The Contagion of Evil

             When Donald Trump became a candidate for president of the United States, there was a fairly substantial number of Republicans who pushed back against his rhetoric, his name-calling, and his general disregard for diplomacy and decorum.

His fellow candidates decried his lack of character. This man was no serious contender, they seemed to suggest. He was compared to a used car salesman; candidate Ted Cruz called him a “pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” and a “narcissist.” The battle was brutal. Nothing, though, that Trump said or did riled his supporters, his almighty “base.” There was no lie, no insult, no racial or sexual slur, no put-down of American heroes – nothing – that could pull them from his side, and he won. (https://www.cnn.com/2016/05/03/politics/donald-trump-rafael-cruz-indiana/index.html)

And now, most of the Republicans who criticized him are glued to his side, seeking his help and support, making excuses for him, with no shame.

It is difficult to watch.

What Cruz said about Trump is true: he is, in fact, a pathological liar, and a shameless one at that. But Cruz sucked up to him in order to win his bid for reelection to the Senate, and he won. Lindsay Graham, who had many crass words for Trump, is now acting like his best friend, basically endorsing anything Trump says he wants to do. Mitch McConnell is a shameless sycophant, leading the Senate to honor the president and his wishes over the well-being of the country whose constitution he swore to honor and protect.

The evil of Trump, simply put, spread. The late theologian Walter Wink said that evil is a contagion and said that many people who fight evil will become evil. Specifically, he said, “…the struggle against evil can make us evil and no amount of good intentions automatically prevents this from happening.” (http://www.lqve.org/blog/2018/11/9/the-real-struggle) It seems that the majority of Republicans, who may have prided themselves on being “good” and on the right side of morality, have slipped into Trump’s moat and have found that deep within, they are not all that different from him. Moreover, they do not seem to care; the contagion has infected their very souls.

The partial government shutdown has illustrated the depth of the evil that is bubbling around us. Few of the Republican senators have voiced outrage or concern for the nearly 1 million people who did not get paid. Few have offered any solution which would indicate that they care about or worry about how people are going to get through this economic catastrophe. Graham is on record as having told Trump to go ahead and declare a “national emergency,” not caring about how doing that will seriously undermine the capacity of such an emergency to be called if really needed. (Reports say that there is no “national emergency” on the Southern border.)

Even as discussion about other ways to get the $5.6 billion Trump is asking for, there has been little outrage at the suggestion that money designated to help cities in America hit by natural disasters be redirected to build “the wall.” The so-called “fiscal conservatives” are showing their willingness to spend money at will, and Trump himself said that he doesn’t worry about the consequences of the tremendous debt he is incurring because when that happens, he won’t be around. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-on-coming-debt-crisis-i-wont-be-here-when-it-blows-up.

To not care about those who suffer is evil. To buy into policies that will adversely affect millions of people is evil. To act like your life is the only one that matters is evil. It is as though Trump sneezed and his infected droplets fell all over the souls of the GOP. The evil is spreading, following the path on which other democracies found themselves before they ultimately fell. And the evil is not just spreading among the lawmakers; it is spreading amongst the general population. Extrajudicial, state-sanctioned shootings are not only continuing but increasing; white civilians are calling the police on black people at will; hate crimes are rising, and there seems to be no “doctor in the house,” no lawmaker or judge who is concerned about the decaying of our social fabric.

Walter Wink was right. Evil is contagious, and like a necrotic bacteria, it is eating this country alive.

A candid observation …

 

Make America “Great” Again!

The battle cry for Donald Trump is that he will “make America great again.” He will get the jobs back, he will defeat ISIS, he will build that wall and keep all the illegal Mexican immigrants out, even as he deports literally millions of Muslims from this country.

He will take us back, back to the time when, he says, America was truly great.

When was that? What made America great and for whom was it great?

America may have been “great” when Founding Fathers crafted the concept of democracy, using and relying on the words “all men are created equal and are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights,” which included  “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But from the time of the crafting of the Constitution, it was clear that those words were woefully mythic in nature. The Founding Fathers never intended for some people to be free, to be considered equal, or in the case of African-Americans, to even be considered full human beings.

Nearly every endeavor engaged in by those who “made America great” involved the subjugation, oppression and discrimination against people who were not white and male. Indigenous Americans were killed off; that is called genocide. White women were considered second class citizens, prizes to be used for the sexual fulfillment of their men and to be used as an excuse to indiscriminately lynch black men.

Black people were, simply, the backbone upon which the local and global economy was built. They were objects to be used, traded, and ultimately discarded.

So, given that reality, when was America great? Or, maybe the better question is, “what”  does “great” mean? What is the definition that Trump and his followers are using?

At one of his rallies, Trump ordered a protester out, saying, “remember how it used to be,” and going on to explain people who “caused trouble” were often handled.  (http://www.mediaite.com/online/trump-tells-crowd-to-knock-the-crap-out-of-protesters-offers-to-pay-legal-fees/  ) Wild West” mentality, a man was considered tough by the way he handled his enemies, real or perceived. If he had to take someone out, then so be it. “In the good old days,” Trump mused at one of his rallies, “this didn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough. (http://mashable.com/2016/03/12/trump-rally-incite-violence/#ytvHzFqipiqh)

He is right. In the “good old days,” black people could be and were lynched at worst, or at least badly beaten, for merely being accused of a “crime,” which could be something as petty as being out at the wrong time of night. In those “good old days,” African Americans returning from battle in World Wars I and II were treated like common criminals, often being beaten by whites while still in uniform. Brutal, barbaric lynchings of blacks were carried out by white people as a matter of course, increasing in the time period after Reconstruction, with white perpetrators never having to worry about being held accountable, and with white law enforcement officers often part of the lynch mobs.

In spite of the US Constitution saying that every American citizen had a right to a trial by a “jury of his peers,” black people were almost always tried by all-white juries – which almost always convicted them. After slavery was abolished (except for people who had been convicted of a crime, per the 13th Amendment), white people and white systems sought to criminalize as many black people  as possible, via the Convict Leasing program, which kept blacks virtually enslaved for the duration of their lives.

And so I ask again, when was America so great, and for whom was it great?

Trump knows what he is thinking. His definition of a great America is a time when people did not have to care about, worry about, what black people and brown people and Muslims and Mexicans needed. The great America was a place where women were objectified and used at the discretion of sexually and physically abusive men. “Great America” is a time when white people could enjoy their whiteness basically undisturbed.

That America is long gone; the demographics of this nation have shifted too much. Women have gained too many rights. A way has been made for “the marginalized.” Jobs have been outsourced by business moguls like Trump so that they can realize the greatest profits possible with as little output of capital as possible.  “Great America” is now, as Fareed Zakaria says, “post America.” That idea is scary to everyone, not just white people.

But Trump is seeking the triumph of white male supremacy in an era where the resistance against it is behemoth. Trump is calling the troops for a fight that has been in the losing lane for years. The question is, if Trump wins, and those who want “Great America” back as it was, and it doesn’t come – which it most probably will not – what will they do?

What will America do?

America the beautiful is now America the embattled. Not even Trump can change the course of history that has been in place for generations.

A candid observation …

 

 

Black People and Women, Supporting Trump

donald-trump-comments-about-women-excuses

It makes no sense to me at all.

Donald Trump, the GOP nominee for president of the United States, has shown himself to be racist and sexist, not to mention xenophobic. Though he visited a black church and participated in worship, he has not shown any real compassion for black lives. He has said he will bring jobs to the inner city, but he has not said how he will do that. He has said that black people have little to lose by supporting him, saying “your schools are lousy,” lifting up the high unemployment rate among black people, and saying that black people cannot walk in their neighborhoods without getting shot. He has said little to nothing about excessive police violence meted out against unarmed black people, resulting in their deaths with police officers not being held accountable. He has not come across as a friend to black people in the United States.

Likewise, he has shown an incredible lack of respect for women since he began his campaign. He bristled and rebelled when Megyn Kelly of Fox News called him on his name calling of women in the first GOP primary debate, and has consistently said that he deeply respects women. But his language and, apparently, his actions in the past and the not so past, have indicated differently. This is a man who has objectified and disrespected both black people and women, and yet, people in both those demographics support him, some vehemently so.

Trump’s racism and sexism seem not to matter, including his sexual advances and indiscretions toward women. His bullying of anyone who has challenged him…seems not to matter. His name-calling seems not to matter. His mocking of people with disabilities seems not to matter. For his core, nothing matters, and it rocks me to my core.

It is inconceivable to me how any woman, and any black person, can support and believe in this man. His words and his actions have opened a door for people to go backwards. His definition of making America “great again” seems to be going back to America’s sexist and racist roots. He comes off as a privileged, selfish white man who never grew up, a bully by whom many people have always wanted to be called “friend.” Black people in this country have always wanted to be a part of the “in crowd” of white people, a group of people many of whom will never accept blacks as being equal to whites. And I can recall women in college who gravitated to the “jocks” because they were popular, because they had money and because they, too, wanted to be a part of the “in crowd.”

Trump has gotten away with his behavior for years, with people giggling and acting like he is OK. He hasn’t changed, as his surrogates have asserted. He is 70 years old. He has not changed and will not. He has been disrespectful toward blacks and women and many other white males his whole life.

In true form, he, an undeniable bully, cannot take what he gives out. He is the ultimate whiner; everybody is doing him wrong; the name-calling and cruelty he began he and his surrogates blame on everybody else.

He is a classic narcissist and bully, and yet, people support him for the office of president of the United States.

I am not so concerned with Donald Trump. He is who he is and has always been and will always be. Those saying that he has changed, that he has “confessed the Lord Jesus” and has truly changed, have their heads in the sand. Trump would turn against Jesus if he heard Jesus call him on his shortcomings. He’s that arrogant.

What I am concerned with is the mass of Americans, blacks and women particularly, who follow him, who adore him, who desire to get close to him and be a part of his inner circle. I find myself wondering what they do, the women, if and when males accost or insult their daughters. Are they silent? Do they encourage their daughters to just shut up and take it? And I wonder what blacks who support him tell their children and their congregations about how to deal with racism. Do they tell them that it’s not so bad, that “by and by,” when they get to heaven, it’ll all be all right?

Such denial of this man’s decadence is unacceptable. He is grooming a whole new generation of racists and sexists and bullies. America is going backwards to a degree that is scary and troubling. Trump’s damage is deep and will not go away if he doesn’t win the White House. There has been unleashed the arrogance of America’s past, when white men and women felt no compunction at all about racist and sexist behavior; some of his supporters reportedly have said they want to repeal the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote because they are incensed that women may swing the vote away from their beloved candidate.

Does that bother anyone but me? Is America in real trouble? Has the self-hatred carried by blacks and women come to a dangerous day of reckoning?  Has the work toward getting rid of these two “isms,” written into the Constitution, been for nothing?

The more things change, the more they remain the same. This country has been forever changed because of Donald Trump, and two demographics which should have run from him as fast as possible. They did not. They gravitated toward him, and in so doing, unleashed a demon I am afraid will be very difficult to quash.

This country isn’t so democratic. It isn’t so moral. It isn’t so ideal. It’s much like many countries which this country has denounced because of their human rights violations.

Land of the free and home of the brave? Not so much.

A candid observation …

Trump is a Voice for the Frightened

 

When I was invited to preach at a white Episcopal church in Charles Town, West Virginia, the lead priest of that congregation called me to kind of coach me on how to approach the congregation.

Donald Trump

I was/am an educated African American woman. Her congregation was highly educated as well, but there is an issue of which I needed to be aware.

“They’re very sensitive about being talked down to,” she said, going on to explain that many white Southerners feel marginalized and put down by the “elites.” The elites were those with a lot of education, white people, she said, who they felt were always thinking that Southern white people were inferior, uneducated and, frankly, beneath them.

They were thus sensitive to being talked to in a way by an educated person which spewed that sentiment, and they were equally as sensitive about being called racist. Most of them hotly denied that they were racist, and would react badly if anything in my sermon got to that space of emotional pain that many white people, Southerners and Northerners as well, have carried for decades.

I was grateful for the priest’s “warning,” and worked very hard to make sure what I preached about – even though it was about racism – was not in any way an attack or a put down. Racism, I preached, was an aberration of spirit, something which Americans carry without even thinking about it. I worked very hard to illustrate the connectedness of all human beings, the ways in which we are the same regardless of color, before I got into the meat of the message, describing the damage racism does and has always done. It is America’s disease, I preached – not a new sentiment at all – but one which America has yet to acknowledge. And I tied all of what I was preaching about with the story of little Ruby Bridges, the little black girl who for a year sat in a classroom in New Orleans all by herself because racist people would not let their children be near her. I have a gift as a storyteller and worked the story so that the people could find the commonality of experience, the commonality of pain, the commonality of what it is to be a parent.

I think of that Sunday often. Charles Town is the city where John Brown was hanged for inciting an insurrection. It is rich in Southern history, a history which is rich with the stories and experiences of a culture which is racist but which ignores it in the hope of the reality of racism going away. America wants to keep its dirty little secret – which is not so little at all  and which is definitely not a secret- hidden away in a closet, and believes that if the secret stays in the closet, all will be well.

That belief, however, has always been wrong, and the proof that not talking about racism makes it go away is pushing up in the midst of this presidential election cycle. Donald Trump is feeding those who, like the Episcopal priest told me, are sensitive to being called racist and uneducated. A memo circulated by the Trump campaign vowed to concentrate on that group of people. (http://dailycaller.com/2016/08/06/trump-campaign-memo-primary-strategy-was-to-provide-safe-space-for-voters-called-bigots/) They are the ones who are screaming loudest about the “elite” people, those, they believe, who have been in power for too long. Their voices, beliefs and needs have been marginalized, ignored and cast aside for too long, in the quest of being politically correct, and being politically correct has meant “not talking about” racism and how the government, they believe, has done too much for black, brown and poor people, at the expense of white people.

The belief in white supremacy has driven American culture from its inception. After Reconstruction, whites who believed in their supremacy and resented the perception of blacks that they were equal with whites and therefore were owed the same rights, put Jim Crow into effect, effectively thrashing the gains made by black people, especially their right to vote. They believed then and many still do that America is a “white man’s country.” That doesn’t make them racist, they believe. That just makes them American.

No matter what, they have always been able to rely on their skin color to keep them in the running for the American dream, but globalization, making it possible for more people of color to invade what is supposed to be a white space, has weakened their status. They not only see more people of color coming into their land, they read or have heard the reports that by 2043, white people will be the minority in the United States. (https://mic.com/articles/106252/the-year-white-people-will-become-a-minority-in-america-has-been-declared#.TCKjBGUh9)

Donald Trump is speaking to a group of people who are angry, who have been marginalized by a government they think has been too big and too willing to embrace people of different races and religions, and who are seeing their version of white supremacy get more and more watered down. What they want “back” is the America where their status was secure.

That’s not going to happen.

But their fear is something Donald Trump knows. The group to whom he is speaking is vulnerable to his rhetoric, but the truth of the matter is that whites who are educated and who have gained pieces of the American dream are worried as well. “The marginalized” is not so small a group as many would like to believe. America is changing, and not many white people like it at all. Trump knows that, too – that whites of all classes are worried.

And so he is plowing through this campaign saying whatever he wants, challenging what has “always been,” promising that he alone will change the trajectory of a world which has not stood still, white supremacy notwithstanding.

And in his quest to speak to the hearts and concerns of those who feel abandoned and ignored, he is winning.

A candid observation …

 

 

When Black People Don’t Vote

The other day, I was going into a library and as I approached the door, a young man with a clipboard approached me, asking if my voter registration was up to date. As I assured him it was, my ears perked up when the other gentleman with a clipboard asked an African-American woman the same question I had been asked, and she snapped, “Yeah. Naw. I don’t vote!” And at that, she stormed into the library. I followed her and she grumbled to a child who was with her, who may have been her grandchild, “how dare them ask me if my registration is up to date! They don’t question me! If I want to vote, I’ll vote.”

I didn’t know if that meant she had a voter registration card and was just miffed that someone asked her if her information was up to date, or if she really planned not to vote. I don’t have the answer to my own question, but this I do know: it does something to me when I hear black people say they are going to vote.

Last year, I visited Selma. I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As I walked, I remembered reading what happened on that bridge, how black and white people were beaten back by white police officers who beat them, injuring many, including Congressman John Lewis, who was a young man at the time.

As we walked across that bridge, I remembered thinking how chaotic and scary that day or that project had to have been. The bridge is not large; it is not long and it is not wide, and yet, thousands of people, tired of having to take literacy tests given, many times, by people who could not read themselves. I thought about how those people kept hitting against the Evil called white supremacy, being beaten, imprisoned, having their houses burned down by white people, many of who were law enforcement officers…I thought about how people stayed the course and risked their lives and much more, just to get black people the right to vote.

And yet, some people say they will not vote.

I have heard young people say voting doesn’t matter, or, more specifically, that their vote does not matter. I have heard other people blame God, or give God credit, for their not voting. One woman, when I was registering people before the 2008 election, said God told her not to vote, that the only One she had to answer to, was God. No, she said, she would not be voting.

Her statement confused me and bothered me, just as this woman the other day at the library confused and bothered me, and, frankly, made me angry.

I remember growing up, when we kids would do something wrong that made us look like the selfish kids we were, my mother saying, “I’ve done (and she could list the things she had worked and sacrificed for) for you …and this is the thanks I get?

Those words gripped me as I grappled with this woman’s reaction to the question about being up to date with her voter registration information, and her declaration that, “no,” she would not be voting.

How can anyone of African American descent say that?

For many, there is disappointment that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee. They are disappointed because they feel her message was supported by the media, though they feel that her message and candidacy was supported at the expense of Bernie Sanders. Others are angry at her because she supported policies of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, that were responsible for many black people being in prison today for either petty crimes, or crimes they did not commit.

To be honest, I am not wild about Hillary being in the White House, either. I don’t think she is any worse than any other candidate, but I am just not inspired by her campaign promises and rhetoric.

But though I am unimpressed by what she is saying, I cannot choose to skip this election and my by absence, give more votes to Donald Trump. Trump and the Republicans represent the racism, overt racism, that our ancestors fought to be rid of. Trump is a bully,and a narcissistic racist who is appealing to the guy wrenching fear and anger of a group of people who want him to “make America great again.”  I don’t think we as black people understand fully about how being present in the political arena and exercising our right to vote is about the best way to make sure white supremacy is held at bay.

I am hoping black people who are planning not to vote will rethink their plans. Black people don’t win by withholding, or rejecting  their privilege to vote. We have got to be present, in the middle of the cocktail party, so to speak, to make our voices heard and to not let the poison of white supremacy spread across these United States like a toppled jar of non-washable ink. Our ancestors, I keep thinking, must be weeping in their divine sleep, screaming screams that cannot be heard, saying, “No!”

We have come too far, but the powers that be are working to undo those changes, slowly, persistently, and financially. If we don’t vote, we contribute to Trump’s victory. But listen up: We needed the right to vote.  Even if you hate Hillary Clinton, there is or will be more chances to perhaps get people in high places so that the gains we’ve made will not be completely eroded by a group of people who “want their country back.” I don’t know what all that means, but it feels like something that will be designed to break our backs. They are gearing up for the victory of a man who thinks of no one but himself; if we let him in, we suffer; the gains we’ve made will be done away with.

And our ancestors will weep again.

A candid observation..