed, the power of the First Amendment is almost biblical in its authority; it serves as both a moral and fundamental guidepost to a journalist’s freedoms and responsibility. Over the past several years, the journalist has seen his industry ripped apart by a false categorization of the Fourth Estate, referring to journalists as the enemy of the people, tacked to a promise to seek retribution unless its content bows in humble acquiescence. The journalist’s fingers, free to fly across the keyboard in order to inform and theorize and engage in the essential utilities of a democracy, are in a fight for their very survival. He knows that the threats that attempt to censor media outlets are autocratic in design and create an environment that exists only to disseminate information that is friendly to the autocrat, silencing any news that the autocrat does not wish the public to know. He watches as the First Amendment teeters on the brink of dissolution.
The U.S. Constitution is not the only precedent vulnerable against the advancing backdrop of this most demonstrative rhetoric. Indeed, the platforms that have conspired to hold our democracy together for nearly 250 years are on the verge of complete collapse, creating a surge of indecency that levels criticism for beliefs and punishment for ideals.
The real threat, the message is saying, is not from the outside forces, which are far less sinister and dangerous and grave, but from within – from its very own people -- and its only remedy is to maximize and consolidate the powers of the federal government to a single individual at the top. It’s the mission statement for a new vision of America and it has been gathered up by a supportive base masking themselves as conservatives – joined by a clueless band of political underlings fearful of repercussion for speaking out -- who believe that America must go to extremes to solve its problems, because the system – the center – is no longer holding.
As we begin to embark on what promises to be a year of continued threats and incendiary rhetoric, our most incomprehensible reality is not that this ugliness continues to be applauded by some, but that the messenger who has uttered these words and floated these ideas is the leading candidate to become the next President of the United States.