Revising History in Our Faces

The remembrance of the late President George H.W. Bush was moving; his good work as president – i.e., ending the Cold War, getting the Berlin Wall down – was rightfully noted. His civility was understandably emphasized in light of the total lack of civility we are experiencing now. His family was surely comforted by affirmation of his inherent goodness.

But his racism was nearly totally glossed over.

It was his administration that used the case of Willie Horton to feed into the racist fears of white people. In 1988 a group called “Americans for Bush” created and ran what came to be known as the “Willie Horton ad.” It was so reprehensible that it still gives me chills. This group of white Americans capitalized on the sad fact that a man who was given a furlough by Bush’s Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, raped a white woman twice while on a weekend furlough. Many governors in states across the nation granted furloughs at that time, but the impact of this ad on white people was enormous. Lee Atwater, the brains behind the Bush campaign, ended up apologizing for the ad on his deathbed, but at the time of the election, all bets were off. Dukakis was too much of a threat, and so white campaign strategists used what is being used today – race – to make sure their guy got into office.

It was disgusting.

It is beyond dispute that President Bush 41 did some really good things while in office. Nobody can dispute that. But he did some things that were not so good (https://truthout.org/articles/i-will-not-speak-kindly-of-the-dead-bush-was-detestable/?utm_source=sharebuttons&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=mashshare&fbclid=IwAR3lfOMPejr4FOtKxgkUda0PfQaaSjWchIGO3LvF1uyVUm7AMBpb5hqZGPk) and in lifting him up as one of America’s last great presidents, those things, which have had a tremendous impact on the world, have been ignored – including his racism.

White Americans have historically been able to separate their racism from their faith. In the antebellum South, whites would say that slavery was a problem but that it was not immoral or wrong; the Slavery Bible was written to contort the will of God to fit the racist mindset of Southerners who believed in it. White Christianity has always been different from the Christianity practiced by oppressed people. The god of white people has been ok with racism and all of its tentacles, but their god did not gel with the God of all people described in the Christian Bible.

Robert P. Jones in his book The End of White Christian America says that “White Christian America…has died.” But has it?  This sect of Christians is making a comeback, using race as their foundation, to maintain what has been the status quo. If the “swamp” was drained, it was refilled with these “good, Christian” people who believe in the sanctity of white supremacy. The noticeable silence on the part of the media about this president’s racism supports that reality. Nobody expected the funeral of the late president to be the place where Bush’s racism was mentioned, but the media should have. The role of racism in this country and its use by the “best of the best” as indicated by the Bush campaign, should have been noted more prominently, not to beat him over the head but to remind America that we still have a problem.

My guess is that the majority of white people, white Christians especially, do not know about the Willie Horton ad and that if they did, it would not bother them. They would shrug and say that Willie Horton was a bad guy and that using him to win an election was fair game.

This attitude, even though the very architect of the ad struggled with the wrongness of that ad until he died.

Revising history when it comes to race seems to be the only way white Americans can survive. Dr. Joy DeGruy, the author of Post– Traumatic Slave Syndrome, identifies the cognitive dissonance that white people have learned to use so well as a major reason why racism still fills this country with its stench.

The voter suppression that is running rampant throughout the country has a racist core; many of the policies being created have a racist core. We are a racist nation, and we will not admit it.

President George H.W. Bush was a good person to and for his family and friends. He did some things that perhaps helped the African American community during his presidency. He was certainly civil, unlike the current president; he was not an outright liar, again, as is the current president.

But he was racist and knew how to use racism to get what he wanted. I cannot forget that, and I suspect, many others cannot, either.

A candid observation

 

 

No More

             I have decided that I will no longer watch cable news. None of it.

Ever since Donald Trump has been the center of the American political landscape, his antics, name-calling, insulting, lying and disregard for the feelings, rights, and needs of broad swaths of Americans has dominated the cable news operations.

Instead of giving us real news, cable news programs – on both the left and the right – have inundated us with talk-show segments, talking about the same event in every segment. We have not gotten real news, but rather the opinions of others.

It has been maddening and spiritually and emotionally exhaustive.

The opinions proffered by cable news guests have only served to make people angrier, more cemented in their views, and more intolerant and increasingly violent. The programs have left many, including me, weary and drained.

Emotional opinionating is not helpful. It does not help us to be able to sort out fact from fiction. It makes us angry and as a result, people who flail instead of fight. The administration has done a magnificent job of gaslighting us all, helping us to remain in winless conversations and also to remain ignorant of all else that is happening in this administration.

Hearing people argue is not helpful. As we draw near to the midterm elections, we need to know what is really going on, including the issues driving policy decisions which will affect us long after the current president is gone.

When any individual bullies and lies, as does the head of this administration, the human response is to fight back in kind. But that kind of fighting is ineffective. This administration is masterful at manipulating emotions of people through its vitriol. It is masterful at saying just enough to make the cable news operations report what is being said over and over again, thereby keeping attention from the important changes that are being made.

This administration – including its Congress and now its courts – are leading this nation toward autocratic rule. Those who are presidential sycophants are more interested in showing loyalty to the president rather than doing what they swore to do – to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. They are working to undo all of the gains that hard-working people concerned with justice for all have achieved. And all we can do is listen to people argue about the president’s bullying et al on cable news.

Enough.

Ella Baker, the Civil Rights leader responsible for the formation and growth of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) said: “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” We cannot. And neither will we have the strength to fight against bigotry, hatred, economic amorality, Xenophobia, racism, sexism, capitalism, militarism, and so much more if our spirits are weighed down by our immersion in someone else’s drama, being shaped to do just that – demoralize us.

I refuse to allow this spate of time in American history to steal my spirit, not one more day.

There are things that have happened that we will have to fight against, and others that we will have to make the best of. To do that, we need to be spiritually and emotionally strong. Cable news is like a virus that saps the very strength we need.

For me, not another day will I allow myself to walk around in anger. We need strength for this journey, and I choose to nurture my strength, even as I neutralize my weaknesses caused by anger.

I will not allow this administration or its cable news partners to steal my resolve, my energy, my strength and my belief in fairness, justice and the need to fight for both not another day.

A candid observation…

The Spirit of America, Compromised

I am an African American woman who has studied the history of racism in this country, has watched the products of systemic racism ruin lives, from black and brown and poor children getting inferior educations, to the continued slaughter of unarmed black people by law enforcement officers, to qualified black people being passed over for good jobs.

American-flag-America

I have watched mothers of slain children find strength from somewhere to keep on walking and working. I have watched young African Americans weep in frustration and anger caused by the tormenting pain that racism causes. I have cringed over policies passed by local, state and federal government, including voter suppression laws, health care and the refusal to expand Medicaid, to slashes in regulations which were put in place to protect the environment and therefore, the people who are adversely affected by a polluted ecosystem.

I still feel outrage over the way Puerto Rico was treated after Hurricane Maria devasted that tiny island; the image of the president throwing paper towels to people who needed electricity, medicine, food and American support still evokes a reaction within my soul. I have watched the rise of white nationalism – which has never been gone but has merely remained below ground for the most part – arrogantly flouting its belief system and daring anyone to say anything about it.

I have watched the treatment of immigrants, called all kinds of names by this administration and supporters of it; I have listened to stories about lawmakers who have had the gall to criticize and put down young students who have decided they are tired of the specious argument that “good people with guns” can keep crime down,  even as madmen and women storm public spaces with semi-automatic weapons to literally mow people whom they do not know down, like they are pesky weeds in the garden of human life, unworthy of staying alive.

The name-calling, the blatant arrogance shown by government officials even as corruption is uncovered, the apparent devotion to protecting the “good ol’ boys” club – all of it – has been disturbing and troubling.

I have watched lawmakers –  Democrat and Republican alike – pass a tax bill which has made corporations smile, but which promises to do little to nothing to ease the plight and the pain of the poor in this country.

The America I knew is gone. With all of its faults, that America at least had lawmakers who respected the legacy of the country and the office of the presidency, but what I see now is a president who seemingly wants absolute power and an impotent Congress which is letting him do what he wants. They say it’s because they respect him. I think not. I think they are operating as they are because there is abject bullying in the White House and they are afraid.

The American electorate voted this president into office. In spite of what seems to be certain Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the Congress has seemed not to care. The president certainly seems unconcerned with the fact that this country underwent a cyber-attack by the Russians. The obsequiousness of this president to Vladimir Putin has been nothing short of disgusting; in all of his rants, Putin is the only one who has not been called an insulting name, even though plenty of American civil servants have been totally humiliated by the name-calling. Not only does this president call names, but he lies with abandon, and few of his supporters say anything about it, at least publicly.

Guided by words found in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, this country has felt like a democracy, even though in practice it really has not been. But leaders up to this point have seemingly respected the notion of democracy and have valued the structure of government put in place by the Founding Fathers that were supposed to insure that this nation would never descend into fascism.

That structure, whoever, is crumbling. This country’s spirit of freedom is being crushed by a lurking spirit of authoritarianism. According to Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, authors of How Democracies Die, there are four indicators off authoritarian behavior which appear when democracies are in trouble: 1) Rejection of (or weak commitment to) democratic rules of the game; 2) denial of the legitimacy of political opponents, 3) toleration and/or encouragement of violent, and 4) a readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including the media. (pp. 23-24)

Though Mr. Trump’s behavior is troubling, his behavior is not as troubling as is the lack of “democratic” or “patriotic” response to what he is saying and doing.  A large swath of Americans are apparently fine with what he is doing; they seem to be unaware that the democracy we have all loved for so long is in mortal danger.

We in America seem to feel that our democracy is fail-safe, but no democracy can claim that classification. Democracies have broken down (in favor of authoritarian regimes) in Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Thailand, Turkey and Uruguay. The breakdown of democracy in those countries came about as a result of violent coups d’état.

But democracies in other countries broke down as the result of people voting autocratic leaders into power. That happened in Venezuela, Georgia, Hungary, Turkey, Ukraine, Poland Russia and Germany.

Both Levitsky and Ziblatt, and Professor Tom Snyder who wrote On Tyranny say that the breakdown of many Democracies begins at the ballot box.

It used to be that I and many others had confidence in the government put together by the Founding Fathers. In spite of flaws, that very structure was comforting. That we had “freedom of the press” was a godsend that many, including myself, never thought would be challenged.

But our freedoms, our capacity to be free are compromised and the trajectory of the attacks on basic American freedoms seems to be increasing in a negative direction, away from the guarantee of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that our organizational documents tout as being a mainstay of American life and citizenship.

The lawmakers are quiet. The restless white nationalists are loud and getting louder, more arrogant and bolder in their attacks on everything that is not white. “We the people” live in perpetual anxiety about what this president will and will not do. This country does not feel safe; the underclasses seem less protected than ever before as the president and his minions are making America a laughing stock all over the world.

It is scary and troubling.

A candid observation…

Is America’s Democracy in Trouble?

The antics and behavior that are coming out of the White House are disturbing on many levels, but one of the most troubling is that it feels like this country is moving toward becoming an autocratic state.

A survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp during the Holocaust, architect Stephen Jacobs, said in a recent interview that the “rise of Donald Trump is reminiscent of the years that led to the Nazi takeover of Germany.”  (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5596737/Holocaust-survivor-says-Trumps-America-reminds-years-lead-Nazi-takeover.html)

At the time that Hitler rose to power, Germany was experiencing economic, social and political unrest. Hitler seized the moment, telling Germans that he could restore their country to its former greatness. The people bought his argument, and the fall of civilized government resulted in the murders of over 6 million Jewish people.

What is astounding is not so much that the president is doing what he is doing, but that so many people seem not to care. From the Congress – representatives and senators alike – to Evangelical Christians, to masses of people who like it that he “tells it like it is,” there seem to be few people in power – politically or morally – who have the best interests of “the least of these” at heart.

These people turn a blind eye to the role of the Congress to check the raw ascent of power of the Executive branch of our government. Evangelical Christians, who have been known to be deeply judgmental of all kinds of people for behavior much less offensive and troubling than that of the president, are silent and acquiescent.

It has been amazing to listen to people defend this president at every turn; nothing, it seems, not even the cyber-attack of our voting system by a known enemy, has been enough to inspire people to do something to put the brakes on what seems like a train running downhill, spiraling out of control.

We thought that our government was immune to becoming autocratic. We thought that our Constitution and our professed love of “liberty and justice for all” were enough to incubate us from encroaching fascism. It appears that many Conservatives feel like there is no danger of our democracy falling into disrepair or ruination. But democracies, historically, have fallen, following a course much like the one on which America now finds itself.

What is worrying is that the only people who might seem to not have to worry are the very rich. This country has not been a “democracy” for some time; it has been a plutocracy, with a very few really wealthy people making policies for everyone else. But even that number of wealthy people, in control of the lives of the masses, is dwindling; we are more an oligarchy now than ever before.

Oligarchies do not care about the masses.

During the Holocaust, Hitler and his minions made decisions about who was worthy to live and who was not. The Jews were certainly deemed unworthy, but so were people with disabilities, people with mental illnesses, gay people, gypsies, twins, priests, and other groups, were murdered. It is estimated that 5 million non-Jews died under Hitler.

Germany, using the science developed in America that formed the foundation of the eugenics movement, made it its cause to eliminate those who were not the right kind of “white” person – i.e., those with Nordic features.

It feels like everyone, with the exception of that very small group of wealthy white people, are in danger from the way this administration is running the country, and none of the people who we might have thought would defend the masses from this kind of tyranny are stepping forward.

It is difficult to understand how “people of faith” can marginalize the directives given for how to create a “Beloved Community” by Jesus the Christ. Jesus is far removed from what is going on, it seems, and very few people are working to bring Jesus of Nazareth back to the center of who we are.

It feels like we are on a collision course with tragedy, and in this, the so-called “land of the free and home of the brave,” that ought not be the case.

A candid observation …

 

Donald Trump’s Whining Shows his Ignorance

The system of electing a president has been the same …since the days the Founding Fathers set up the system.

So, why is Donald Trump complaining that the system isn’t fair?

It might be unfair, true, but it is the system and it has been in place …forever.

Donald is crying and whining that the system is rigged against him. But it isn’t.

The Founding Fathers made it so that presidents are ultimately chosen by the Electoral College. Whoever gets the most electoral votes is the winner.

It’s a winner-take-all system. So, the trick is to win as much of the popular vote as possible. That way, even if you get just a hair’s breath majority of the popular vote, you get all of the electoral votes of any given state.

Each state gets as many electors as it has congresspersons and senators. Larger states have more electors.

I suppose this is a democratic way of voting. It doesn’t feel like “one man, one vote” is the reality here.  Democracy as I understand it goes out of the window when it comes to the ways America has worked to suppress the votes of many, especially African-Americans. Gerrymandering seems to me to be dishonorable; it keeps “the establishment” in power, and it works against the people and their needs and demands.

The money it takes to get elected to the White House is, well, unforgivable. In 2012, the presidential election cost $2 billion. Some believe that this year’s election will cost up to $5 billion. (http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/02/historic-price-cost-presidential-elections)

How many schools could we build for that amount of money? How many contaminated water pipes in Flint could be replaced? How many services for people in need could be funded by that kind of money?

The system is crazy. It feels unfair. It feels like people’s votes are negated. It leaves a lot of room for the votes of some to be suppressed, and has led to that in years past and even today. A black man in Wisconsin took three forms of ID to the polls in Wisconsin last week and still couldn’t vote. (https://m.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/4engrl/a_black_man_brought_3_forms_of_id_to_the_polls_in/)

It feels like the system is rigged …but it is the system, put in place long before Donald Trump was even thought about. We learned it in civics class in high school, or at least I did. I wonder if Donald missed those lessons.

Sorry, Donald. It’s not about you.

A candid observation…