Wanting America Back

I was in a high-end restaurant, waiting to have a meeting with a friend, and arrived before he did. I was led to our table, which had already been reserved.

Our table was next to one at which four white women were already sitting. They were older, looking to be in their late 70s and/or early 80s. It felt like they were engaging in a “girl’s day out” kind of time. They were laughing and sharing, talking about their husbands, their children and grandchildren, their charity work, and their professions, from which they had all retired.

I couldn’t help but hear everything they were talking about, and found myself chuckling from time to time at some of the things they shared. Privacy was not an option or a concern for them.

So, when they started talking about politics and the current slate of GOP candidates, the fact that they were sharing their views for all to hear was not surprising. They were Republicans, committed Republicans, that was for certain, because they said so, out loud.
The GOP candidates were interesting, they said. Carly “what’s her name? Is she still in the race?” Fiorina didn’t impress any of them, nor did Jeb Bush. They never mentioned Ben Carson, and kind of skated through their opinions of the candidates who have now left the race, including Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul.

But then they got to the meat of their discussion: the top three candidates, according to the polls, plus Chris Christie. Trump, they said, was OK. Rubio was not; he was in favor of “bringing all those immigrants, or letting all those immigrants” come into or stay in this country. “Oh no, no immigrants,” said three of the women in response to the now-emerged spokeswoman for the group. One woman weakly tried to say that the immigrants who have been working here should be allowed to become citizens, but she was shut down.

Chris Christie should not be president, said the “louder-than-the-rest” woman because “he hugged Obama. That did it for me. He hugged Obama after Hurricane Sandy.” She said it in such a way which indicated she wanted everyone to know that yes, she said it, and yes, she absolutely meant it.

Obama, she said, was evil. Someone mentioned that Obama had visited a mosque, and had reported that Muslims were “good people.”

“Of course,” the ringleader said, “he would say that because he is a Muslim. Everyone knows that. He doesn’t go to church. He…is…a…Muslim.”

There was a pregnant pause while everyone pondered her pronouncement of “truth.,” but then the women got back to the other GOP candidates. With Trump being a little too over the top, and Rubio being in favor of keeping immigrants here and letting more come in, the only viable candidate, said the ringleader, with the other three women nodding their heads in agreement, was Ted Cruz.

“He is honest and loving and believes in the Constitution,” said Ringleader. “He is our only hope.” And then she said, quietly, “We have lost our beloved America. Our children’s children will never know the America we knew.”

Ah, the “give us our country back” sentiment took center stage. If Cruz could help bring sexism and racism back, and put all of the “isms” back in their places on the shelves of  American values, then he would have to be elected president. If Cruz could get rid of Obamacare with no thought of how millions who now have health care would feel or survive, then he would have to be elected president. If Cruz could make it so that police could have free reign with arresting and brutalizing people, then he would have to be president. If Cruz could get the military up and running like a good American military should run, and “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” as Donald Trump has said, then Cruz would have to be elected president.

I sat there, not surprised at what I was hearing, but a tad irritated that they talked so loudly so that everyone would have to hear their political discourses. They were bemoaning the threat they and many white Americans feel from forces larger than them and their remembrance of an America where bigotry and privilege went unchallenged. They were bemoaning the fact that being “politically correct” means respecting people of different religions (Islam) and colors and nationalities. They were tired of it. They wanted the voices of white people to be heard again, loudly and clearly, putting everyone and everything that wasn’t white in their proper places.

To heck with this being the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” They were not interested in living into that pronouncement and they sure were not interested in nurturing the American value called pluralism.

I heard that in their discourse. I don’t think I was wrong. I wish I were…

A candid observation…

Black Lives Don’t Matter to GOP

I watched the much-touted GOP presidential debate last evening with bated breath. Would these candidates indicate that they knew about and cared about the war around the value of black lives that is tearing this nation apart? Would they indicate that they care about African-Americans who are literally fighting for dignity and fairness in this land?

They did not. Not one question about the Black Lives Matter movement was asked; not one candidate admitted that what is going on in America is a serious problem.

Kim Davis and her quest for religious freedom was mentioned, and passionately so. Planned Parenthood was mentioned, with everyone seeming absolutely horrified that, according to a video that has surfaced, body parts of fetuses have been sold by Planned Parenthood. Of course, there was much discussion about the hated Iran deal, about what Russia is doing, about the nation’s security in general. That was expected and necessary.

But there was not a word, not a mention about the crisis going on in the streets of America, with innocent and unarmed black people being arrested, harassed, shot, injured, jailed and killed, by police officers. Not a word.

White America (and Dr. Carson) seems not to care about what is going on. White America is caught in its insistence that whatever happens to black people at the hands of police officers is warranted – that, in spite of plenty of videos to date that have indicated otherwise.

How come Rev. Mike Huckabee can be so concerned about what he calls “judicial tyranny” and not care about the domestic tyranny called police brutality? How can he, a Christian minister, ignore the fact that young black people are being treated like chattel, still, suffering at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them? Why is the plight of one Kim Davis more heart-wrenching to him than is the plight of all these African-Americans who are being profiled and attacked by police …with little chance that the offending officers will be held to accountability for their actions?

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that “the universe is so structured that things do not quite work out rightly if men are not diligent in their concern for others.” (“The Ethical Demands for Integration”) In 1962, he wrote that “it is sad that the moral dimension of integration has not been sounded by the leaders of government and the nation.” White people are adamant about there being “law and order,” and will insist, most of the time, that “the law” be obeyed. In the case of black lives, that means being quiet and acquiescing to the commands of police officers, be they in the right or not. Dr King wrote, in that same essay, “they sounded the note that has become the verse, chorus and refrain of the so-called calm and reasonable moderates: we must obey the law!  He said that the issue of national morality was before the leaders of that time. That same issue of national morality is before us now, but the GOP candidates are ignoring it.

Dr. King further wrote, in “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” that “oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come.” That urge is upon us now, GOP candidates. Whether you like the movement and action of the Black Lives Matter activists or not, the move is on to end the oppression which is and has always been wrought by the “justice system” in this land.  Dr. King wrote in that same letter, “The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations. He has to get them out.”  That is what you are seeing, yet ignoring. The souls that are marching in the streets and lying down on highways are souls that are sick and tired of the anguish they carry around daily. They are tired of believing that there will be justice when law enforcement acts in criminal ways. Dr. King wrote that it is “immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.”

Whomever becomes president of the United States will need to look squarely in the face of Justice and know that she will require the soul of America to answer for its injustice to so many of her citizens. Just as society dared, really, President Obama to speak up too much for the case and causes of black people,  the Black Lives Matter movement will dare the new president ti ignore the cries of people who are tired of justice …being unjust.

It was insulting, last evening, to hear those candidates completely ignore the cries of people who are alive and fighting for freedom while they spoke for the lives of babies not yet born.

They showed that black lives don’t matter to the GOP.

A candid observation …

GOP Struggling for Understanding

Donald Trump
Donald Trump (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Is it my imagination, or are we hearing about the GOP wrestling with why they lost the 2012 presidential election a little longer than they did in 2008? It’s four months past Election Day, but still, the conversation on all the news outlets seems to always include just one more story about why the Republicans lost.

The angst the Republicans feel is certainly palpable. They cannot believe they lost; they cannot believe that the Hispanic community went in such large numbers for President Obama; they cannot believe that 21st conservatism …lost.

So deep is their misery about their loss that they’ve been talking ad nauseum on how they must change. It’s a new day, they’re saying. “We get it now,” they say, and they’re looking at themselves and their policies …and the way they relate to the masses of Americans. Some of them are realizing, as Jeb Bush said, that people think they are against everything – gay marriage, abortion, Medicare, Medicaid, the poor …They realize that now.

But what they are saying they want to do is change their image, not their policies.

Donald Trump, one of the speakers at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), voiced concern that 11 million immigrants, if allowed to become American citizens, will vote Democratic. Trump said to allow that is suicide. It’s okay to let them vote, he said, but think of what we are doing! He wants America to remain “the way it was,” dominated by white men; “why don’t we let people from Europe in?” he asked.

“Tremendous people, hard-working people,” he said. “They can’t come in. I know people whose sons went to Harvard, top of their class, went to the Wharton School of finance, great, great students. They happen to be a citizen of a foreign country. They learn, they take all of our knowledge, and they can’t work in this country. We throw them out. We educate them, we make them really good, they go home — they can’t stay here — so they work from their country and they work very effectively against this. how stupid is that?” (http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/03/trump-white-immigrants-cpac.php).

Very little of what I’ve heard GOP leaders say indicates that the vast numbers of them understand the way the world is changing and how the GOP needs to be sensitive to those needs in order to build their base.  Most of them seem to want to find a way to stay the way they are, while doing what they most to get more brown voters. They still don’t seem to care about increasing the number of black people.

It’s not just the GOP leaders, either. Conservative followers are helping to remind people of why the GOP is suffering a bit now. Footage of CPAC showed a clip where a black guy was conducting a workshop on racism and how people are tired of being called racists. He mentioned Frederick Douglass, who hated slavery…and a white guy gets up and said that blacks, under slavery, had free room and board. Why, he wondered, would anyone want not to be in such a cushy situation?

No doubt, that man would violently disagree with anyone who called him a racist …but he and so many GOP leaders do not seem to understand that the smug attitudes of racism will not be tolerated much more. Discrimination against blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and lesbians…is going to be tolerated less and less.

It would be refreshing if the GOP really understood that it has had a snooty attitude toward way too much of the American electorate. Some of its leaders are understanding, but it seems far too many still cannot.

The GOP lost because people need to know they matter, and the GOP simply did not reach out to and respond to the cries and needs of a growing number of non-white Americans and would-be Americans. People do not trust a political party which seems intent on letting the poor and the elderly, for all intents and purposes, fend for themselves. And nothing of what I’ve heard thus far indicates that they understand …or care …that it is their policies which have turned so many people off.

President Obama, in spite of his flaws and shortcomings, was and is effective of letting a wider swath of Americans know that they matter. The GOP did not do that, and they are now seeing the consequences of their actions.

That’s why they lost. So, can we note that and stop talking, every day, about why the Republicans lost in 2012? If the GOP cannot move itself into a different mold after seeing what happened in 2012, they deserve to lose…

A candid observation