Fresh water from an old well

The struggle to live by our national creed

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The International Criminal Court last week issued a warrant for the arrest of Vladimir Putin for war crimes in Ukraine. That’s nice, except the U.S. does not recognize the court. Maybe we could make an exception and arrest Putin when he comes to America next year to give the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention. (I am just guessing.)

Setting aside foreign despots, Donald Trump could be arrested before you read this. He has urged his supporters to “protest, take our nation back!” — which need not worry you unless you’re a police officer assigned to protect the courthouse in New York City where he would appear.

The twilight of our republic looms when a major political party regards beating up cops in defense of a wannabe dictator as the highest form of patriotism.

On the bright side, our former grifter in chief has avoided prosecution for a long time. His luck may be running out at long last.

This, however, avoids dealing with America’s dark underbelly — the ugly sentiments with a long pedigree to which the twice-impeached former president appealed and still does.

Just as there is not a finite number of marriage licenses, there is no limit to the number of journeys and stories that can inspire us, unless we stop our ears and arbitrarily insist that only one demographic group can win and all others must be subordinated to it.

Our diverse views and interests cannot be understood as stark dualities. They fall along a spectrum. Our politics cannot be reduced to far right versus far left. It is not accurate to portray every progressive as part of a “woke mob,” nor to claim that both parties pose an equal threat. Only the far right tried to overthrow our government.

Republican rhetoric notwithstanding, neither Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez nor Ilhan Omar was Speaker of the House in the last Congress. President Biden’s legislative accomplishments were and are broadly popular.

The right pretends that Democrats are all radical socialists. The traditional definition of socialism is collective ownership of the means of production. Most Democrats do not support that. We want capitalism with guardrails, and we support social welfare programs. That is not socialism even if you scream it from now til doomsday.

Trump has claimed that Democrats want to turn America into Venezuela. There is considerably more evidence that Trump wants to turn America into Hungary or North Korea. Trump in the White House again would be bent on revenge and destruction of our constitutional republic. You don’t have to believe me; just listen to Liz Cheney. A President DeSantis would likely be worse, since he is vicious and ruthless but not insane.

The problem for the GOP is not that Americans have abandoned the free markets Republicans have long championed, but that those markets are increasingly diverse and are challenging the exclusive control long taken for granted by white males.

The equality our Founders raised as a guiding principle was never meant to apply, for example, to the more than six hundred human beings owned by the man who wrote the most liberating words in history — the people whose unrequited toil supported Mr. Jefferson’s wealth and lifestyle on Monticello.

The Enlightenment values that stirred pride in many of us as children have always had a gaping hole through which millions of Americans have fallen since our nation’s birth, whose descendants are being targeted anew for erasure in our textbooks as we approach our semiquincentennial in 2026.

The white nationalism that calls itself Christian despite bearing no resemblance to the teachings in the Gospel — like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and welcoming the stranger — is designed to exclude large portions of our population from the freedoms that demagogues like DeSantis endlessly crow about.

An answer presents itself if we would only open our eyes and look. The younger generation confidently insists on being granted the birthright of equality that our nation has long claimed as its creed.

This fresh water from an old well is exemplified by charismatic state representative Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia. He is the subject of a new documentary film, “Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn,” covering his profile-raising campaign for the U.S. Senate last year, and his loving marriage to Dr. Matthew Jordan-Miller Kenyatta.

The opportunities facing us are too great, and the threats too serious, for us to be complacent. We must seize the moment, daring to see and be inspired by one another and electing leaders to serve our vision. As Kenyatta says, do not wait your turn.

Malcolm Kenyatta is the subject of a new documentary “Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn”.