White Men Behaving Badly

I have watched and listened to the real-life drama unfolding as a discussion about contraception has morphed into first, an accusation against President Obama, that he is waging a war on religion, and now, into a war on women and women’s rights.

And what I am seeing is white men behaving badly in an all-out effort to “take back” America.

At first, the cry heard from Republicans to “take our country back” seemed squarely aimed at President Barack Obama. Though nobody wants to admit it openly, there is a fair amount of resentment from many Republicans that President Obama, a black man, is in the White House. South African playwright and writer Athol Fugard said the same in a recent interview with Charlie Rose on March 1, 2012: “Much of what President Obama is going through is because he is a black man in the White House,” Fugard said.

The resentment against President Obama was predictable, but this war on women, and a crude one at that, is a bit of a surprise.  Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Georgetown University Law School student Sharon Fluke are no less than sickening and repulsive. To call this young woman a “slut” and a “prostitute” is childish, but one wonders, listening to him, if many Republicans are angry that women, as well as blacks, have gotten just a little bit too much freedom in this country?

Much of this got started, or the hot embers were ignited by, GOP candidate Rick Santorum. He began the tirade that there was and is an attack on religion and religious freedoms being waged by the Obama administration. With deep passion he has argued that secularism is on the rise, the fault of this president and his administration.

To make it possible for women to get contraception is a part of a war on religion and religious freedom, Santorum has said. The waves from his passionate sharing of his beliefs has grown into a tsunami that is revealing just how deep is bigotry against anyone who is not white and male, and, ironically, Protestant (though Santorum is a Catholic) in this country.

In a 2008 speech, Santorum said that “this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism – and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is a shambles. It is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.” (italics mine.)

Santorum moved from attacking the president and his “phony theology” to observations on women and their place in society.  In an interview with John King on February 8 of this year, Santorum said that he had “concerns” about women in combat, saying that in such a situation “it could be a very compromising situation where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”

His apparent disapproval of the freedom of women to “choose” came through loud and clear when he said in 2006 that he didn’t think contraception works, and said “I think it’s harmful to women. I think it’s harmful to our society to have a society that says sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated.”

Only, apparently, if that sex is engaged in by women…

Santorum is gaining support in his bid for the Republican nomination for president, and there has been no outcry for the voice of Rush Limbaugh to be stilled; this is America, after all, and we have freedoms.

But what is becoming increasingly clear is that a great number of Americans are apparently very resentful that too many people have too much freedom!  Politicians of the past have said in the open, and now I suppose they say it in private, “this is a white man’s country.”  Indeed, when the words of the Constitution were fashioned, saying that all men were created equal, there was no thought or understanding that that phrase included or was intended to include blacks, women, or even all men. The phrase was specifically describing the freedom of white, Protestant, property-owning, men.

It appears that what Conservatives want to conserve is their idea of what America was always intended to be.  They understand that freedom, or premium freedom, was never meant to be for the masses. “We the people” are confused.

What is used as justification of their views, and even of their treatment of some people, is the U.S. Constitution and, alas, God. Those who do not believe as they do are condemned as “secularists.”  Santorum blasted a 1960 speech by fellow Catholic  and then presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy, who said he believed in total separation of church and state.

Kennedy was trying to assuage a nervous  American society about what they might expect if a Catholic got into the White House. Would the pope have the ultimate power? Kennedy’s speech, it seemed, sought to calm their nerves.

But Santorum, trying to conserve an America that was formed by people seeking freedom but which systematically denied freedom to blacks, women, and so many others, blasted Kennedy’s speech and appealed to a yet again nervous America which believes that the wrong person is in the White House and that women have gotten beside themselves, out of line with the divine will.

The word “Christianity” is being thrown around like a hot potato, appealing to the fears of some under the guise of religious righteousness. Being crass and rude to a young woman cannot be in the will of God, who in the Hebrew scriptures decried how badly people treated each other and yet thought they could appease God by pious religious services.  “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies” God says in the book of Amos (5:21)

It feels like this God would not like what is being done to people, or said about human beings with rights, including women and blacks. Freedom of speech notwithstanding, it seems that God would not approve of Rush Limbaugh’s crude and tasteless comments about a young woman who is seeking to help protect the rights of all women.

In this election cycle, white men are behaving badly, using the Constitution and God to justify their actions and their words. It is very, very sad to watch.

A candid observation …

Mitt Romney, You Meant What You Said

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts,...
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I was always taught that what’s in one’s heart is what comes out of one’s mouth.

Actually, there’s a scripture that says the same: “For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” is how the Gospel of Luke puts it (Luke 6:45).  In my house growing up, my mother would remind us of that, and would warn us not to say things for which we would have to apologize. It was her way of saying, I guess, “Love means never having to say ‘I’m sorry.'”

In other words, when we say things, it’s what we feel. It might be in the heat of a moment, but it is what we really feel.

So, I don’t buy this stuff GOP candidate Mitt Romney is saying, as he explains his now famous statement, “I am not concerned about the very poor,” that he “misspoke.” Hardly, Mitt.  You said what was and what is in your heart.

As these GOP candidates have campaigned, all of them have said things which reveal what they feel about America’s underclass.  While I cringe at how they go after each other, it bothers me to my heart that these guys seem so disconnected from people in this country who need a government that cares about them.

It is probably naive for me to want candidates to care, but I do. I am not for “big government” as it is being described, but I do want a government that has the good sense to take care of its own. I am reminded of a speech Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King gave a year before his death as he spoke out against the Viet Nam War: he said that he found it hard to talk to young people about democracy because he couldn’t explain why a country – our country – would spend millions of dollars and sacrifice hundreds of thousands of human lives un a war supposedly to get their people freedom and civil rights  when our own government does not make sure its own citizens have the same.

We are coming out of  The Great Recession, an event which has devastated literally hundreds of thousands of Americans. The once poor are now the “very poor,” and many of the former “middle class” are now poor. These are people who worked hard and who were whammied by the sinking of our economy which presumably happened because of the activities of greedy wealthy people. Though the unemployment rate is slowly dropping, and more and more people are finding work, many, too many, of our nation’s citizens are suffering.

And Mitt Romney, it seems, could care less.

He said that he wasn’t worried about the very poor because they have a safety net, meaning government programs – which help them, but an indicator of how far removed he is from the madding crowd, so to speak, is that much of that safety net is being and has been chipped away, and if he has his way, even more of it will be eliminated. He cannot relate to the fact that way too many Americans need food stamps in order to eat, to feed their children. He has not seen the eyes of the poor and very poor, trying desperately to get out of the wells of despair in which they sit, but he doesn’t want to. He is not concerned about them.

Newt Gingrich has seized upon Romney’s statement and is using it, saying we should be concerned about the poor. Nice try, Newt, but his earlier statements, including the one that’s been a part of his campaign rhetoric, that President Obama is the “food stamp president” shows that he isn’t too concerned about the poor, either, but is more concerned about a government which has issued a record number of food stamps to keep people going during this economic tsunami.

And even President Obama hasn’t shown much verbal concern for the poor; he has been soundly criticized for not mentioning the poor more often and for not coming up with more policies that directly impact and help the poor of this nation, specifically black and brown people.

Needless to say, the U.S. Congress has not shown by its behavior that it is concerned all that much by the poor. The primary objective of House Republicans is to make sure that Barack Obama is a one term president, and the Senate has been rather mealy-mouthed in addressing the ills of this nation as concerns our suffering citizens.

So, what are the poor?  If the poor or the very poor are people with whom the leaders of this country are not concerned, what kind of nation are we, really? Mitt Romney has said that people are “jealous” of people who have money. How callous is that?  He said that  over $300,000 he received for a speaking engagement was not a lot of money. Again, it doesn’t get much more callous or insensitive than that.

Mitt Romney, you didn’t “misspeak.” You spoke what was in your heart.

A candid observation …

“Meanness” an Attribute for GOP

I heard this morning that what Conservatives most want is someone who is “mean,” someone who can beat the president in this fall’s general elections.

That’s why issues about Newt Gingrich‘s marriages and his alleged desire for an open marriage, just wasn’t an issue in the South Carolina primary. There is a “national conversation” that is in place, one ABC reporter said, and in order for Mitt Romney to regain a bit of the ground he has lost, he has got to tie into that conversation.

Included in the conversation is anger amongst the GOP.  The successful GOP candidate must connect to that anger, and run a campaign that addresses the “politics of resentment.” It seems, according to some, that a large part of the GOP base is angry at the “elite media,” the  economy, of course, and the fact that Barack Obama is in the White House.

When Newt Gingrich did his “Contract with America” some years ago, the issue of anger was addressed; specifically it was the anger of white men. Is that the same crock pot that Newt has identified and is adding ingredients to – this pot of stew, brimming with elements of white anger?

This election cycle is a bit scary to me; for the party of “faith and values” to be willing to abandon that platform just so they can elect someone they think can get the president out of the White House makes me wonder about the validity of their claim to be so above it all. The recent YouTube video of the young man giving a spoken word about how he hates religion but loves Jesus, then, seems so appropriate. This young man sees the disconnect between what religious people say and do, and it bothers him.

It bothers me, too.

It seems that if the faith and values people are just looking for someone to go on the attack, and be “mean” enough to get President Barack Obama out of office, then something is askew. If the Evangelical, pro-life base is willing to remain silent on what appear to be obvious moral breaches on the part of Newt Gingrich, just because they think he can beat President Obama, then something is wrong.

When it no longer becomes important that a presidential hopeful at least appear to be concerned for all of God’s children, when it becomes OK for a man who’s marital and extramarital indiscretions are not important (when in the past, such indiscretions were enough to knock any candidate out of the ball park), then we Americans need to stop and pause.

We are in a very dangerous place.

I suspect that the next few weeks leading up to the Republican convention are going to be painful, because the campaigns will be so nasty and so “mean,” that the real issues will be lost. Politicians are good at manipulating the emotions of Americans, and Newt Gingrich is one of the best.

If it is true that what GOP voters are looking for most is someone who is “mean,” it’s likely they won’t be disappointed.

But at the end of the day, what in the world will it mean for our country?

A candid observation…

Enough

English: Former Speaker of the House at CPAC in .
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This weekend I saw a segment on a news program about the late Lee Atwater, the Republican boy wonder who orchestrated the campaign and subsequent victory for George H.W. Bush in 1988. Atwater was but one of more recent members of the GOP who made racial politics a staple of their strategy. Ronald Reagan,  the GOP beloved, was also helped along by Atwater, and was the candidate who coined the phrase ” welfare queen,” making voters latch onto their belief that black people and their undying love for entitlements, are what’s wrong with America. Along comes Lee Atwater, who helped George H.W. Bush decimate Michael Dukakis in the 1988 election by flashing the image of convicted murderer Willie Horton into American homes via television during the campaign, reminding voters that Dukakis was in favor of furloughs for some horrible people…Willie Horton’s face was the reminder that in the minds of white Americans, “horrible people” equaled “black people,” and there was no way one sympathetic to such people should be elected President of the United States.

And now, here we are again, 2012, and racial politics is being played again. Oh, the GOP candidates won’t say things outright; far be it for them to be said to be playing “the race card,” but play that card they do, surreptitiously, repeatedly and continuously, playing right into the same nerves and veins as did Atwater and Reagan.

Newt Gingrich‘s recent comments, saying that black people do not have a work ethic, and saying that the “only the elites despise making money” help him bolster his argument that President Barack Obama is the “food stamp president.” He claims that more Americans under President Obama are receiving or have received food stamps than under any other president in history.

Stop, Mr. Gingrich. Have you forgotten that more Americans are out of work, or have been out of work, during this presidency than in any other time in history?  Unlike the presidency of FDR, where the eruption of war helped address the huge unemployment problem that had been wrought by the Great Depression, this country was steeped in two wars which were not making money for America but were in fact draining its coffers. Jobs that had been available were being outsourced overseas, helping people over there get on their feet and make people like Gingrich and Romney more wealthy while ignoring the people here who had fallen.

Have you not heard, Mr. Gingrich, that one 1 out of every 2 Americans is now classified as “poor,” and that the “new poor” are those who used to be middle class? Have you not visited neighborhoods which hardly “look” poor, but where the “used to be” middle class are now scuffling to make ends meet? Have you not driven past a church in a fairly well to do area where the sign says “free lunch,” catering not to people whom you would say have no work ethic, but to people, white people, thank you, who are working and who need help? Have you not visited food pantries where the food is flying off shelves faster than it can be replaced, because people of all races, whites especially, have no money to feed their families?

Enough.

Racial politics is disingenuous at best, but wrong and manipulative at its worst. Instead of addressing the real problem in America- that of corporate greed – which is responsible for the mess our nation is in. Gingrich and others rely instead on cheap shots and easy prey in order to lure their base, happily ignorant of what’s really going on, into their lairs. Gingrich and Romney and others will resort to “playing the race card” without saying the word “race” outright; they will use phrases like “the food stamp president” as a euphemism for what they are really saying – that black people are the reason America is in a bad way, and we need to get this black person out of the White House because he is pandering to a group that doesn’t appreciate America, the free enterprise system, or democracy. GOP opponents are just suggesting, thank you, that this “most liberal president in the history of America” is making black people more dependent than they already are.

Please.

There are a couple of things I wish Gingrich would address. First of all, I’d like for him to admit that statistics say that more white people than black receive food stamps. I don’t think I have ever heard a white candidate for anything admit this truth. If you’re going to try to be president, it would be nice to see that you have the capacity to “fess up” when you need to.

Secondly, I wish that Gingrich would go into an urban area and meet with some of the people he talks about so blithely and carelessly. Yes, there are people who do not work because they want to receive benefits, but there are more who do not work because they cannot find work. There are those who are living in deep depression because they tried to find work but nobody would hire them. Let Mr. Gingrich address the racism of America that keeps black and brown people disproportionately unemployed…Let him talk to men who have tried and tried and tried some more to get work, only to be turned down. Let him talk to men who are broken because, though they are American, they cannot get hold of “the American dream.”

Thirdly, I wish that Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Romney or whoever gets the nomination show that he has the chutzpah to stand up and speak out against the economic injustice that has plagued black people from the beginning of time. Let Mr. Gingrich, an historian who certainly knows the antics of white people to keep black people unemployed, underemployed, and/or in debt that have gone on since Reconstruction.

Were Mr. Gingrich to show his mastery of history in that way, and show himself to be a genuine human being and not simply a politician,  there might be a change in this country.

He wouldn’t be elected president, but he would get the attention of someone who has never bothered to hear the truth before.

Enough!  The GOP candidates need to stop their destructive campaign tactics. This racial politics is a poison to our country, a country already weakened by the economic disparity which has made the gulf between rich and poor greater than it has ever been.  Surely Mr. Gingrich knows that.

Yes, he knows …but he doesn’t care.

A candid observation …

What If?

The western front of the United States Capitol...
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What would America be like if it were run by a plain, old, middle or lower middle class president, and if the Congress wasn’t filled with millionaires?

There is so much conversation about how we are a plutocracy and not a democracy at all – meaning that the wealthy are doing the controlling and the governing. Government and big business are in bed together, and they are not about to give up or even consider policies which will threaten their class status or their wealth.

That’s understandable. They have no vested interest in the common people; “we the people” are merely puppets used in elections. Ironically, we elect people who do not really have our best interests at heart, not if it threatens the status quo.

It is not surprising, though it is sad, that the gap between the wealthy and the poor is getting larger and larger and that the middle class is almost non-existent. GOP presidential candidate shows absolutely no sensitivity to this reality, saying this week that the complaints against the wealthy is really envy.

Perhaps somewhat. It would be unrealistic to deny that the “have-nots” would rather be “haves.”

But what if the presidency went to a middle class person who was not so far removed from the days of real economic hardship, who remembered personally what it was like to work and still not have a decent, living wage? What if that person had a Congress that was likewise filled with people who could relate to the vast majority of Americans because they were in basically the same boat? What if the members of Congress didn’t have health care, or what if their jobs at Congress paid minimum wage or just above? What sorts of policies for the American people might emerge?

It is telling that in debates, the words “poor” or “poverty” are seldom heard. We hear that conversations criticizing the distance between rich and poor as being “class warfare,” and we hear jabs intimating that people who depend on entitlements or even government employment are burdens to the system of free enterprise.

But the candidates show their disconnect from what is the reality in America, and it goes beyond comprehension why they do not seem to know that a country cannot be its best if the masses are in distress.

And clearly, the masses are in distress.

Someone said to me that if more people would just try harder and get a good education, the playing field would be more level.

I wondered which country she lives in. The cost of a college education is skyrocketing, way out of reach for more and more people, even as jobs that don’t require college educations become fewer and fewer.

Something is wrong with this picture.

So, I just got to thinking …what if the president were just…one of us? I cringe as I see these millions of dollars being spent to get elected. It’s like the money was pulled from a reserved tree or something; this while so many people are suffering. The poverty rate in America is 46 percent…

To make matters worse, the money being thrown around isn’t getting us any closer to knowing who, really, has the best interests of “the rest of us” at heart. No, super PACs are doling out money so that candidates can tear each other to shreds personally.  All these guys are super wealthy, and all they want to do is get into office to create policies that will protest their wealth. So, what’s a few million dollars to get that done?

If there were to be someone who came aboard advocating for the masses, he or she would be quickly dubbed a socialist. People call President Obama a socialist, but his policies have not been all that kind or helpful to the masses. The complaint against him seems to have stemmed from rabid opposition to his Affordable Health Care Act, but other than that, I find it hard to figure out why people are saying that he has been against big business and free enterprise.

At the end of the day, those who “have” fight to protect their interests. That’s all that’s going on now. That’s why I wonder what America would be like if someone less wealthy, with a less wealthy Congress, were in control?

Would we be a more equitable nation, or would those in power aspire to be like their mentors, i.e, the wealthy who are in power now?

A larger question might be, would a less wealthy president and Congress create a more equal America, or do the masses of people, wealthy, middle class or otherwise, even believe that financial and/or social equality  is even a part of the definition of democracy? Was this country ever intended to serve the interests of and protect the masses, or were we, the common people, duped into believing in the ideal of equality by Thomas Jefferson’s words, “all men are created equal?”

A musing …and a candid observation.