What Will They Say Tomorrow?

            I do not know what to think of all that I am seeing.

            I find it difficult to watch people wave American flags, and hear the president say that his followers are patriots, when he is dismantling our democracy, threatening to cut off financial aid to “blue” or “Democrat” states and saying out loud that he wants his political opponents to be arrested, and disregarding and disrespecting one of the freedoms of Americans – the right to protest.

            His racism was apparent from the moment he announced his candidacy for president. People were not aghast; they cheered him on. Mexicans were rapists and “very bad people.” White people who bombed churches were “very good people.” Black Lives Matter protests were reason to send out the National Guard.  (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/05/08/very-fine-people-charlottesville-who-were-they-2/) (https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-37230916) (https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/17/trump-black-lives-matter-1619-project-417162)

And in this nation of Christians, he is being cheered on and encouraged.

            I have the most uncomfortable feeling that he wants people to die from COVID-19., (https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/04/politics/trump-covid-death-toll-is-what-it-is/index.html), and that he does not care how many people get sick.

            I have shivered as he and his partner in government dissolution, Sen. Mitch McConnell, have ushered in a new US Supreme Court justice who may well be the deciding vote to end the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well as be a tool, along with other Conservative judges, to use the Court to steal the election from Vice President Biden, should he win.

            He is involved in every part of this government which was created to be independent of the Executive Branch, from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to the FBI, to the Justice Department. Why in the world is the CDC listening to and being driven by this man who has no medical training, and whose decision makers are helping to guarantee that more and more people get COVID-19? 

            He demands loyalty to him, not to the government. He says “our country,” but the “our” is not inclusive. His “our” is in reality a small group of wealthy, primarily white people, but he caters to a sector of this country who he thinks and believe walk in a constant state of woundedness and anger because they think other groups have been treated better than have they.

            His fascination and deference to dictators, including Vladimir Putin but not exclusively him, makes me think that he is getting daily lessons from them on how to dismantle democracy. It is no secret that dictators think very little of democracy. Putin’s ambitions of destroying our democracy is no secret. (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/06/putin-american-democracy/610570/)

            White Evangelical Christians love him. This group, which in the past has claimed moral superiority over just about everyone, has descended into the mud of injustice and inequality, apparently believing that a Conservative judge on the US Supreme Court is more important than following the Great Commandment. (https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/white-evangelicals-love-trump-aren-t-confused-about-why-no-ncna1046826). (Recently, some evangelicals have been vocal in their opposition to the president, saying they’ve been manipulated.) (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/12/christianity-today-trump-removal/603952/)

            While he gives horror stories of what will happen to America if Biden wins, the truth of the matter is that the horror is with us now. He has no platform other than fanning the flames of dissension and anger as he works to appeal to the latent racism of many white people, including “white housewives.” (https://www.npr.org/2020/07/26/895228366/trumps-trying-to-appeal-to-real-housewives-and-white-suburbs-but-they-re-declini) He is appealing to those who are afraid of black people, and who believe the worst about them. He wants them to remember how things used to be, when “the suburbs” was a euphemism for white people living away from colored people, apparently unaware that “the suburbs” have vastly changed, even as white people invade the space in which black, brown, and poor people have traditionally lived, the so-called “urban” areas. Gentrification is a growing trend. 

            This president is not an honest man, and apparently, his sycophant Republican senators know it but are afraid to say anything out loud. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/a-gop-senators-guide-to-a-trump-scandal-1-say-youre-troubled-2-keep-walking/2017/05/16/1b0ff5ec-3a66-11e7-a058-ddbb23c75d82_story.html)  They are abandoning the country they swore to protect and defend. And they don’t care.

            It’s troubling to watch. People in this country who lived in dictatorships have sounded the alarm, but those in power are not listening. (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/dem-rep-harley-rouda-draws-elaborate-comparison-between-hitler-and-trump-we-should-all-be-fearful) (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/01/23/two-years-trump-has-been-undermining-american-democracy-heres-damage-report/)

            I keep thinking that someone in the ranks of the GOP is going to wake up and speak out, not someone who has already sacrificed their job and has left the Senate, but someone who is there, who sees and hears what is going on. But the brave seem not to exist.

            I am holding my breath as Election Day approaches. If there is not a landslide victory for Joe Biden, it is a sure thing that this president will use the US Justice Department (which does not work for justice for Americans, by the way), the US Supreme Court, rich friends and Twitter to whisk him back into office.

            He is tearing this country apart. I wonder what his supporters will feel when they see the destruction he has wrought. Even without winning the election, he has run a bulldozer through all that is normal and decent. What will they say when they cannot get health care or find that their pre-existing conditions will not allow them to get health care? What will they say when their gay children have their rights taken away and when openly racist language is forgiven?

            They might be saddened, but it will be too late.

            And as I think about it, I wonder what it was that was worth so many people connecting to a man who does not love “our” country but who is, as corrupt leaders do everywhere, using the people to enhance and increase their own wealth?

            They might cry out; they might want to apologize, but “I’m sorry” is a lame phrase oftentimes, especially when the offense has been great. What will they say? And to whom will they say it?

There will be few, if any, who will have the appetite to listen or to care.

           A candid observation …

            

Yearning for “Normal”

           The restrictions under which we have all had to live since the outbreak of the coronavirus have been difficult and inconvenient. We took so many things for granted: being able to get together with friends and families at restaurants or at home, visiting our sick loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes, having funerals, going to church, going to movies or concerts or plays…all of that was a part of our normal and daily lives. We didn’t realize how convenient and easy things were for us. 

            “Normal” as far as the way things used to be, however, is gone. Too many lives have been unalterably changed. Businesses have shut down – not only due to the virus but also to natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, and wildfires and other natural disasters. Too many people have lost their jobs. The very wealthy are doing well, but the masses of people are suffering in ways they have not done before.

            Our government, too, has changed. Some people approve of everything this president is doing, but it is safe to say that a larger group of people do not. We have a president who, despite disrespecting and disregarding the law as it pertains to him and his problems, touts that he is the “law and order president,” a gaslight for the practice of police using force against Black people. The phrase was used by Richard Nixon in the 60s, when police force was justified in trying to quell Black people and their white allies protesting for their civil and human rights but was actually originally coined by Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon’s predecessor, according to historian Elizabeth Hinton. Johnson, says Hinton, used the phrase as he put more money into policing as opposed to social welfare programs, but we seldom hear that story. Regardless of its origins, Nixon, who was corrupt, too, sidestepped the law in his own actions even as he promoted harsh action and prison time for Black people and protesters in general – until his own lawlessness caught up with him. (https://time.com/5846321/nixon-trump-law-and-order-history/

            This president has sullied the important relationships this country has had with important allies, including Germany, France, and Canada, while engaging in bodacious courting of authoritarian leaders of countries this country has never claimed as “friends,” including North Korea, Russia, Hungary and China. It’s scary to think of what would happen if this country got into a dangerous threat of our national security, one which would require the support of allies. At this point, it does not seem that they would “be there” because this president has insulted them even as he has pulled this country out of the circle of friends it has had for so long.

            The president has nearly completely dismantled the government as he has worked to put all power in the Executive Branch. When he was elected, aide Steven Miller said in an interview that the president has “total power,” something that the reporter on that day challenged and debunked. But this president has worked consistently, if not so quietly, to make Miller’s statement true. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljz8y2qX1f4) People keep saying the president “doesn’t have a plan” when it comes to issues that many are concerned about, but that is not totally accurate. He does, in fact, have a plan. He is, in fact, “draining the swamp” as he promised, filling it with sycophants who will do whatever he says. He is forming an authoritarian regime, and is doing it quite effectively. Things already are not “normal” as we have known them, and will not be.

            And then there is America’s race problem. It has never been addressed or “fixed,” and the world knows it. Nations that have always been considered to be the adversaries of the United States are using the “race problem” and targeting black people to help cause confusion and more division in a country which was already horribly cracked. The president, though he says he is the “least racist person you will ever meet,” has and is openly courting white terrorist groups, including the Proud Boys, stoking their anger and encouraging them to do what they do to “protect” their president and their country. Armed white people who believe that America was made by white people for white people are fighting just as hard against those protesting police brutality as they did when they fought against Black people working to end segregation and to have the right to vote.

            It is sickening to see and to experience. And it is scary.

            There will never be the America that was before the pandemic and before this president. The covers have been thrown off of America’s issues and problems. Even if this president loses the election, what he has birthed will continue to grow; it cannot be put back in the bottle. The courts have been stacked with young white people who believe as he does. I am not quite sure where the money will come from to help the masses who will still be unemployed or underemployed due to his horrific leadership in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, but it is clear that some of the benefits Americans have grown to depend on – from healthcare thanks to the Affordable Care Act, to Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security – are in danger.

            After every major wave of history in our societies, there is change. Some of them are good, others are not. The going belief is that “good” eventually triumphs over evil, that the suffering of the masses will be reversed as the activists continue to push for justice. But sometimes, the change is slow. It is almost always very painful.

            What is birthed after America gets through this time remains to be seen, but clearly, what was “normal” as we all knew it is gone.

            A candid observation …

Who’s Rigging the Election, Really?

Listening to the White House occupant talk about how the election “will be rigged” if “universal mail-in voting” is allowed is so wrong that it is ludicrous.

0d86bc67-a7e8-48f1-8436-937ba4279e7f-large16x9_Mailboxes
A mainstay of our lives

People – most especially elderly white people and men and women serving in the military – have historically voted absentee. Black people have historically chosen not to submit absentee ballots because of the hard-fought fight to get the right to vote and because of general distrust of the system which for so long kept them from the polls. Republicans/Conservatives have, on the other hand, benefitted greatly politically in spite of or maybe because of their submitting absentee ballots. (https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2020/0803/Distrust-haunts-Black-US-voters-Go-vote-or-use-mail-in-ballots) (https://www.npr.org/2020/04/11/831978099/even-as-trump-denounces-vote-by-mail-gop-in-florida-and-elsewhere-relies-on-it)

This president has certainly done a lot of projecting; so many times when he says something will happen “if” someone else is in office, or “if” someone else had been elected, it has turned out that what he is decrying is being done or has been done by his own administration. As an example, he has said that the country will not be safe if Biden is elected, when it has been his administration that has sent secret police into cities where people are protesting with no way to hold them accountable, relying on tactics that are widely used by authoritarian countries.

(https://ijr.org/trump-says-there-will-be-no-safety-if-biden-is-elected-president/) (https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2020/06/19/president-trump-the-whole-country-will-be-minneapolis-if-biden-elected-president/)

We all know his strategy. He specializes in calling people names, playing the race card at every turn, and lying about everything.

But what he is doing now is particularly heinous and disturbing. Even as he rails against states allowing all people to vote by mail if they choose because of the coronavirus, saying such policies will ensure wide and deep voter fraud, he is himself rigging the election – in his favor – by attacking and working to destroy the United States Postal Service

I was among the many who were appalled at pictures showing trucks taking mailboxes away – to somewhere – after they had been lifted from public outdoor spaces. (https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2020/08/usps-removes-mailboxes-in-portland-and-eugene-cites-declining-mail-volume.html), although, because of public objections, the administration has said it will stop removing them until after the election. (https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/14/politics/usps-removes-letter-collection-boxes-reduces-post-office-operating-hours/index.html)

The new postmaster general, a major donor to the Trump campaign, has authorized the removal of mail sorting machines and is cutting down overtime hours for postal employees. An example of what happened in Kansas is emblematic of what is happening in other states. (https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article244967820.html)

The result of these shenanigans is that people are becoming worried about and afraid of voting. Many people – myself included – are not about to mail their ballots in, but will opt to find a ballot box into which to drop it, but even at that, they are not sure that their ballot will be counted. Some ballot boxes are being removed; in Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose ordered that there can be just one ballot box in each county, his response to the request that the counties be allowed to install more ballot boxes in light of the post office fiasco. (https://www.cleveland.com/open/2020/08/ohio-secretary-of-state-frank-larose-no-extra-ballot-drop-boxes-for-november-election.html)

It is said that organized people can beat organized money, and if ever there was a time for people to organize, it is now. It is clear that the election is being rigged right before our eyes, with a spirit of arrogance that is as maddening as it is real. There is a need for people to register, yes, but also a need for people to organize in their communities to figure out how to beat the powers and principalities that are working to thwart the gains made in voting rights over the last 50 years. Tellingly, Larry Kudlow, economic advisor to the federal administration, said this week that “voting rights is a liberal, left-wing list.” Kudlow said that “voting rights is not our thing. (https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/kudlow-white-house-voting-rights-election-2020-1044221/)

But it is the thing of a people who have been fighting for the right to vote ever since the end of the Civil War. If there is one thing we as Black Christians like to quote, it is the scripture found in the Book of Isaiah, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment, you shall condemn.”

It is time to organize as we have never organized before – not just black people, but all people who are not wealthy, white, and too often, Protestant and male.

Americans have to stop denying what we are seeing before our very eyes – a president and a group of wealthy men who care so little about the democracy and the people who have made them wealthy that they dare obstruct our right to vote.

Many of the ancestors are crying out the words that the late Rep. Elijah Cummings said his mother said on her dying bed, “Don’t let them take away our right to vote.”

So let it be said. So let it be done.

A candid observation…

 

 

 

 

When What Is Broken Cannot Be Fixed

Sometimes, something is so broken that it cannot be fixed; it must be replaced.

Not long ago, I got into my car and tried to start it up. Nothing happened. So, I figured my battery was dead – puzzling to me because it was fairly new – but that’s the only reason I could figure out why it would not start. I called AAA and the tech tested the battery and said it was fine. Something else was wrong.

He tinkered around a bit and finally figured out that the gear shift wasn’t completely locked in the “Park” position. He was able to move it to “Neutral” and the car started. He said something was wrong but that as long as when I was driving it I kept it in “neutral,” even when I parked it, it would be OK.

I was comforted, because I had a lot to do, and one of the things I was doing at that time was driving Uber. I had lost a couple of clients because of the car, but once I found out what was wrong, I was on my way. I picked up a group of college kids on their way to Central America. We talked and laughed and when we got to the airport, I did what I always did: I put the car in “Park.”

As soon as I did it I knew I was in trouble. I couldn’t move it to “neutral.” Whatever that AAA tech had done (he had finagled something) I could not do. And so I was there, stuck in the airport. I called AAA and they couldn’t do whatever they had done before. I had to have the car towed.  I had been sitting in that space for two hours waiting for the tow truck, only to be told they could do nothing.

I took the car to a mechanic recommended to me by a friend. I had purchased a new gear shift component since that’s what the first AAA person had said was defective. But when the new part was put into the car, it was still impossible to put the car into gear.

The mechanic was puzzled, and so he asked me to give him some time to explore and see what was going on. Several hours later, he called and said, “The gear shift parts are being held together by zip ties,” he said, “and it looks like one of them got loose.”

Zip ties? This was a 2006 car. I had never had any problems, so this was major, but zip ties? The mechanic said that this problem had probably occurred before and it was decided to “fix” it with zip ties.

The part was not fixable, he said. He replaced the old zip ties with new ones and said I should be OK, but I was rattled. The idea that something so vital for the life and operation of the car was being held together with zip ties was scary. The part was not fixable, and a new part was more expensive than the car was worth, and so I had to get a new car.

Sometimes, things that are broken are not fixable. As this nation grapples with the explosion of rage and anger and hurt and grief that is spilling onto our streets and around the world, I keep hearing people say, “we need to heal.”

Yes, we do, but we cannot heal with the toxic, broken system that is the legacy of America still in place. We have been applying zip ties to issues of human rights and human decency since the inception of this country. The zip ties re-worn; we cannot shift ourselves back into “normalcy.” Our foundation needs to be replaced, and only then when the possibility of the same poisonous, degrading, oppressive behaviors and practices never being thrust before us again can we begin to talk about healing. The wounds doled out by the oppressive system have taken all the band-aids, all of the “zip ties” they can handle, and now the oozing of pain will not stop. The system needs to be “done over” so that the glorious words of freedom and justice and liberty for all can be realized.

Nobody ever wants to start over. It is cheaper to “fix” than it is to “replace,” but when replacement is due, it is due. Fixing will no longer work.

Perhaps someone will understand that this nation and its people are at a crisis point that is going to demand more than conversations and task forces and the changing of offensive African American images on syrup bottles and boxes of rice to images that do not remind everyone of the knee that white supremacist practices have had on the necks of all of us – white as well as black – since the Founders put together the Constitution.

The Rev. Dr. James Forbes said, in a recent interview with Bill Moyers, that white people do not even realize all they are missing by refusing to be in community with African Americans, but he said the question must be asked of them, “Haven’t you had enough? Isn’t 400 years of you sucking the lifeblood out of us enough?”

Hopefully, the answer is yes. Hopefully, we can take the zip ties out of the gut of our nation and work to become a nation where all people are valued.

A candid observation …

(c) Susan K Smith

Your Whiteness Will Not Protect You

Whenever there is social unrest, artists – including writers, poets, essayists, musicians, dancers, spoken word specialists, painters …come out. They come out and express through their talents and gifts the soul of those who does not have that capacity.

Many new songs and written pieces have emerged during this troubling time in America – caused first by the invasion of the coronavirus, and then by the shooting deaths of three black people – Armaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – whose situations made the news. Arbery was shot in cold blood by white vigilantes, and Taylor and Floyd were killed by police officers.

And though I have wanted to write, I have not been able to. The grief I feel is so deep, unlike any grief I have felt in my life as I have worked to try to expose, explain, and eliminate as much racism as possible by teaching people what is up, why history matters, and that they have the power to change things.

But this grief is different. It is a grief that began when Donald J. Trump became president. From the beginning, I could see that he was bad news for black and brown people. His mere presence, his arrogance, his lying, his disregard for America and America’s constitution, his sexism, his race-baiting, and his tacit encouragement of racial violence, got into my soul early on.

More than that, the number of people following him, lifting him up as some kind of messiah, saying that he either was God or was sent here by God, boggled my spirit, and the silence of white evangelicals bore a hole into a part of me that had made me believe that though their theology was different from mine, they still had – somewhere – some basic Christian principles. They claimed to be Christian, after all.

But since his election, I have seen nothing but the eroding of the gains all kinds of groups and individuals have made. I have seen GOP senators, representatives, mayors, governors, and cabinet members bow at his feet. I have cried out loud as I have watched his attorney general run roughshod over the justice he is supposed to seek. I have watched this president silence those who have sought to report dangerous happenings in the government, and put in place sycophants who are more afraid of him and what he will do than they are concerned with the lives of the people of this country.

I think the breaking point came last week, as that video of the white officer killing George Floyd by keeping his knee on his neck, did it – put my soul in this place of deep grief. The murder itself was horrendous, but it was the smug expression on that officer’s face (I refuse to use his name) that got to me. It told the story of white supremacist thinking and attitudes that have always existed. His face said, “I can do what I want and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.” His face said, “yeah, I hear this man begging for his life, but I don’t have to listen to him and I will say that his demise was his own fault.” That expression said, “I am a cop and I can do whatever I want,” and his expression said, “Fuck you all.”

I still shudder as I remember how his face got to me. I shudder when I think of how this president has said nothing publicly to comfort that man’s family or the families of the other black people who have essentially been lynched. While he urged the Michigan governor to speak to and negotiate with white men with assault weapons who stood in her capital building, angry because of the “shelter in place” rules, he has called those who are angry because they are tired of black people being dehumanized, criminalized, and eliminated – either by poverty or by law enforcement.

The president is making no bones about wanting to mobilize those who have been craving a war between the races for some time. His militarization, or deeper militarization of law enforcement, is sickening, and the silence of his sycophants is even more sickening. He is working to undo this government and his friends in high places are helping him. His jaunt to St. John’s Episcopal Church after law enforcement forced peaceful protestors out of LaFayette Park with tear gas was gut-wrenching to watch. His bodacious and disrespectful pose in front of the church holding a bible – and the silence of evangelicals about it – is still sickening to think about. His calling peaceful protesters “terrorists” while ignoring the very real and disturbing presence and work of white nationalist and supremacists is not surprising, but troubling.

He is standing on and in his whiteness.

But I have to say this: Your whiteness will not protect you. People who are white are going to suffer just like black and brown people. Your whiteness will not protect you from poverty, illness, and the inability to get health care or necessary medicine. Your whiteness will not exempt your children and loved ones from getting COVID-19, because the virus, unleashed, doesn’t give a damn about one’s race, ethnicity, or political persuasion. Your whiteness will not keep you from suffering because you cannot get unemployment benefits – and ultimately, to the politicians – your whiteness will not protect you from being voted out of office. James Baldwin said that people make a moral decision to be white – meaning, they choose to lie in the comfort of the false construct called white superiority, enabling them to ignore the people around them.

But it will not protect you, because viruses spread. Just as the coronavirus is spreading, so is the virus of racism. The infection may not have reached you yet, but it will, and when it does, I hope you have enough chutzpah to endure it. History says you won’t. You have gotten so comfortable in your whiteness that you have grown weak; you have not had to exercise and strengthen the spiritual muscles the oppressed have had to develop. You will feel the pain you have inflicted on others. What you have put into the universe will not only come back to you, it is on its way now.

A candid observation.