Actor Billy Porter: No, America isn’t ‘better than this’ — but there’s still room for ‘collective healing’
A phrase that critics of President Donald Trump often use is, "America is better than this." But actor Billy Porter, in a biting yet hopeful op-ed published in the Daily Beast on October 26, explains why he "hates" hearing that phrase — and why he believes that the United States can improve if it votes Trump out of office.
The 51-year-old Porter argues, in essence, that the problem with the phrase "America is better than this" is that it implies that racism, inequality and oppression started with the Trump era — which, as a gay African-American man, he finds ridiculous.
Porter argues, "Let me be clear right up front: America is not now, nor have we ever been, better than this…. We are a country founded on the plunder and genocide of a people who were already occupying this land, and a country built on the backs of a people stolen from their homeland, shackled on ships, and brought here to be enslaved."
The actor continues, "I'm a Black gay man living in this mess of America every day of my life. My rights and humanity have been up for legislation from the moment I could comprehend thought. And while 'tis true that American slavery was abolished in 1865, in 2020, many of us remain enslaved…. Ain't never been no peace for me: a Black, gay man living in America."
But Porter's op-ed does not have a defeatist tone — far from it. The actor encourages Americans to fight oppression, and Step 1 is voting.
"Y'all wanna know how Hitler happened?," Porter writes. "This is how that shit happened. And yeah, I'm cussin'! Cause I'm sick of begging people to vote. I'm sick of beggin' folks to participate in democracy. Voting is one of the only powers we have as American citizens. My ancestors died for us to have this right. Voter suppression is also psychological — to make one think their vote doesn't matter and create apathy around engagement is the point. So, I'ma beg one last time: Vote. Please."
Porter goes on to say that voters have to end Trump's quest for "absolute power."
"As long as I can remember," Porter explains, "power has been the only goal of Republicans, whatever the cost — from trickle-down economics, to mass incarceration, to stealing Supreme Court seats, and everything else. And as we have seen the entire Republican Party in the last four years, with few exceptions, line up behind this malignant narcissist lock, stock and barrel, it's become clear that to reign in absolute power has always been the plan, and the vessel to get there matters not. The GOP has been playing the long game, and the rest of us got played."
The actor wraps up his op-ed by stressing how important it is to vote Trump out of office next week.
"My hope is that all the citizens of America finally own our power, and understand that when we all vote, we can show the rest of the world what collective healing looks like," Porter writes. "Are we better than this? We'll find out on November 3. Biden/Harris 2020, bitches!"
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