A Presidency Which is Making the Nation Ill

             When news surfaced that the US Justice Department intervening in the sentencing of Roger Stone, asking (demanding?) that his sentence be reduced, a friend of mine wrote, “this government is stressing me out. I am resorting to eating, I mean, overeating, to try to cope. I need help.”

She is not the only one. One friend said she has a headache all of the time; another said she is drinking more wine than usual. Yet another said, “I feel like I am a tightly wound coil, getting tighter all the time.”

What is bothering people is this administration’s flagrant disregard for and disrespect of “the rule of law.” People who once felt protected by America’s system of government no longer feel that way. They are frustrated and frightened because none of the institutions in place that were supposed to assure that America’s democracy never descends into Fascism or some variation of that system are working.

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The fear and frustration of people are helped along by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Attorney General William Barr, as well as the GOP which is shuffling meekly behind their leadership, in effect sanctioning the breakdown of this government.

The smirk which Leader McConnell displayed after the president’s acquittal was hard to see, but it’s probably fair to say that it is a smirk that African Americans have seen and experienced for generations in this country. While some of my white friends are appalled at what they have described as the trashing of justice, my African American friends take the deep breaths we have always had as justice has eluded us. The white idea and ideal of “justice” have never applied to black people. The “justice system” has never been concerned with making sure black people get justice for the wrongs done by individuals, corporations, or governments. The trauma that the lack of justice has caused has been passed down through generations. Studies have shown that internalized trauma, especially if it is repetitive, produces physiological, emotional, and sociological effects. (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/10/trauma-inherited-generations/573055/) In order to survive, black people have had to learn to cope, to swallow deeply and keep breathing every time they have not gotten justice, but white people, especially those who believed in the purity of justice, have not built up those political antibodies. We are all suffering; I would suppose that white people are suffering even more.

What is different now is that many white people are now feeling what it feels like to be walked over by the justice system. Some white people are appalled and disturbed – and traumatized – as they are watching the attorney general of the United States help a president circumvent the law, helped along by the Senate. This president is getting away with butchering the very concept of “justice” as he chips away at the “rule of law.”

The things that he has been accused of – lying, sexual impropriety, engaging the help of an enemy of this country to win an election – were once things that would have spelled doom for a sitting president, but not this one, and the people who love the idea of justice are watching, appalled, troubled, and worried.

What this makes one ask is, “what now?” School children are mimicking and imitating the words, the spirit, and the behavior of the president. Non-white children are being bullied. White school teachers are feeling emboldened to let their biases show. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/local/school-bullying-trump-words/) (https://www.mediaite.com/news/stunning-report-reveals-hundreds-of-child-bullies-have-used-trumps-racist-and-xenophobic-words-to-attack-other-kids/

Police are continuing to engage in the behavior which has traumatized black people for generations, using their power with a sense of entitlement. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/22/us/6-year-old-arrested-orlando-florida.html) A black teen who was a member of a swim team was falsely arrested by police as his team returned from a meet. The description of his encounter was painful to read, and more painful for him to experience. (https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/black-college-swimmer-sues-illinois-police-over-false-arrest/2219215/)

It’s not just black people who are seeing and experiencing injustice; it’s people of all walks of life. This president’s administration is adversely affecting the rights and the lives of women, immigrants, Hispanics, Muslims, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community. His policies are traumatizing the poor, the elderly, and anyone who is not, as Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, “guilty and white.” (Stevenson has noted that in this country, one is more likely to get justice if he/she is guilty and white than if one is innocent and poor.”)

Stress causes horrible health problems, and from what I hear, more and more people are experiencing the kind of stress that comes from being traumatized. None of this bodes well for this country. Many people are pretending that things are not as bad as they are, but those feeling the stress are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to ignore this new reality.

A candid observation…

The Never-Ending Anger of White People

It seems that the anger of white people in this country has been an issue for almost as long as this country has been in existence.

That, in spite of the fact that their very whiteness has provided them free reign to commit crimes against black people and also has provided them protection against being called into accountability for their crimes. Black people, because of angry white people and a pliant political and judicial system, have never been able to get justice, something which all human beings desire and deserve. And yet, it is the white people who are always angry.

The eruption of white anger is never far from us. It was present in Charlottesville, Virginia when whites marched through the streets voicing their determination that they would not be “replaced.” Their anger resulted in the murder of Heather Heyer, run down by a car driven by an angry white man. Their anger erupted after the Civil War when black people were given the right to live like human beings; their anger led and inspired them to lynch literally thousands of black people just because they could and get away with it.

Their anger erupted when black servicemen and women returned to this country after fighting in wars to preserve this nation’s democracy. Had blacks refused to fight they would have been castigated and probably arrested or worse, but their fighting did not make whites like them or respect them any more. If anything, it made them more angry because whites perceived that blacks had become “uppity.” Whites killed many blacks while they were still in uniform. (https://eji.org/reports/online/lynching-in-america-targeting-black-veterans)

White anger erupted when black people, in spite of all that was done to try to keep them “in their place” went ahead and prospered in spite of those barriers. The infamous massacre of black people by angry whites in Tulsa, Oklahoma is an episode of American history hardly even whispered about. (https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/21/us/tulsa-race-riot-black-wall-street-watchmen-trnd/index.html) Whenever and wherever blacks fought for economic justice, they were often opposed and too often murdered because they dared fight for what was rightfully theirs. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/death-hundreds-elaine-massacre-led-supreme-court-take-major-step-toward-equal-justice-african-americans-180969863/)

Whites have always been angry about black people being in this country, though it was white people who brought us here. White people tolerated black people as they built this country and once their usefulness was no longer needed, many just wanted us to go away.

There has been no single entity that has protected black people or insured that they get justice. The fact that the police officer who shot and killed Botham Jean in his own house only received a sentence of 10 years in prison, while a young man who missed jury duty got 10 days in jail plus a host of other punitive actions still causes the soreness caused by ongoing racism to smart all the more. In history, not even the United States Supreme Court could be counted on to make sure that black people got justice. (https://www.npr.org/2011/02/24/133960082/the-supreme-courts-failure-to-protect-civil-rights).

But in spite of black people being violated, challenged, discriminated against, and killed by people who killed them just because they could, it is white people who are always angry. Black people are expected to be quiet and not be angry at all while this system walks over them and causes them undue pain and misery, even while denying them justice and a level playing field. From those who were angry at the murder of Emmett Till to those who are insulted that Colin Kaepernick would dare “take a knee” to protest police brutality against black people, blacks who express anger are criticized and mocked. (https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/19/587097707/laura-ingraham-told-lebron-james-to-shutup-and-dribble-he-went-to-the-hoop).

To make matters worse, too many white people have relied on their religion – their version of Christianity – to justify their treatment of not only blacks, but poor whites, people with HIV/AIDS, and Muslims, for starters. As the country has had to absorb the painful loss of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore), one white religious talk show is saying that Mr. Cummings’ death was (is) “God’s revenge for taking on Trump.” (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/we-know-the-bible-far-right-conspiracy-theorist-says-elijah-cummings-death-was-gods-revenge-for-taking-on-trump).

White anger is irrational. It is disgusting. And it is misplaced.

But it is a mainstay of America. And it is eroding whatever capacity for decency this country has ever had. In spite of this irrational and ongoing anger, black people in this country have been able to endure and prosper, but every now and then, the souls of black folk rise up, asking God, in the words found in the Bible, read by black people and by angry whites alike, a book they claim to love, “How long, Lord?”

It seems that that answer is yet to be cemented in the fabric of America. White anger is a pandemic, and going untreated and ignored, is only getting worse.

White People, Black Hair

             With the expression of racial hatred on the rise, there seems to be no bottom to the incidents of assaults on black people – especially black children and young people – through their hair. Continue reading “White People, Black Hair”

Biden, Harris and the Issue of Busing

Sometimes, in spite of the best intentions, relationships just do not work out. The two parties involved cannot see eye to eye on at least one issue important to them both; sometimes, there are more. The two try to “talk it out,” but they remain entrenched in their own positions. Continue reading “Biden, Harris and the Issue of Busing”

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