The Screeching Silence of GOP Lawmakers

I grew up believing in the American political system and was comforted by my civics lessons which taught me that our governmental structure protected our country from becoming a dictatorship.

The three branches of government, with the system of “checks and balances” built in, were put there by Founding Fathers, who had seen first-hand what tyranny looked like.

But what I see today is a complete breakdown of this government. The man who promised to “make America great again” and to “drain the swamp” is methodically and strategically breaking down the government as we have known it, and is filling the swamp with new sea monsters.

What is most disturbing is the silence of the GOP. There have been precious few who have criticized this president, few who have dared stand up and demand that he and the Congress honor their promise to “preserve and protect” the Constitution of the United States.

While there is ample evidence to show how this president began this openly virulent political season, his GOP friends refuse to call him on it. They follow him like hungry dogs follow anyone who might have food. They excuse and explain away his lies; they resort to pointing out the shortcomings of Democrats when confronted with the hateful rhetoric spewed by the president. They shuffle along and grin, looking like hapless, toothless sycophants. And it is disturbing to watch.

While in Germany this year, I read how the German people actually gave the government to Adolph Hitler. In 1933, German President Paul von Hindenburg named Hitler the chancellor of the Nazi Party, largely because he was intimidated by Hitler’s rise to power. He worked to make Germany a one-party state,  he expanded and increased the powers of the Gestapo, and worked to silence or eliminate any opposition. (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/adolf-hitler-is-named-chancellor-of-germany) In 1934, von Hindenburg died, and Hitler declared himself “Fuhrer” as he combined the offices of chancellor and president. (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hitler-becomes-fuhrer) Hitler had run for president in 1932 and lost, but he was ushered into the political space when von Hindenburg appointed him chancellor. Once von Hindenburg died, Hitler had the capacity to take over the government, which he did.

Author Tim Snyder, in his book, On Tyrannynoted that as democracies have fallen throughout the world, a key commonality is that they were elected to leadership positions. The people, often distraught by economic hardship, have voted these dictators in with the hope that they will make good on their promises to bring more prosperity to all people. They have seldom done that, but the power of their promise has been a need of people struggle to make ends meet.

A woman I spoke with in Germany asked me about America and its president. “What is going on?” she asked, and she added that what is happening here seems strangely similar to what happened in her own country.

What I am struggling with and am angry about is what I perceive as the failure of our elected leaders to protect this country. The president is talking to and firing up his “base,” because he understands their angst and anger. In spite of his claim that when attacked, he fights back, the truth of the matter is that he started these fights; he began and has perpetuated the name-calling and insults. He has given more respect to America’s known enemies; while attacking our allies, he has made dictators his best friends.

And the Congress has sat idly by.

If people do not vote in the mid-terms, the downward spiral of this democracy may not be able to be stopped. That is scary. Mussolini captured the hearts and spirits of his populace by knocking Italy’s government and promising that only he could fix it. It didn’t take long for his promise to ring hollow, just like Hitler’s government fell after 11 years in spite of his promise that his party would rule Germany forever.  I take that as evidence that the desire for freedom can eventually cause a despotic government to fail.

But this kind of scenario was not supposed to happen here, and I personally blame the GOP for remaining silent, for living in fear, and for putting their political ambitions above their mandate to protect this country.

People talk about impeaching the president, but in reality, maybe it’s the GOP Congress which should be impeached. Our country is in their hands, and they have not only dropped the ball but are watching it gain speed as it rolls down the hill of tyranny.

A candid observation …

America Has the Flu

If one of the main problems of influenza is that it attacks the body’s respiratory system, leading to pneumonia and other pulmonary issues which ultimately cause death, it would seem that America, under this president, is on life support, unable to breathe. This president and his administration  have shown us our disease and instead of leading us to ways to heal it, is ignoring everything that would “make America right again.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pneumonia is one of the most common and serious complications of the flu. Pneumonia caused by the flu can be viral or bacterial, but both can be deadly and in fact, do cause many deaths. (https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/index.html)

America’s racism has been its chronic illness  – its flu, if you will – since its inception; English people came here to escape British oppression, but also to make this “New World” a land created by white people for white people. They immediately began to oppress Native Americans and soon, black people. They declared Native Americans as being savages and brutes and justified their treatment of them on those beliefs about them. Racist ideology was included in nearly everything that these very religious people did from the 1600s on and was built into the United States Constitution.

Black and other oppressed people have fought the racism and sexism, anti-Semitism and many other “isms” for generations. Gains have historically been made and are then lost because angry white people have risen up and worked to undo the gains made by the oppressed groups, almost always violently.

Under this administration, the white backlash is serious and toxic; the venom of white nationalism is filling the lungs of America’s capacity to breathe in “liberty and justice for all,” while simultaneously breathing out racism, sexism, Xenophobia and all other forms of oppression.

Whenever blacks have made gains and fought racism, whites have done everything they could to undo those gains, furious that the federal government has at times supported the quest for freedom, justice, and dignity of people who are just as American as are whites.

America’s influenza – its racism – has not only been toxic but contagious. We are seeing white nationalists boldly declaring and boasting about their racism; Steve Bannon the other day said that whites should wear the badge of “racist” proudly. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/steve-bannon-racist-label-is-a-badge-of-honor) while the GOP-controlled Congress and Senate sit idly by and let the president do and say what he wants, as well as his followers. There is no outrage about the violence being perpetrated by White Nationalists; there are no efforts to stem the tide.

America’s capacity to be a just nation – a place where there is true “liberty and justice for all” – is being hindered by her lungs filling up with the deadly bacteria which causes cultural pneumonia. The safeguards of liberty and justice, morality, and goodness do not apply in the minds of those who believe that this nation should be a nation of white people. Our very plurality – something which other nations have celebrated – is what the White Nationalists abhor, and neither the US Constitution nor the Holy Bible or the religion called Christianity protect those who are attacked and discriminated against simply because of who they are.

Historian Forrest G. Wood in his book The Arrogance of Faith notes that Christianity has been “fundamentally racist in its ideology, organization, and practice.”  Christian idealism apparently means that the dominant ethnicity or race of this country must be homogeneous and puritanical, Wood says.

To hear and to watch this country backslide into a blatantly racist and sexist “norm” is disheartening, but worse, it is ominous because pneumonia damages the lungs and makes it impossible for a person – or in this case, a nation – to breathe. Empires fall. America, the Empire, is in the intensive care unit and its lungs, filled with the bacteria of hatred, are getting more and more weak.

A nation which despises, ignores, and casts aside “the least of these” is destined for death.

A candid observation …

 

Trying to Understand

I am really trying to understand what is going on in this country.

The Right is in the White House. We are being led by people who hold white nationalist ideas. We are being told to be afraid of Muslims, to keep Mexican immigrants out of the country. We are being told that when the news media (which does have issues) reports a fact, that it is “fake news.” We have a commander-in-chief who is shameless in his lying and hypocrisy, and aides to this man who say that his power is not to be questioned.

It feels like we are slipping into a dark, cramped space. The “drained swamp” is filled with the very people this president criticized his opponent for having relationships with. Billionaires, all over the place, are going to make policy. They, who have never done much to help America’s underclass, are going to be the ones to “make America great again.”

People who support the administration say, “We suffered for eight years. Now it’s your turn.” What does that mean? I don’t recall ever hearing that kind of rhetoric before. I know people did not like the previous president, but for many of them, that hatred came not because of what he said, but because of who he was. When he was elected, people on the Right were heard to say, “We want him to fail;” “We want to make him a one-term president.”

This president is hated not because of the election results. He is hated because of what he has said, how he has insulted everyone, called people names, encouraged Russians to hack into American cyberspace. He has been crude and dishonest, has known it, and has not cared. He has drawn white supremacists, white nationalists to him, with love. He has embraced Vladimir Putin, a long-time enemy of America and a leader whom many has called a “thug,” saying he admires him because he is a strong leader.

Maybe it was the progressive agenda that was making its way into American life that has some people genuinely upset. Many Americans have been distressed at how the world has changed and is yet still changing. America will never be what it “was” in the eyes of those who have always had privilege. But this administration – and its followers – seem to be intend on trying to make the impossible, possible. They want the days back when sexism, racism, heterosexuality, and God knows what else, reigned, when the voices of the underclass were muted by policy and by practices.

Hate crimes are rising; little children in school are being permitted to spew hate language at other little children. Immigrants are frightened; Muslims are frightened; black people realize that the promise of “law and order” on the part of this president probably means really bad news for them. Jewish-Americans are frightened. David Duke says this president has opened the door for white supremacy to reign again.

Evangelical Christians are happy, though there seems to be not much of the God I know in what is going on.

The trouble is, the language of this administration and his crew keeps the angst going. It keeps people up at night. It is causing people to suffer from real depression.It feels like every single thing that has made America what it is is being attacked. Nothing feels safe anymore – not the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press.

And nobody on the Right is saying anything. Those who have claimed to be so patriotic and religious …are, for the most part, silent.

It is beyond comprehension why people who said they hated the presumed dishonesty of Hillary Clinton are not bothered by this president’s dishonesty. It is beyond comprehension why the Congress isn’t railing about the presumed relationship of Gen. Michael Flynn with the Russians, when they spent millions of taxpayer dollars for hearings on Benghazi. It is beyond comprehension why a man who welcomed leaks when they were helping him is now saying that leaks are illegal.

Nothing makes sense. You can see the pieces of the puzzle, but it’s like the pieces in front of you do not belong with the puzzle you’re trying to put together. It feels like this nation is headed into a maelstrom, and will be hurled downward to a place from which we will never emerge the same.

Many supporters of the new administration say what he is doing is making America safer. I think not. I think this administration is feeding an anger and frustration in many, many people who at this point feel caged in and trapped and who will fight ferociously to get out.

That is not good.

I am trying to understand what is going on. I do not know. But I do know that it feels very, very scary.

A candid observation…

 

On “The Race Card”

It is singularly interesting and puzzling to me why people so quickly say one is “playing the race card” if he or she mentions the racial issues we deal with daily.

America is “the race card,” and everything, or nearly everything, she does, somehow circles back to the issue of race.

For instance, while people gathered in Selma to celebrate or remember the horrid day 50 years ago when peaceful protestors, wanting the right to vote in this nation, were beaten by Alabama law enforcement, we were and are concurrently dealing with a United States Supreme Court which is steadily dismantling the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To be Conservative seems to be, albeit an unspoken truth, one who decries funding for “entitlements,” which to many Conservatives means “hand-outs” for  black people. The racist emails uncovered in the Ferguson Police Department saying that President Obama would not last four years in the White House because “what black man holds a steady job for four years?” shows the putrid undergirding of the American thought. That type of sentiment is not just a “Ferguson” phenomenon. (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/06/ferguson-police-officers-resign-racist-emails)

When President Obama, talking about the death of Trayvon Martin, said if he’d had a son, he’d look like Trayvon, the outcry of protest was immediate; the president, folks said, was playing “the race card.”

Poppycock. He was telling the truth.

If we talk about the racist history of this nation, we play “the race card.” If we mention the ongoing racial disparities in this country, we play “the race card.” If we point out that black people are disproportionately profiled by law enforcement, we play “the race card.” If we say mass incarceration of black people makes America hold the title of incarcerating more people than any other nation in the modern world, and if we say the “war on drugs” was targeted at black people, we play “the race card.”

That charge, in spite of the documented “Southern Strategy” which was designed to compromise the black vote.

So, today we are dealing with two racist acts. One, the ranting of the white kids in Oklahoma who chanted there would never be a n***** in SAE, their fraternity…and the Congress, which hates Obama being in the White House so much that they wrote a letter to America’s enemy, Iran, undercutting and undermining the president’s efforts to come to some sort of negotiated agreement to keep Iran from making a nuclear weapon.

Forty-seven Republican lawmakers participated in the unprecedented move. White people, angry. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/10/world/asia/white-house-faults-gop-senators-letter-to-irans-leaders.html?_r=0)

Say what you want about Congress, but what they did is not patriotic or American or wise. It was racist.

It seems that the racism of some people is bubbling so furiously that they cannot contain it. It has always “been there,” but the presence of the president makes it bubble over. His policies make it bubble over. And the biggest irony of all: the president really does not talk about “race” because if he says a mumbling word about anything which is racist, he gets pummeled, charged with playing “the race card.”

When Skip Gates was arrested for trying to get into his own house, we who are black shook our heads; we knew that it was the racism of the “neighbor” who saw Gates trying to get into his house that made her call and say she thought a burglar was breaking into that house, and that it was racism that made the white cops doubt that Gates really was the owner of the house. When President Obama intimated the same, the pummeling began.

The dismantling of the Voting Rights Act is racist. People in power are disturbed that people of color turned out to the polls in record numbers in the last two presidential elections and got Obama back into office…and one white talk show host said that it was the ignorance of black voters who were responsible for getting people like Obama into office. Andrea Shea King, angry because members of the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the Congress the day Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke, said that they should be “hung from nooses.” (http://aattp.org/tea-party-radio-host-wants-black-democrats-hanging-from-a-noose-for-boycotting-netanyahu-speech-audio/) Part of what she said:

“[Most] of those members who are opting out of attending the speech are members of the Congressional Black Caucus,” she made sure to add.

“How do people like this get elected to represent us in Congress?” she continued. “Because there are stupid people out there in those congressional districts who are so ignorant that it’s dangerous. Because these people that they elect into Congress vote, and when they vote, their vote affects us.”
“Stupid, stupid people! Our lives are on the line and all they can think of is skin color. You know, all of us are going to turn black if we end up in a cage on fire!”

I guess she forgot about the numbers of black people actually put in cages and burned in this country.

It’s “the race card” being played  by an irate white person.

America is “the race card.” The resentment of blacks by so many whites has forever been a part of the quilt of American government and American life.

Why talk about race, people ask? Because it is the “seasoning” that is on everything America does. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. Talking about it makes it come from its hiding place; talking about it exposes it for what it is: a horrible reality that keeps America from her best self.

“The race card” needs to be honored and played …so that reality replaces myth and makes denial of the same impossible. It would help America see herself for what she is …and thus be in position to be healed.

By the way, racism is not a uniquely American disease. It has metastasized throughout the world. But maybe if America would go on and play the race card and stop acting like it doesn’t exist, America’s healing would begin to spread all over the world as well.

Wishful thinking …but a thought nonetheless.

A candid observation …

 

 

“The American People” are …who?

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...
English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. Latviešu: Abrahams Linkolns, sešpadsmitais ASV prezidents. Српски / Srpski: Абрахам Линколн, шеснаести председник Сједињених Америчких Држава. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK. So I am confused. The Constitution of the United States, that sacred document to which we all refer to understand what our country is all about, says that government is to be “of the people.” President Lincoln, in the Gettysburg Address, referred to that constitutional sentiment when he said that government in this nation was to be “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

But who are “the people?” As the Congress leads yet another effort to destroy “Obamacare,”  House Speaker John Boehner gets out and says that “the American people” don’t want this Affordable Care Act. And I would suppose that Rep. Eric Cantor, who has been a leader and a voice in the move to cut domestic spending, would say “the American people” the latest proposed cuts, which would slash $40 billion from food stamps, want the same.

My question is,  who are “the American people?”

Every time I hear any politician say “the American people” I wonder the same thing. “The American people,” if the Congress be believed, don’t care if the government shuts down, because opposing the Affordable Care Act is that much of a cause to fight against. So, the people who would lose their jobs, affecting their ability to survive, are not “the American people?”

Is the Republican Congress that when they say “the American people,” while simultaneously cutting back on programs that help the poor survive, that they are cutting out a huge portion of America’s population? Do they care? The argument is that people being cut need to find jobs, but is the Republican Congress aware that people are working, some two jobs, and still do not make a living wage? Aren’t they “the American people,” too?

In a New York Times article, some members of Congress were said to have supported the measure slashing funding for food stamps because “the food stamp program, which costs $80 billion a year, had grown out of control.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/us/politics/house-passes-bill-cutting-40-billion-from-food-stamps.html) Um…isn’t part of the reason for that is because thousands of “the American people” were thrown into economic despair because of the Great Recession, which was caused by the machinations of corporations who became more wealthy on the backs of …”the American people?”

Aren’t people with pre-existing conditions, people who are unemployed, people with children who have serious medical issues and who are under the age of 27 with no insurance …are not they part of the quilt which makes up the body of “the American people?”

Mr. Boehner, and others …can you please explain who “the American people” are? Can we finally deconstruct this phrase so that we, “the American people,” can understand who you’re talking about?

Because it just seems that a huge swath of “the American people” have been left out of the club.

A candid observation …