Version 1.0 of “America First”, which later became Donald Trump’s successful campaign slogan in 2016 campaign and, later, during his first White House term, interpreted those two words differently. It was not the idea that America came before and above all other Countries in the world, but the principle according to which the womb of the country and the heart of the nation, the Constitution and the common good, came before any party faction.
An approach that has made the whole world jealous of the United States and its gem-like Constitution for years. An attitude that has allowed the Country to recover from several crises at a surprisingly different speed than the others. And which can be exemplified in the peaceful transition of powers between one President and another, a sacred moment of American democracy. A democracy that rejected sentiment towards extremes, whatever they were, preferring the congressional compromise on the forced decision-making of individual leaders. Whether those leaders were named Clinton, Bush, Obama or Trump. “In a bipartisan way” is a term considered positively in America, even today. It means that if an agreement is reached like this, in Congress, accepted by both sides, then it will have a long life also in legislation and in putting into practice for the common life of the people. Otherwise no.
The America of 2020, however, which voted following the impulses of Trump’s America First in 2016, seems to have forgotten about this version 1.0. Also due to the impoverishment of the Washington establishment, with congressmen more busy getting re-elected every two years than making laws, and senators fighting the party’s battles more than ordinary people’s ones. And, if once the extremes were pushed aside by the middle, now it is the middle that is considered old, past, outdated and that feels surrounded by extremes. Also for this reason, on November 3rd it seems that two different Countries collide in one, more than two interpretations of the same Nation.
In order photograph this situation, can be useful analyzing the words of two distant, different and far Americas that have stopped talking to each other. Doing it from a state in the balance and decisive for the final result of the elections, too. The state is Ohio, which Barack Obama won by a 3% in 2012 and which in 2016 Donald Trump snatched from Hillary Clinton by more than 8 percentage points. The two people here are LaTonya Goldsby and Tom Hack. The first is president of Black Lives Matter in Cleveland. The second is the executive director of Free Ohio at Mentor.
The first, leading an organization under the lens for the protests of the last five months, in particular, after the death of African American man George Floyd, who lost his life below the knee of agent Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis last May 25th. “Until we get rid of structural racism within this country, the United States will never get over its original sin of slavery,” she says from a Cleveland café in Orwell. The second, leading an increasingly large group of citizens who want to free themselves from what Hack defines, again in Orwell but this time from a bar in Mentor, Ohio, “the health dictatorship imposed by liberals against a virus that hurts only to those with previous illnesses and who must not stop our economy».
The first, needless to say, wears a mask. The second, needless to say, doesn’t. Two Americas that do not agree substantially on anything, not even on a health crisis, and are on two opposite poles. One that sees racism as systemic and sees the pandemic as proof of the inequalities already existing. The other who says, verbatim, “That racism no longer exists and there are only good and bad” and sees the coronavirus as “one of the many health crises of recent years, no different from the others”.
Black Lives Matter was born in 2013 in response to police’s violence episodes against black communities. It was founded in the United States but today it’s a global organization, with several chapters in each Country. It was born as an anti-violence and anti-ideological movement, with the aim of erasing racism in all its forms and intervening in an active but peaceful way in the event of aggression against the black community. But as the New York Post noted in June, one of the movement’s founders, Patrisse Cullors, said in 2015, “We have an ideological structure. Alicia and I (the second founder, ed), in particular, are formed as Marxists, “he explained in an interview. A text used and re-proposed by Donald Trump and his allies, the former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani above all, in every sauce. In America, socialism has never appealed and state interventionism almost always annoys. Attacking the movement in this way, according to the GOP strategy, could help to de-legitimize the protests.
American sociologists also clash over the nature of BLM. According to Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University and one of the country’s leading political scientists, told PolitiFacts some time ago that “there are certainly socialists within the movement, as there have always been in the great social protests “, but that this may not make” this movement itself socialist, but rather transform it into a mass movement “. And, in fact, Black Lives Matter in recent weeks has become a true mass movement.
“We’re not violent, it’s not something we believe in, and if someone destroys shop windows or vandalizes, they’re not doing it in my or our name,” Goldsby tells Orwell. In Cleveland, where the population is 59% black, the BLM chapter was opened in 2015. One year after the tragic killing by police of African American Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was playing in the park with a toy gun like so many other kids. Goldbsy was his cousin. «I still am his cousin- she specifies. For me he will never die. Having lived through that drama led me to react and decide to do something,” she explains. George Floyd’s video was a deja-vu: «When he screamed that he couldn’t breathe anymore, I went in apnea too. It was shocking, abhorrent. It was like reliving the grief in my family. It happens to much, here in America, to too many ».