Trump, God and White Anger

White people are mad.

A significant swath of white Americans have been angry since Barack Obama won the White House. Winning it once ws bad enough; winning it  second time was a brutal kick in teeth.

The anger of this so-called “silent majority” has been and is consistently honored on Fox News, but politicians in major elections have voiced this anger in different venues. Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann drew pretty significant support in their political aspirations largely because they voiced the passion and the pain of white Americans who believed then and still believe that America was created for white people. Rand Paul, running in this 2016 race, said unashamedly as be began the  trek toward the presidency, “We’ve come to take our country back.” His statement drew wild applause. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2015/04/07/rand-paul-set-to-announce-presidential-run/).  He then gave a nice political ditty, outlining all the ways in which he believes America lost her way, but the passion is in the undercurrent, the things nobody really wants to say: many white Americans think too many people of color – beginning with black people and now being compounded by the immigrants coming to America in droves …are in this land compromising and changing not only the character and flavor of the land but in fact its very purpose –  and they are mad.

Donald Trump is gaining in the polls because he is saying publicly what so many white people say in private. The legacy of America – which is not democracy and egalitarianism, but which is, instead, oligarchy and inequality – is being tampered with. The Rev. William Barber, leader of the Moral Majority Movement in North Carolina, says America doesn’t have a Republican or Democrat problem, it doesn’t have a Liberal or Conservative problem…but it has, instead, a “heart problem.” And the heart of America, in spite of those who might argue against it, is one of white supremacy.

Perhaps the depth of this anger – this unspoken, for the most part – is illustrated by the fact that some Evangelicals are speaking support for Trump in spite of the fact that he has said publicly that he has never sought forgiveness  from God. He said when he does something wrong he just tries to do something good or right. ( http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/18/politics/trump-has-never-sought-forgiveness/)  Fair enough, but this nation has made a big deal out of being Christian, and one of the central tenets of Christianity is seeking and giving forgiveness. What does that say about the religion of Conservatives? Have they somehow compromised the requirements of God and Jesus the Christ? Can you trust, theologically and religiously, anyone who blatantly and arrogantly says he purposely ignores the commands of the Christ?

White anger is not new. That anger rose up after Reconstruction when whites fought to undo every gain that was made during that period of time. Whites fought a “new civil war,” determined to win, not with guns, but with government. They pushed blacks out of political office, compromised and/or took away their right to vote, created policies which in effect created ghettos, and kept blacks basically subservient to whites in all the ways they could. They were angry that they lost the war; they were angry that new policies made the ground between blacks and whites more level, and they were not going to have it. The creation of Jim Crow made it virtually impossible for blacks to be treated as equal human beings, but tht wsa the plan. Whites wanted their country back, and that country did not include black people doing what they felt was saved and relegated for whites only.

Donald Trump knows that sentiment; he obviously feels it and it is clear that many, many Americans feel it, too. Whites are angry that Barack Obama won the White House – twice. They are mad that laws have been created to protect the LGBT community, going so far as to allow same sex couples to marry. They are angry that illegal immigrants – many of whom they use to keep their lawns kept up and their houses clean – keep coming into this nation. They are fighting to take America back to the “good old days” when white people operated and protected a land which did not provide “liberty and justice for all,” but instead kept folks under control, using the law and the courts. Their idea of democracy was a land where whites were in control and everyone else was under their thumb.

It feels like Trump and this “silent majority” are acting rather like spoiled children. They cannot get their way as easily as they once could, and they are angry about it. It feels like they will do all they can, in whatever way they can, to get things “back to normal.” When even the Evangelicals are willing to give a presidential a pass when he has said publicly that he ignores the command of God the Father and Jesus the Christ to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, you know that the anger is real.

It is very real. And it is very dangerous…

A candid observation …

Knowing Your Strength

The late Whitney Houston sang a song that moves me every time I hear it. “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” is a powerful exclamation of self-affirmation, set to music, a kind of “in your face, tribulations!” rendition offered by a woman who had been through a self-created and self-imposed hell but had come out standing.

If only she had truly believed what she sang, enough to have left the drugs and alcohol alone.

Though I mourn her exit from this life, her song resonates with me. Several people I know have said that 2013 was a horrible year; the latest article in The New Yorker about President Obama written by David Remnick says that for the president, that was certainly the case  (annus horribilis, writes Remnick).

That phrase apparently applies to more people than I originally thought.  My best friend nearly died and was on life support for two weeks. Two good friends of mine lost their mothers; another acquaintance lost her grandchild in a tragic and horrible accident.  A woman I know lost her husband of over 30 years suddenly. “I had no time to prepare,” she said to me one day, tearfully. “I don’t know what I will do …”

So many people shared with me how 2013  rocked their worlds…and my2013, well, let’s just say that “horrible” is an understatement.

But in spite of bad (or horrible) times, it is amazing that all of those people I mentioned, as well as myself, are still standing. We have not lost our minds or our will and resolve to live and thrive. While every one of those people I mentioned could relate to my experience of being so hurt and shattered that it hurt to literally breathe, they made it through. They, as well as I, didn’t know our own strength. It is bad and/or difficult times that teach us that.

Some years ago, I heard Deepak Chopra say that “bad” times are not bad; they are actually “good,” he said, because from them we learn our most valuable lessons. It is from bad times that we become stronger and we recognize the strength within us that we just do not think about and therefore cannot tap into.

The more we push against the adversities in our lives, the more we push the unmovable, the more muscular our spirits become. Our spirits become “toned” by the hard work of pushing against that which wants to take us out. The late Nelson Mandela pushed forward, though he was imprisoned for 27 years because he dared stare apartheid in the face and become in a movement to bring it down. I talked with a young man who withstood being wrongly arrested and convicted of a crime he had not committed. “I made it, Rev. Sue,” he said. “I made it.” He doesn’t know what his life will look like from this day forward, but he withstood an experience which he would only say was “horrific.”

Life was never meant to be easy; unfortunately, we all learn that. Life is meant to shake us to our cores…Tears are necessary from time to time. Depression caused by bad times must, I think, help in the strengthening process. The good thing is that not all of the “trials” we are to go through come at the same time; they are merciful enough to spread themselves out. Theoretically, by the time the “next” trial comes, the strength we have gained from the previous one has kicked in.

When I think of Whitney Houston, I think that perhaps the strength she had within her hadn’t kicked in yet; it was new. She was coming face to face with it, and getting to know herself in a new way. She was a stronger Whitney who had faced the lions of adversity and come out standing. That was her strength …

But her legs were not strong enough yet. She could stand up but couldn’t remain standing.

My prayer is that the strength I have come to realize I have is sufficient to keep me standing …as well as the strength in every single one of the persons I mentioned above. Every single one of them were knocked down by life. What they went through took the breath out of them. They …and I …found out how hard it is to breathe, let alone stand, when a tsunami overtakes us.

Knowing the strength we have inside is only the first part of surviving trials and pain. What we must do …and perhaps what Whitney did not do …is nurture and feed the new self that emerges with new strength. Otherwise, we might fall down, like Whitney did.

That would mean that the pain we just got through was wasted. That, somehow, is unacceptable. The experience of annus horribilis, though distasteful and unpleasant, is a gift. To not stand up in spite of it …just doesn’t work.

A candid observation …

Health Care for the Poor Still Elusive

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...
English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have the Affordable Care Act and we still have literally millions of people who cannot afford and will not have, health care.

How in the world can that be? The Affordable Care Act was supposed to help that very demographic, wasn’t it?

A New York Times article said that nearly two-thirds of poor, black people, and single mothers, in addition to one-half of all low-wage earners, will still not have access to health care. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/health/millions-of-poor-are-left-uncovered-by-health-law.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131003).

The vast number of these people live in states controlled by Republicans, and in which those lawmakers have voted against expanding Medicaid. “The 26 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion are
home to about half of the country’s population, but about 68 percent of
poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers. About 60 percent of the
country’s uninsured working poor are in those states. Among those
excluded are about 435,000 cashiers, 341,000 cooks and 253,000 nurses’
aides.” said the NYT article.

While some are appalled that so many people will still be unable to get health care, others are not surprised.

Some say that the Affordable Care Act was designed not to help poor black people, or single mothers, or low-wage earners. It was designed, they say, to benefit low wage earners who happen to be white.

It is sadly ironic that the majority of the poor people whom this act was ostensibly created to help are apparently black.  They live primarily in Southern states where, again, Republican lawmakers have balked at extending Medicaid, citing cost.  The American citizens who will still not be able to get health care, many of them, make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough money to keep them above the poverty line, making them eligible to qualify for subsidies, which the ACA is providing.

It is equally as ironic that some lawmakers feel justified in not supporting the expansion of Medicaid because they seem to feel that the poor are poor because they are lazy and want to take advantage of working Americans. There is great disdain for the poor, blaming them for their poverty and spreading this belief so that great numbers of people buy into the hype.  While in one breath, lawmakers will say that in America, democracy makes it possible for “all” people to be successful and therefore, not poor,  in another breath, they will support a system which is not democratic at all, but, rather, oligarchic in nature, supporting the expansion of the very rich on the backs of poor people and their labor.

With these millions of people still unable to get affordable health care, the health of the very poor will still be jeopardized. Children will still be in danger from getting sick and possibly dying from preventable and treatable diseases, and adults will not be able to get the care and medication they need to, likewise, get treatable diseases diagnosed or to get medications that will keep those diseases from killing them.

All of the showboating on television, with Tea Party Republicans saying that they are speaking on behalf of “the American people” has been disturbing and disgusting. “The American people,” for them, obviously do not include poor black and brown people, single mothers, and people unable to make a living wage.

The politicians in Washington are playing a game with the lives of all Americans as they fight like children having temper tantrums, working to defund the Affordable Care Act. It wouldn’t be so troubling if Tea Party Republicans had a viable health care plan in place to replace the ACA, one that would help people like these millions of black, brown and poor people.

They are not concerned with that part of America’s population, though. These politicians are fighting for is a group of people who object to big government and the role big government has historically played in taking care of “the least of these.”  They do not have the slightest concern, say, for the American citizen who needs treatment and medication for high blood pressure, or for the child who has an abscessed tooth, and who happens to be poor.

It is a scary thing to be poor in such a wealthy land. It is scary and troubling and frustrating to work, as the work ethic says we must – and still be deemed unworthy to make a living wage. The government shut-down, forced by the opposition between Tea Party Republicans who are fighting President Obama by opposing the ACA, is making poor people suffer even more as their salaries are being withheld.

Nobody cares about you if you’re poor – not even here in America, where our political system is supposed to be “exceptional” and above that in all other developed countries.  The fact that many Americans are a paycheck away from being put out on the street, should be troubling to a group of people who say they govern for “the American people.”

Apparently, that’s not true. They govern for “some” American people. Black, brown and poor people of all colors, as well as people struggling to make ends meet, just don’t seem to matter. No matter what lofty words are used to describe America’s democratic ideals, her oligarchic reality says that there is a serious chasm between the ideal and the real.

Poor people count. Black and brown people count. Single mothers …count.

Somebody ought to remind Congress of the same because it seems that millions of Americans have been forgotten.

A candid observation…

The Power of Guilt

The Obama administration is wrestling with whether or not to get minimally involved in Syria, meaning there will be limited military strikes,  letting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad know that the United States does not approve of his apparently having used sarin gas against his own people.

Fourteen hundred people were killed.

While it is annoying and frustrating that the United States is so often running to the aid of other countries, sometimes, it seems, with a hidden nationalistic and imperialistic agenda, perhaps our nation in this instance is acting out of a sense of guilt. We did nothing during the Rwandan genocide (http://spectator.org/archives/2013/09/06/the-rwanda-legacy), a fact which apparently still haunts former President Bill Clinton, and we did nothing to help the Jews who were slaughtered during the Holocaust. Not only did we, but other nations were silent as well. As a result, way too many people died. We as a nation bear a burden of guilt for our non-action.

President Obama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, said that he was elected to end wars, and indeed, much of his time and energy has been spent ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Even he, however, as much as he seems not to believe that war is the answer to all issues, seems to be  haunted some by guilt.”When people say that it is a terrible stain on all of us that hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in Rwanda, well imagine if Rwanda was going on right now and we asked: ‘Should we intervene in Rwanda?'” the president said. “I think it’s fair to say that it probably wouldn’t poll real well.”  ( http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/06/politics/us-syria/index.html?hpt=hp_t2)

It is frustrating that the conflict in the Middle East just will not end. It is equally as frustrating that “we the people” really do not know all of what is behind decisions to go to war; we were not privy to that information in the past and we are not privy to it now.  But there is something to be said for being a superpower and turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the suffering of others.

Some would argue that the nation turns that same blind eye and deaf ear to the suffering of its own citizens.  Ironically, our nation seems to feel no guilt for the way too many of its own people live.  In spite of the superpower image, far too many people here live in poverty, some in that predicament even though they work. They do not make a living wage, but there’s no outcry and no guilt felt about that. Likewise, there are far too many people in this country suffering and dying from treatable diseases, but there is no guilt. In fact, there is a fight against working to get health care for all Americans.

But guilt (and, probably, a hidden agenda) seems to be a driving factor in the debates over whether or not to get involved in Syria. Should Congress vote President Obama’s resolution down that would make the way for our intervening in Syria, and al-Assad continues his attacks on his own people, the guilt will grow exponentially. We are trying to make up for ignoring Rwanda and Hitler…

Here’s an observation, though. Guilt doesn’t work. Guilt only makes individuals and nations act impulsively, doing things they later regret. And, it too often turns out, the dissemination of an action based on guilt is wasted energy, because the situation that produced the guilt doesn’t go away.

It would seem that instead of jeopardizing the lives of even more Syrians, and, of course, Americans, that there is a diplomatic answer to the problem and presence of al-Assad. A boycott or some such participated in by all of the members of the United Nations, for example, might get his attention.  We would be doing something, not ignoring the suffering of the Syrian people, and therefore would still be in position to assuage our guilt. A military attack, I am afraid, is only going to stoke the fire of irrationality that al-Assad has already shown. He wants that kind of fight, and guilt is pushing us to play his game.

It doesn’t seem wise.

A candid observation …

 

 

Abigail Thernstrom Wrong on “Obama’s Mistake in Trayvon Martin Case”

Abigail Thernstrom, vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote an article for CNN.com that shows a remarkable ignorance and insensitivity about the problem of race for African-Americans in this country. (http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/15/opinion/thernstrom-trayvon-martin-obama/index.html?hpt=hp_t4)

The author of Voting Rights – and Wrongs: The Elusive Quest for Racially Fair Elections, faulted President Obama for his statement on March 12, 2012, shortly after Trayvon Martin was shot, for saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon…When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.”

Whatever criticism one might have about President Obama, one cannot say that he has gone out of his way to “lean in” toward black people. In fact, as Thernstrom herself acknowledges in her article, the president effectively distanced himself from race and from “agitators” in his speech, “A More Perfect Union,” delivered in March, 2008.  “The president’s role is not to be a racial agitator,” Thernstrom writes, “and the mark of a great civil rights leader has been a determination to reject the temptations of that approach…People such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson see white racism as endemic and elevate what’s wrong with America over all that is remarkably right,” she continues.

She praised Obama for “once again” separating himself from the voices of anger on Sunday, speaking after George Zimmerman had been found “not guilty” of second degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Trayvon Martin. “But if his Justice Department brings civil rights charges against Zimmerman, as the NAACP has urged, and which it is reportedly still considering, the ugly racial politics of this prosecution will be undeniable.”

Thernstrom says that if President Obama had a son, “he would have been born to extraordinary privilege and raised with all of the advantages of two very affluent and highly educated parents. He would have gone to private schools. His path in life would have been almost as dissimilar from Trayvon’s as one could imagine.”

All that is true…but what Ms. Thernstrom does not seem to understand is that African-Americans, no matter how affluent or well-educated, are profiled all of the time. If the president had a son, he would have been subject to such profiling, and anyone who is African-American knows that. Many prominent and well-educated African-Americans have been profiled and treated quite poorly by law enforcement officers. It is a sore spot, a blazing fire in the lives of African-Americans, and time has not made it any better.

Just because Mr. Obama is president does not mean that he has forgotten what it is to be black in America. Thernstrom says that “the president …wants disadvantages Americans to believe that he and his family are one of them…despite their life of unparalleled privilege.” The bottom line is, Ms. Thernstrom, is that at the end of the day, Obama IS one of them, and he knows it.

A couple of weeks ago in New Albany, Ohio, a young black man was walking in his neighborhood. Sixteen-year old Xvavier Brandon, an honor student, was walking to school, when, out of nowhere, he found himself confronted by  police. “A gun was pointed at me and handcuffs were put on me, and that’s everything that’s done to a criminal,” Brandon said.

This kid was exempt from final exams, said an article in The Columbus Dispatch, because of good test scores at his high school.  He was minding his own business, in a neighborhood where he had every right to be, walking to football practice. There had been in that neighborhood, however, some break-ins. Some residents were wary and nervous. So when a resident saw Brandon walking down his street, he got nervous and called the police, telling them that there was someone walking down the street who might have something to do with the break-ins.

Brandon was unaware that he had been viewed as suspicious, profiled, one might say. He continued to walk down the street, listening to music with his headphones in his ears. He didn’t know anything was wrong until he heard a loud shout and turned around to see a gun pulled and pointed at him.

He was told to drop to the ground and was handcuffed; he was asked if he had any jewelry on him or in his backpack. The young man, on the ground and completely humiliated, says he tried to turn his face so that if anyone saw him and the police officer, they wouldn’t recognize him. It was only after another officer turned up about 15 minutes later and recognized Brandon as a teammate of his son’s on the football team that the youth was released.

Brandon was not disadvantaged. New Albany is one of the most prominent neighborhoods in the Columbus metropolitan area. One might say that Brandon is privileged and well-educated, and yet, that did not keep him from being suspected of being someone a problem in that neighborhood, and accosted by police.

Because of preconceived ideas about black people, many, many African-Americans are profiled daily. Ms. Thernstrom said that “Obama’s hypothetical son and Trayvon would have shared the same brown skin. Would that have made them interchangeable?” The answer is, unfortunately, that in many cases, the answer is “yes.”

The president’s comment or observation that had he a son he would look like Trayvon was not, therefore, out of line, or indicative of a president who “surrendered to his political instincts.”  He was speaking the truth as it is for African-Americans in this country. To be sure, there are a host of problems in the African-American community; the fact that African-American youth shoot each other at alarming rates, with hardly a whimper from the larger society – is a major issue, but that does not negate the fact that African-Americans are profiled daily and that yes, if the president had a son, he would be in danger of being profiled just because of the color of his skin.

The sad truth is that white racism is endemic, and it is something that nobody really wants to deal with or talk about.  The result is that bad behavior keeps on happening. George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon and, regardless of what happened afterward, Trayvon is now dead. It’s nothing new, Ms. Thernstrom. It is part of the way African-Americans live…

A candid observation ….