The scariest thing about all that is going on in our country politically is not the antics and behavior of the president – although he is a troubling reality – but it is the people who are lining up behind this man, willing to throw away everything they worked for in order to prove themselves to be “loyal” to the president. Continue reading “The Scariest Thing”
Like many, I have been troubled by the eruption of the political scandal in Virginia, made public by revelations of racist behavior by the state’s governor and attorney general, and of sexist behavior by the lieutenant governor.
While it appears that the revelations were politically driven, the fact remains that what we learned was troubling. To be honest, I leaned toward wanting the public to give Gov. Ralph Northam a pass. White folks have put on blackface ever since I can recall and have kept live their association with the Ku Klux Klan, though they’ve wanted to keep it a secret. The picture in the yearbook was taken over 30 years ago and to be honest, as this government has given so many accusations of egregious behavior a pass, I shrugged it off. From all reports, Gov. Northam has been an exemplary person and has worked for racial justice.
I was glad that he at first admitted that it was him in the picture we all saw. He apologized and I was done with it. But then he changed his story and I also paid more attention to the “when” of the story. I had originally chalked his actions up to youthful foolishness – something of which we are all guilty – but this picture appeared in the governor’s medical school yearbook. Presumably, the governor and his friends were in their mid-20s, too old for such pranks. And I took issue with the fact that a medical school would even publish such offensive images. And so I changed my mind about chalking it up. And while I believe in the Christian mandate to forgive, I wonder what forgiveness looks like in this instance.
I am still wrestling with what I believe should happen. Something should happen, but I am not sure if I believe it is resignation.
That situation was enough to have to absorb, but then we were hit with the accusation of sexual impropriety toward a young woman by Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. In this era of the #MeToo movement, this type of behavior perpetrated by powerful men has been revealed as being all too common. In spite of how some men have gotten a pass in light of accusations, as was the case with United States Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, many of the men who have been exposed as having been involved in this kind of behavior have lost their jobs, their reputations, and in some cases, their freedom.
I was clear, though sad to feel this way, that Fairfax should resign.
Why am I wrestling with the fate of a white man and resolute on my belief that the black man should resolve? It is partly because with the blackface accusation, I am convinced that many to most white men have a history of racist behavior. It is part of our culture, and I am convinced that many who engaged in such behavior did as they did because of peer pressure. To not join the crowd would set them up to be ostracized from their friends and kids do not handle separation from their friends easily. Even though Northam was older when he allegedly engaged in the prank that was caught on film, it is quite possible he was just trying to “fit in,” and if the Christian mandate to forgive is genuine, we must forgive, not hard to do in light of Northam’s public record of service. Where I shudder is the idea that a medical school, preparing people to take care of all kinds of people, blacks included, would sanction and publish the picture. I would not want to be treated by any doctors from that institution.
But in the case of Fairfax, as much as I want to defend him, I cannot, because sexual aggression toward women has for too long been sanctioned and accepted. Powerful men have for decades abused their power by using sex to intimidate and manipulate women. Their sexist behavior has caused far too many women too much pain, a pain which has been exacerbated by a general tendency in society to disregard the women’s claims of sexual assault. Men have had no reason to curb their impetuous sexual behavior and have taken advantage of the same.
If Fairfax did what he has been accused of, who is to say he would not do it again? In all honesty, there are women who are willing to compromise their bodies and their values for the opportunity to connect with a powerful man, and the men know it. The only way to get men to understand that having male genitals does not give them a pass to do whatever they want is for enough of them to have to face the music and lose something that is important to them. The sex drive is powerful, but it has to be controlled.
I am still offended that Brett Kavanaugh got off and was put onto the US Supreme Court in spite of Christine Blasey Ford’s compelling testimony. Worse, I am still offended that Clarence Thomas was likewise elevated to the nation’s high court in spite of Anita Hill’s accusations against him. Men have for too long gotten away with being sexually arrogant, reckless and impulsive. They have not had to pay the price for damaging so many women (and children as well, both male and female). We have to deal with racism and have always had to; it is systemic and cannot disappear because we want it to. We have to stay on the battlefield and fight against all the ways in which it impacts people of color.
But sexual recklessness, carried out by men, some powerful, some not, needs to be stopped. Men are too willing to give themselves a pass on what they do with their bodies, while they have a little too much to say and opine about what women can and should do with theirs.
As my son would say to his sister when they were little and she was trying to boss him around, “You’re not the boss of me!” so too, we as women, have to be consistent and say to men who disrespect us, “you are not the boss of us!”
A candid observation …
I have smiled, chuckled and laughed out loud as I have watched House Speaker Nancy Pelosi handle the president of the United States.
She has reminded me of my own mother, and of the mothers I have known and watched. Mothers have a way of making known to children – spoiled or not – as to how far they can go. In the case of my own mother, it was a look, accompanied by a particular timbre of her voice, that let me know that I was standing on shaky ground. It was not wise to continue what she obviously considered to be unacceptable behavior when I got “the look” or heard “the voice.”
Speaker Pelosi, the mother of six children and a grandmother, knows how to be a mother as well as how to work the system called politics. As I think back on the day of her swearing-in as speaker, I am moved again at how she called the children to come forward. I was moved to tears that day because it was such a warm moment in what has been a bitterly cold political season, but I was also moved because she was bringing a different spirit into the House of Representatives. It was going to be different. She would handle her political duties, but she would also handle the children in her midst.
As I have watched her handle the president – and that is the correct word for what she has been doing – I go back to seeing those children surrounding her. They were invited into the cradle of political power; they laid their eyes on the woman who would keep things in order and listened to her voice. They watched her use the gavel, the symbol of her power, and they left feeling a kind of assurance we have all felt when we have known our mothers (or mother figures) have shown us that they had things under control.
Without raising her voice or quaking under the pressure and criticism, Speaker Pelosi has told the president what will and will not happen. She has let him know that she will not be bullied. She does not scare easily, and she has not let him objectify her. She seemingly has let him know how far is “far enough,” and he, like a child, has gotten the message. She has acted courageously, firmly letting him know that he will not be allowed to present the State of the Union address in the House chambers, and when he pushed back, like an arrogant jock, she pushed back yet again. Her message: it is not going to happen.
The more petulant he gets, the stronger her resolve becomes. It is as though she is saying that as long as he is in her house that he will follow her rules – or, more accurately, the rules of the American government. It is as though she is saying that if he wants to be an autocrat, he will have to get out of “her house.” As mothers are charged to take care of their children, Speaker Pelosi takes seriously her charge to take care of the American people and the American government.
I find myself comforted by her presence. I find that I give little sighs of relief that there is finally someone in the House who loves this country more than his or her political proclivities. It feels like that as long as Speaker Pelosi is in charge, the train wreck that the president is causing will be less severe. It feels like we may survive this terrifying chapter in American history.
I have been deeply disappointed in the GOP men – and women, certainly, but mostly the men – who have quaked under the president’s bullying. I have been disappointed that they have stood idly by and let him do whatever he has wanted to do, just because they are afraid of being attacked. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a total disgrace. None of these GOP lawmakers have honored their promise to protect the Constitution of the United States. It has been disgusting to watch.
But Speaker Pelosi has let it be known that she is not “fooling” with them. She is a savvy politician, yes, and a woman who knows how to use her power. She remembers the lessons of politics that her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., who represented New Jersey’s 3rdcongressional district and later became the mayor of Baltimore, taught her and she is using them. He taught her how to play political hardball, and she learned well.
And I feel a measure of comfort.
Speaker Pelosi is no saint and is not perfect; that is not my argument. What I am arguing, however, that it has taken a woman to reel in a power-hungry and power-grabbing man who has stopped at nothing to get his way, a man who knows little about politics and who cares little about the American people – including his “base” to which he always directs his rhetoric. He is a stirrer of hatred and bigotry, a man who has no regard for the “rule of law” which he claims to respect.
But in Speaker Pelosi, there is a “mother in the house” who is determined to keep her house in order. She is giving “the look” and sharing “the voice” to remind her adult male children that she is “not fooling with them.”
A candid observation …
This has been a difficult week for Americans. Two cultural heroes – one, a beloved African American songstress and the other, a highly-respected lawmaker – were eulogized.
The airwaves were dominated by footage showing Aretha Franklin in all her glory, singing songs we all love, and Sen. John McCain doing his work as a senator. We heard descriptions of who these two cultural giants were and were reminded of the great contributions they gave to this country, this world, and therefore, to us.
For a week, though we mourned, we could breathe, because, for the first time since the 2016 presidential election, the airwaves were not completely dominated by presidential drama and politics.
The vitriol, the endless offerings of opinion by political pundits, the assault on our spirits caused by the nastiness of this political season was forced to the periphery of the news cycles. When we looked up this week, we would see either Aretha Franklin’s face and hear her amazing musical talent, or we would see the face of Sen. McCain and hear how he cherished his work as a senator and as a man who loved country over party.
It was a relief.
On Friday, though there were news teases offered all day long, many stations carried the funeral of Aretha. It was classic Black Church – comforting and empowering in its delivery of music and hope. Though the funeral lasted most of the day, our spirits were exposed to music and stirring tributes delivered by people who knew and loved this woman.
On Saturday morning, the reprieve continued, as cable news stations showed the McCain family standing at the bottom of the Capitol Building’s hundreds of steps, awaiting the coffin of Sen. McCain to be brought to its hearse. We were “taken” with the family and the hearse to the Vietnam War Memorial where we watched Cindi McCain place a wreath in honor of soldiers who had served and died in the war that resulted in McCain spending five years as a prisoner-of-war, and then “we” went to the National Cathedral for the senator’s funeral.
The funeral took up the morning; we listened to music and to stirring tributes to Sen. McCain. There was no vitriol. There was nobody stating an obvious lie about something and demanding that we believe it. There was no headshot of a president who craves media attention even as he lambasts the media as being an “enemy of the people” which produces “fake news.”
We had peace this week in the midst of the sorrow of two families.
The current administration has drawn on the nerves of the American people, yes, but also on the nerves of people from all over the world who have been dumbfounded by the antics of the president. It has been troubling to see what is going on and how the Congress has allowed it; in spite of people declaring their love for America and democracy, what has been going on feels like our democracy is being attacked and compromised, steering us toward a totalitarian state. It is difficult to watch in and of itself for those who cherish democracy, but even more so as we look at the Congress capitulate to the threats, name-calling, and bullying of this man, seemingly unaware of how their lack of action is putting our democracy in jeopardy.
This administration has been like a soap opera; we wait on a daily basis to see what the president has tweeted; we brace ourselves for the next untruth he says; we know that the assault on sanity will be as negative as are the plots in soap operas which keep people watching, waiting for the next “episode.”
The American government is not supposed to be a soap opera or a reality show. It is supposed to be the vehicle or vessel which directs our paths and helps us navigate the challenges of life. The constant drama does the opposite; instead of feeling secure, we are assaulted on a daily basis with confusion, lies and unnecessary drama.
This week we mourned the loss of two people we loved, gone way too soon, and we were allowed to share in ceremonies celebrating their lives. We were allowed to grieve but we were also allowed to breathe in something other than the toxic fumes being emitted by a toxic administration.
In the midst of ongoing political confusion, the deaths of two celebrated Americans allowed us to forget the craziness that we have endured daily for almost two years. I would bet that for many, the break in the confusion was a welcome change, in spite of the fact that it was brought about by the deaths of two people whom we deeply loved and respected.
A candid observation…
In light of the news of Republican Arizona Senator John McCain deciding not to seek further treatment for his brain cancer, I shared that even though I did not agree with his politics, of one thing I was (and am) sure: He loves America.
The statement got some immediate push-back, with people reminding me of his political record: he was a hawk, he opposed the Affordable Care Act, and most recently, he cast a vote for the president’s tax reform bill, a measure which in my opinion helps only the very wealthy.
I know all of that. But what sticks in my mind is that John McCain has stuck to his beliefs and principles, even when they have been unpopular with his base and with this president. And I will forever respect him for shutting down the ugly lies about his opponent, then-Senator Barack Obama, as whites shared that they were afraid of him and their belief that he was an Arab, or, more specifically, a Muslim.
McCain shut it down – and said that Obama was a good, decent man, which was and is true.
It takes courage to stand up and say what you believe, even when it means you may pay a great cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the book, The Cost of Discipleship, which I refer to quite a bit, and Christians should remember that Jesus the Christ says in the Gospels that whoever wants to be his disciple must deny him/herself, pick up their crosses daily, and follow him.
In defending the character of Obama, when it cost him votes and must criticism, McCain was living that scripture.
We are not supposed to hate those with whom we disagree. We can dislike their beliefs, but at the end of the day, that is actually kind of juvenile. There is no one way to look at the world. If there were, this world would be a much better place. I will never forget reading the account of a Southern senator who believed in segregation. He was asked if he didn’t know the scripture about how one should love his neighbor, and this senator said, “Of course I know. But I get to choose my neighbor!”
Not so. Our neighbors are those with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree. In the frenzy to get and keep political power, most politicians cave to cultural demands. They will do what they need to do and say what they need to say in order to get elected and to stay in office.
McCain sought the presidency twice and lost both times. That had to have been horribly difficult to bear. I was not unhappy that he lost because I didn’t believe in his politics and believed that if president, he would pass laws and enact policies that would hurt “the least of these,” especially black, brown and poor people. I was angry with him for picking Sarah Palin as a running mate, in an attempt, I suppose, to appeal to angry white people; I was glad their ticket lost.
But the senator held his ground. He, unlike the majority of this current Congress, had the courage to speak out against the current president, a man who seems hell-bent on leading America away from democracy and toward fascism. While others in Congress have become sycophants, many to a sickening degree, McCain has held fast.
He endured the disgusting insult hurled at him by the current president, who downplayed his being a war hero, criticizing him because he had been caught and was a prisoner of war. This, from a man who never served a day in the military, burned me to my soul. Yet, McCain didn’t meet him on his ground or at his level, but held his own and worked to serve his country in the way he saw fit.
That McCain, a wealthy white man, and myself, a struggling African American woman, do not see and have never seen eye-to-eye is not the issue here. What is the issue is that this wealthy white man stayed true to what he was, regardless of what it cost him. And that is something I will always respect, especially now as the executive and legislative branches of our government seem to be hell-bent on creating an autocracy in which most of us will suffer greatly.
A candid observation …