But across the board and down the line, the take on Obama’s astonishing, historic re-election is the same: America is more wildly, unexpectedly diverse than ever, and those diverse voices – Latino, gay, black, immigrant, female, et al – somehow coalesced into a potent, vociferous, albeit hotly unstable coalition to vote more powerfully and more passionately than any time in our short history, mostly because they never really existed as a functioning coalition in our short history, until now.
This is what the Republican punditry and even many old-timer Dems are coming to terms with: America is no longer a nifty, sepia-toned melting pot kept anodyne and marginal by the rich, starchy bleach of the white ruling class.
Is it not the most astonishing thing? The country is not getting any whiter, older white bigoted people are helpfully dying off, and we now have a messy and nearly incomprehensible Catherine wheel of assorted nonwhite minorities (and women) all spinning, dancing and surging into the limelight – not to mention the cross-breeds, the already mixed, the racially unidentifiable who are, say, a quarter black, a quarter Chinese, a quarter Indian, a third polyamorous and a tenth Cuban kinky hipster lesbian schoolteacher, with a no-religious-affiliation kicker. Sweet.
This is your new American majority, each and every one of whom terrifies the old guard, the rich white guys, Ted Nugent, Bill O’Reilly, and the way it used to be. And this is why the Republican party threw every repulsive weapon it had at Obama to try and avert the inevitable; deep down, they sensed their own imminent obsolescence, even if they didn’t quite believe it was possible.
And oh, they tried everything. Racism. Birtherism. Sexism. Abortion, birth control, “legitimate rape” and irresponsible “sluts.” Religious intolerance, homophobia, xenophobia, Socialism, Communism, Nazis, Kenya, monkeys, Big Bird, gun rights, tax laws, welfare, elitism, oil shortages, health care reform that would secretly herd up and kill the elderly. Just for starters.
Nothing worked. Check that: It all worked. Just not as well as it used to. As one distraught fundamentalist Christian activist said, “It wasn’t that our message didn’t get out. We got the message out. But our message was rejected.”
This is, of course, a very good thing. On the other hand, it’s also all flavors of potential bedlam, with every group and region now demanding its own representation, its own voice, its own right to stir things up and be heard. Or maybe they just want what the white menfolk have had all along: a more honest chance, and a game that’s not rigged against them from the start. I know! The nerve!
So here we have Obama’s 2012 America, a riot of color and noise, melodrama and fierce clamoring for attention. Can it all possibly hold together? Not a chance. Does it have to hold together lest we implode and melt down even further? Without a doubt.
This is why the reaction to Rainbow Bright America has been, to say the least, exhilarating, and strange, and all over the map. Say what you will about unhappy white males running the joint for the last 200 (or 2,000) years. At least they were consistent. Consistently intolerant, patriarchal, oppressive, ruthlessly capitalistic and just a little bit sad? Of course. What the hell do you want from paranoid, monochromatic Christians, enlightenment?
One point everyone agrees on: The channels must open. We must broaden the social lens, appeal to the wider spectrum, understand there is no longer a single religion, voice, sex, color, attitude, or even standardized marriage format that rules the land. Sure, we’ve always been diverse. But we’ve never been completely guided by it.
Is part of the answer to become more multicultural, multilingual, open-ended? It would seem to go without saying. It would seem we should begin, quite directly, with education, and immediately require Spanish, Latin, passing fluency in German, maybe a little Chinese, just in case. Don’t you think?
Praise Jesus, we no longer have a single dominant religion. Even Christmas, which used to be relatively charming and quaint and even a tiny bit sacred, was sold to Wal-Mart for scrap something like 30 years ago; everyone knows we have no major holidays left that aren’t owned by corporations that openly hate you.
Hence, would it kill us to learn a little about, say, Diwali, India’s breathtaking festival of lights? How about Dia de Los Muertos, and Samhain, and Buddha’s birthday? How about teaching kids a little about Christian mysticism, goddess lore, a hint of Wicca, toss in a few of the 3 million Hindu gods? Why not?
You disagree? Oh right, like hammering them with uptight Christian doctrine for all these years has worked so well. Do you want to see the election results again? Shall we talk teen pregnancy rates, divorce rates, just who it was who sent out the most racist, hateful, intolerant Tweets after the election? Didn’t think so.
I know a little of what I speak. As a not wildly young, indo-European white guy myself, I can testify that it is both scary and oddly refreshing to slide so dramatically into the cultural minority. And we’re certainly not all bad – far from it. Of course, I’m nowhere near as endangered and obsolete as, say, the Catholic church, who is right now trying – quite miserably – to wrap its crusty, blood-caked talons around the throat of giddy gay marriage and choke it to death. (Oh, by the way? This is how you know. This is how you understand you are on the right side of history, culture, love. When the pope and his armies of flying monkeys shake and fume so violently over a new definition of love that their eyeballs curdle, you know you’re doing something very right indeed).
Let us not get too carried away. White ruling classes aren’t quite gone yet. Obama still won a huge and relatively normal percentage of white voters, and Romney got quite a bit more (although, interestingly, the four states with the highest percentage of them – ME, VT, IA, NH – all went for BO).
It’s just that they didn’t matter as much this time around. Not nearly as much as they mattered to Mitt Romney and the GOP, for whom scared white males in particular were the foundation, lifeblood, the meaning of all goddamn existence. And when that meaning is removed? When that long-standing, ironclad political underpinning is uprooted and proven no longer reliable, and never will be again?
You get shock. Awe. Bewilderment. And roughly 4,000 political pundits from every media outlet spinning in the grave of their stunned analysis. Awesome.
But most of all, you get to experience something we in America just don’t get to enjoy all that often. We get to experience the wonderful, terrible, completely disorienting thrill of remaking ourselves anew, changing the conversation, exploding the stagnant American experiment and assembling it into something we just haven’t had the parts to attempt before.
Isn’t that fantastic? Isn’t that destabilizing? Isn’t that what the warped American idea is supposed to be about, after all?