Scott McCall

Jan 27, 2021

5 min read

Multicultural Fable: Mobs, the Mob, and Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo on his last day at the State Department

Hermes Thrice Great is credited with the axiom “as above, so below”. Nothing in our world is exempt from duality. The mantra this is not who we are is no exception — this is who we are.

In order to move this country toward unity, we need to first recognize the inescapable truth that opposites can be simultaneously true. Be it a person or nation, our capacity to reconcile our opposites starts with our ability to see them. Unwittingly, our former Secretary of State recently shined a light on such an American shadow, a manifestation of both his and our nation’s unrecognized equal and opposite truth.

In a farewell tweet, Mr. Pompeo inexplicably disparaged multiculturalism. How could a Secretary of State, a descendent of Italian emigrants be opposed to something that birthed him, that formed him? How could he speak in a manor devoid of any recognition of the anti-Italianism his paternal great-grandparents experienced upon their arrival? They emigrated to the United States only a few years after one of the seminal events in our Nation’s anti-Italianism history of which there were many.

On 14th of March, 1891, a mob numbering in the thousands broke into the Parish Prison in New Orleans and committed one of the largest mass lynching’s ever — 11 Italian Americans were murdered.

The tragedy of this event was simultaneously remarkable and unremarkable. It was unremarkable because, like in nearly all lynchings in our history, no one was ever charged. It was also unremarkable because the mob was devoid of people of color.

What made it remarkable was respected American civic leaders proclaimed it righteous. The man who organized the mob would go on to be Governor of Louisiana, John Parker. Parker said at the time Italians are “just a little worse than the Negro, being if anything filthier in their habits, lawless, and treacherous”. Our soon-to-be-President Teddy Roosevelt described this event as “a rather good thing”.

Like the mob outside of Parish Prison, our Pompeo fable starts with mobs. Ironically this is the good news part of our tale because it’s the one inflection point of our multi-culture where our opposites can start to reconcile. I don’t like your rioting and looting ANTIFA mob; I don’t like your insurrectionist Proud Boy mob. Mobs bad. Check.

The Mob in our tale represents the bigoted cultural stereotype. Perhaps another easy point of agreement — the Italians didn’t invent crime. Check.

And then there is our protagonist, Secretary of State Pompeo, an Italian American disparaging America’s multiculturalism, the loins from which he is descended. Viewed as evidence of what Jung describes as one’s shadow, it is clear Mr. Pompeo has a lot of individuating to do. But, how does one’s psyche so profoundly disconnect from its multicultural heritage? Pope Francis apparently has some insight, but he’s not sharing. I’ve personally never heard of a Pope declining to meet with an American Secretary of State, but I digress.

In calling out multiculturalism, Secretary Pompeo shined a light on his and our nation’s shadow, one of bigotry, and for that we should be grateful. Arguably, bigotry is the equal and opposite of a functional multi-culture, one to which America has always aspired. I believe Mr. Pompeo has provided us with the tonic this nation so desperately needs now. A shared truth around which we can begin to reconcile. John Winger in the movie Stripes summarized it best:

“We are all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts!… But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more loveable than the mutt.”

America is proudly the most multicultural country in the world. Why? Because the Founders designed it that way — the melting pot. The greatest nation building experiment ever, ours is an alchemical endeavor to change diversity into gold. We ARE multiculturalism and our beautiful mongrelism is our gold.

The World doesn’t admire America because of what we have, they admire us for what we’ve crafted — a multi-cultural bounty of creativity and ingenuity. That’s what is most admired about America, our jambalaya stew that tastes like jazz and rock-and-roll. The place where a penniless visionary immigrant from Croatia can surpass his American boss to become the father of modern electricity. Where variety is truly the spice of life.

How did multiculturalism become a bad thing in a land of mutts? Right now, one answer is this truth is lost in the fog created by our wired media universe of opposing truths. We literally live in separate universes of news cycles, one after the other, while COVID death counts, riots, and insurrectionists scroll across the screen.

Be us citizen or pundit, in crisis our first impulse is to take a side. There is little time to reflect and the torrent of breaking news only serves to harden our resolve. In dangerous times, such resolve becomes nearly impregnable. Such is our time.

But, what is the inflection point now where we could bridge our impregnable barriers of self-reinforcing truth buckets? Our fable suggests to start with disowning our mobs. We all know the difference between protest and rioting. Let’s agree the means does not justify the ends and tyranny in the cause of liberty is never justified.

Another inflection point is simple recognition of our shared history of bigotry be it blatant or nuanced. We all propagate some form of bigotry and we are all in some level of self-denial. MAGA people are racists; liberals are socialists, Democrats support looters and rioters, Republicans support insurrectionists.

Limiting speech will not change beliefs, but modifying it just might. One thing is for certain, if one believes our country’s ills are because of they or them, then one is not likely to take responsibility for us and ours.

Secretary Pompeo is no doubt proud of his heritage, but to lose sight of one’s heritage, the good, the bad, and the ugly, is to lose sight of how we got here and the distance we have yet to travel together as Americans. I look forward to my journey with you Mr. Secretary.

P.S. Mr. Secretary, capitalism is an ism, but thanks again for another beautiful Freudian slip. Robber barons vs unions. Let’s talk about it.