Joe Biden owes half of America an apology for calling them racists

Speaking in Atlanta last week, President Joe Biden made a startling declaration: those who disagree with him about how best to ensure the integrity of the American electoral process, he told Americans, are modern-day Confederates, racist traitors who are supporters of slave-holding rebel president Jefferson Davis.

If I could, I would tell President Biden about the history of my family — a family of Americans who disagree with him, and whom he now condemns as racist traitors.

My father served in the United States Army from 1942 to 1945.  A grandchild of immigrants, and the only child of an aged widow, he answered the call gladly when his nation needed him.  Raised in extreme poverty, he saw Army life as a step up — he actually thought Army food seemed decent, and there was usually plenty of it — and he was happy to do what his nation asked, willingly risking his life to fight Hitler's racist legions and to stop the spread of the racist ideology of Nazism.

The Nazis had lots of opportunities to kill him.  He was shot at, strafed, and bombed in North Africa, on the island of Sicily, later at Anzio, and then in France.  Four times he was decorated for bravery in combat.  To the extent that he ever had a "safe space" in those years, it was usually right behind a dual 40 mm anti-aircraft mounting.

Like so many of his generation of citizen-soldiers, he was a humble man.  He rarely talked, and never boasted, about his military service or his awards.  No bumper stickers for him.  He simply took it for granted that every healthy young man defended the nation in a time of need.  I learned the story of his service career only after his death, when our family had to settle his final affairs with the Veteran's Administration.  Were he alive today, I think he might wonder why our current president thinks his family could ever be on the side of racists.

His ancestors, in turn, might be even more surprised than he would be to learn that, because some of us disagree with Joe Biden and the Democratic Party on a matter of policy, we are all now Jeff Davis–supporters.  Two of them volunteered during the Civil War to fight in a regiment of Illinois infantry, battling Davis's rebel forces in Mississippi — risking their lives, as my father did, to answer America's call in a struggle to bring down a racist political system.

            These parts of this American family's history are not so unusual.  I have no doubt that tens of millions of other loyal Americans can produce ancestors who, like mine, literally risked their lives fighting racist regimes.  This is something, it may be noted, that our president himself never had to do.

Despite the objections that many have courageously expressed, it is hard not to feel that the truly twisted nature of this president's Atlanta accusation has been underappreciated.  Those millions who dare to have a different opinion about this important issue, he insisted, are all seditious racists.  Our president has called me, and all our family who feel as I do, racist traitors to our country.  Meanwhile, the men and women in this American family of seditious racists have shown themselves willing to sacrifice and to fight in support of our country's wars for more than 150 years. 

A particularly bitter irony attaches to Biden's words in light of his posturing as the candidate of "unity" during America's last election.  It is tempting to take the charitable view and dismiss the president's vile slander as the raving of a man now clearly in the grip of dementia.  This is not an unreasonable view.  There is increasing evidence to suspect that Biden has truly become non compos mentis.  Quite possibly his words were the mere babbling of a man who is no longer capable of comprehending the meaning of the words that come out of his mouth.  But this does nothing to explain the corrosively destructive response of his many defenders.  When asked about the president's words, his press secretary could respond only by invoking Donald Trump.

Granted, President Trump said many harmful things, and he made statements that many of us believe did damage to our national political culture.  But Donald Trump never uttered any statement that was more deeply false, more harmfully divisive, and in many senses more profoundly evil than Biden's invitation to regard all of those Americans who disagree with him as violent, racist traitors to our nation.

Those of us who differ with this president about voting legislation have not betrayed America. Far from it.  Instead, we have been betrayed by a president who incites hatred against those who disagree, and who libels, marginalizes, and stigmatizes our contributions to, and our love for, this land.  He owes all Americans a heartfelt apology.

Image: Marc Nozell via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

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