The Definition of Patriotism

American-flag-America

I had a Twitter conversation with a Donald Trump supporter that has left me puzzled.

Donald Trump, she said, is a patriot.

I had been complaining that Trump is not civil; civility matters to me. She acknowledged that he was not so civil but that he was a patriot. The country was in tatters and he was going to make things right again.

So, I’m puzzled. Is patriotism the same thing as racism? Is patriotism the same thing as isolationism? Is it synonymous with Islamophobia? I have no doubt that Trump loves America, but it is the flavor of his love that is making me question the definition of patriotism. Is President Obama not a patriot? Are the non-native born American citizens, especially those who have fought for this country, not patriots?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines patriotism as, simply, love for one’s country.

Trump is, by definition, a patriot. I was combining my idea of patriotism with my idea of civility. They are not synonymous. Trump, to me, is an uncivil patriot.

Patriots do not have to care about how they treat fellow Americans. What they do have to do is be against “the enemy,” wherever and whomever that enemy might be.

Donald Trump is not a patriot merely because he wants to bomb ISIS and make NATO members pay what they’re supposed to pay for. I hope he or someone can get rid of ISIS and all terrorist groups, including the domestic ones like the Ku Klux Klan.  And I hope that if he is elected, he will be able to get member nations of NATO to pay what they are supposed to pay.

Where I get confused is how he, as a patriot, can openly ask Russia, a long-time enemy of the United States, to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails. If they hack into her emails, can’t they and won’t they hack into other documents that are vital to American security?  All this courting of Russia doesn’t feel patriotic to me. It feels troubling.

So, can one be a patriot and invite the enemy into its most private spaces? Isn’t Russia trying to regain its role as a top world power? Isn’t inviting Russia to hack an American politician’s email account kind of treasonous? Trump seems to trust Russia’s Vladimir Putin quite a bit. What is the basis of and for that trust? What has Putin done to show that Russia is America’s ally?

I am trying to understand. Someone help me. Because I am obviously missing something. What is a patriot? Donald Trump is a patriot because he loves his country, yet he questions the patriotism of President Obama and others whose foreign policy is different from his.

Patriotism seems to be a liquid concept if I go with the love for Trump as a patriot. It’s confusing.

A candid observation …

Youth Paralyzed; Police Who Allegedly Shot Him Still Working

English: Image of Ella Baker, an African Ameri...
English: Image of Ella Baker, an African American civil rights and human rights activist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Here’s a new name of a young black man who has been victimized by police: Leon Ford.

 

Yesterday, I wrote that “we the people” need to be aware of what is going on as concerns the plight of young black men in this country, and that we need to step up and fight for justice for these young men who are being criminalized, demonized, and worse.

 

Yesterday’s post was about three African-American males who, while waiting for a school bus to take them to a basketball scrimmage, were arrested by police officers and charged with disorderly conduct. Their coach who showed up and saw them in handcuffs, defended them to police, but he was told that if he did not be quiet he would be arrested, too. In fact, the coach said, officers threatened to arrest the entire team. (http://rolandmartinreports.com/blog/2013/12/coach-defends-students-arrested-at-bus-stop/).

 

Today, I listened to a story posted on the site of  The Root about a young African-American male who was shot and paralyzed by police officers one year ago in Pittsburgh. It was a routine traffic stop. The young man, Leon Ford, was asked by police officers to produce his driver’s license and registration, which he did. Police were looking for a “young black man wearing a white tee-shirt,” the story said.  Leon fit that description …just like any number of black males can fit on any given day. The man they were looking for had done something …but officers didn’t bother to verify if Leon was the man they were looking for; he was a black man who fit their paltry description. The video on the site shows police officers trying to physically pull Leon out of his car. There is another officer on the passenger side. Police said that it looked like there was something bulging from Leon’s waist, and so the officer on the passenger side of the car jumped into the car as the frightened youth sped off.  Officers shot the young man five times, resulting in his paralysis. Not only is he severely injured, but is facing charges related to the incident that could land him in prison for 20 years. (http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2013/12/shot_by_pittsburgh_cops_leon_ford_tells_his_story.html?wpisrc=newsletter_jcr:content)

 

I literally wept when I read the story.

 

I just finished putting together a report for the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference, Inc, led by General Secretary Iva Carruthers,  on the phenomenon of mass incarceration in this country, something that has resulted in more African-Americans being locked up than we even realize. I have done some work with Ruby Sales, the director of the Spirit House Project, talking with parents of youth who have been terrorized, harassed, jailed and yes, killed by white officers and vigilantes. The problem is not getting better! It is getting worse. With the growth of the Prison Industrial Complex and its need to keep prisons filled, there is little incentive for this type of vigilante injustice to stop. Our young men are being drawn to the slaughter…and it is getting worse!

 

There are the names we know: Trayvon Martin, Kendrick Johnson, Oscar Grant, and a woman, Renisha McBride and now, Leon Ford…but for every one of them for whom we know their names and stories, there are probably scores of young black people who have been murdered or imprisoned unjustly. The number grows. Young black men are helping to fuel American corporations – from food pantries to phone companies – and because of the demonization of black people which American society has bought into, nobody says anything.

 

I looked at the faces of the parents of Leon Ford. I met the parents of Kendrick Johnson and remember their faces. I can still see the face of Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother …and it is heartbreaking. It makes me want to scream, “Dammit! OUR KIDS COUNT!” When shootings occur in white schools, news reports say that counselors are sent in to help students cope, but when shootings occur in black schools or black neighborhoods, we don’t hear of that intervention. Who is helping the parents of these young people to cope? Who is helping young Ford cope with his new reality of not being able to walk?

 

Justice work is long and hard. People and institutions in power are not easily moved, and yet, we who believe in justice cannot just sit by. It was Kendrick Johnson earlier this year and Leon Ford last year; tomorrow it may be one of our own children.

 

The danger of being silent when so much injustice is going on cannot be overstated. Politicians can be moved by the power and presence of an energized populace. We elect them, remember? It is time for us to see how we can act and help and bring attention to what is going on. If we are silent, the forces that are bringing such heinous destruction are going to keep on going. The justice system, including juries, are still too eager to buy into the notion that black people are bad and deserve what they get. George Zimmerman was acquitted, remember? And the officers who shot Leon Ford …are still working, on the streets, with pay.

 

Just last evening, I read a statement by the late Ella Baker, who organized the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and who said, as regards the sit-ins that were being conducted by students that the problem was “much bigger than a hamburger and even a giant-sized Coke.”  She said that the students were working to “eliminate racial discrimination and segregation not only at lunch counters but in every aspect of life.”

 

What is clear is that the battle has not yet been won. There has been declared open warfare on black youths …and it must stop. I am afraid that only the constant and persistent attention given to what is going on by people who believe in justice will be the only way the tide will stem. We cannot be silent or unwilling to take this issue on!

 

To be in touch with organizations that are working on this issue, go to http://sdpconference.info/2013-samuel-dewitt-proctor-conference/ or to http://www.spirithouseproject.org/.

 

We who believe in freedom and justice …cannot stop.

 

A candid observation ..

 

Silence of “we the people” is deadly

“We the people” absolutely cannot be silent and be unaware of what is going on around us.

When I was young, living in Detroit, I and my friends were told how to survive “out there.” We were never to be unaware; we were never to be so trusting that we didn’t, at all times, inspect our surroundings before we got out of our cars. We were never to appear to be sitting ducks. We had to be aware.

“We the people” are too often “unaware,” and it costs us.

Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police Chief who spent three years in jail for tax evasion, was appalled by what he saw while in prison. One of the things that he said in an interview with Matt Lauer of “The Today Show” was that “if people knew what was going on, they’d be angry. They’d want to change things.”

I read tonight a story about three young African-American youth – males – who were arrested as they waited for a school bus that was to take them to a scrimmage. Police officers showed up and told them to move. They politely declined, explaining that they were waiting for a school bus. According to the story, they were asked to disperse – to go home – several times, and when they refused, they were arrested!

When their coach showed up moments later, and saw three of his players in handcuffs, he asked officers what was going on. The officers said that the young men had been arrested because they had refused to go home, as had been asked. The coach said that they were waiting for a bus to go to a basketball scrimmage – but the officers did not care and threatened to arrest him if he did not back off.

These are law-abiding young men, who were minding their business. They were waiting for a bus. And for that, they were demonized and arrested.

I saw the story on Roland Martin’s site (http://rolandmartinreports.com/blog/2013/12/coach-defends-students-arrested-at-bus-stop/) and I was enraged. Perhaps I got as angry as I got because I had just watched the remaining segments of Henry Gates’ “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” and I was reminded of how much work has gone into getting rights and dignity for African-Americans, but whatever the reason, I was enraged because what was described in the story about the young men was nothing but sheer harassment and an abuse of power.

“We the people” don’t know how common that sort of thing is. “We the people” are too ready to accept media accounts of “crime” on the streets and buy into and contribute to the demonization of young black kids.

My son, thankfully, got through his teen years without being arrested for being young and stupid, or young, black, and in the wrong place at the wrong time. He got through his teens  without being harassed by police officers. But so many young black kids, especially young black males, are not so lucky …and many times, they are guilty of nothing other than being …young and black.

If Kerik is right – that if people see the injustice that goes on they will be angry and will want things to change, then “we the people” need to make sure that these tragic stories of injustice are not ignored. More than that, we ought to look for them and chronicle them so that the American public knows more of what is true instead of relying on the myth of “black badness.”

When the American people saw television reports on how black people in Alabama were being treated, when they saw how victims of Hurricane Katrina – primarily poor and black – were being treated, their backs went up. They didn’t like what they saw. They pressed for justice.

They saw and they reacted …and if that’s what it takes to get popular support for justice, then we need to make sure that the stories of the rampant injustice which is so common for black people – gets notice.  After facts are checked, when we come across stories of this type of injustice, we ought to, we need to , farm it out to journalists, programs and organizations who have the capacity to “spread the word” and garner attention to what is still going on.

Unless we cry for justice, there will be none. Politicians, lawmakers, and others in power count on our being ignorant, complacent, and/or silent. We can’t afford to do that. Too many young black people are being picked off and demonized by a power structure which has much to lose if its political strategy backfires. They need black people to be demonized in order to woo the fearful and fretful numbers of Americans who need to believe that their perception of “the bad Negro” are correct.

Their perceptions are wrong, and “we the people” need to do all we can to shatter the myths.

A candid observation …

When Good People Are Silent …

Ida B. Wells Barnett
Ida B. Wells Barnett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When good people are silent, and do nothing, evil triumphs.

 

That sentiment is attributed to English philosopher Edmund Burke, and he may or may not have said it, but it is true nonetheless.

 

Black children are being killed by police officers and vigilantes. That is evil. That is modern-day, 21st century lynching, sanctioned and worse, ignored, by “the law,” as was the case when lynching was talked about out loud. The United States never passed a law outlawing lynching, in spite of the efforts of Ida B. Wells Barnett and others.

 

Even then, too many people were silent.

 

Today, I am cringing and trying to understand why mothers, everywhere, black, white, and brown, are not up in arms, demanding that local, state and federal law enforcement do something!

 

Renisha McBride, the 19-year-old black female who was murdered last week, was merely looking for someone to help her when she wandered on the porch of the wrong person. She was shot in the face with a 12-gauge shotgun. She was somebody’s baby, looking for help, for goodness’ sake. She was unarmed. She was hurt, because she had been in a car accident. She was in a strange neighborhood. She was scared, I would bet …but I would also bet that she never even thought she would be shot .

 

Like it was with lynchings in the past, those who shoot (lynch) black people are not arrested, or, if they are, they are far too frequently let go. If they go to trial, they are acquitted. In the case of McBride, her alleged shooter has not even been charged yet. Her family says they don’t just want him charged. They want him convicted.

 

Shouldn’t all of us, those of us who are mothers, and those of us who just care, want that, too?

 

Shouldn’t all of us be pushing for this terrorism and murder of black children to stop?

 

If it were my child who had been killed, I’d be on the battlefield…but it hit me that Renisha …Trayvon …Jonathan…are my children. They are OUR children.

 

If you are reading this, and are a concerned mother, citizen, observer …please go to http://www.spirithouseproject.org and leave a note there that you want to become a voice for the abolition of the murders of black children and young people.

 

Evil triumphs when good people do nothing and are silent. I don’t know who really said it, or what the exact words were, originally, but I know it’s true.

 

The Holocaust happened because good people …were silent.

 

A candid observation …

 

Dangerous to be Black in America

The man who is accused of shooting and killing 19-year-old Renisha McBride says he was afraid for his life …and that he shot her in the face “accidentally” with his 12-gauge shotgun.

Sounds painfully familiar. Didn’t George Zimmerman say the same thing when he shot Trayvon Martin? And the police officer who shot Jonathan Ferrell  – didn’t he say he was afraid, which was why he pumped 10 bullets into Ferrell after having shot at him 12 times? What

What is clear is that it is dangerous to be black in America. Because black people have been criminalized and objectified, it is easy for a police officer or citizen or vigilante to claim that the killing of any given black person was “justified,” and that the shooting happened because the shooter …was in fear of his life.

Whenever I am in a strange neighborhood which also happens to be predominantly white, I am nervous. If I have to pull into someone’s driveway to turn around, again, I am nervous.  I realize that fear and racism, mixed together, make for deadly consequences. There has been, says Ruby Sales, founder and director of the SpiritHouse Project, a “rampant return of white vigilante violence that has resulted in black bodies being thought of as disposable and black people thought of as human waste.”  Instinctively, I know that that feeling is pervasive, and I have seen black people try unsuccessfully to defend themselves or loved ones in cases where there has been a tragic shooting.

Nobody listens to or believes the black accused.

In New York just this week, a 20-year old black male was released from prison after he had been accused of , tried, and convicted for a robbery. From the moment he was “snatched” off the streets in the Bronx, where Kalief Browder was walking home from a party, he protested his innocence …but nobody listened to him. Nearly in tears, he told reporters that he had missed his last years of high school, his graduation and momentous events in his life. In his face there is still a look of shocked and pained incredulity. (http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news%2Finvestigators&id=9317078)

Somebody needs to say something. I mean, not just somebody, but a lot of somebodies, black parents and relatives who are, as Fannie Lou Hamer said, are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”  The late Gordon Cosby, pastor of Church of the Savior, remembers Sales, would say today, in light of the shootings and killings that are happening at the hands of police and vigilantes, that it is not enough to be outraged. People who care, Cosby would say, would be “compelled to change” what is going on.

The question is, “how does one change something that is so completely systemic, insidious and basically ignored by “the law?” How does one change something that “the law,” in fact, seems to implicitly support? It seems part and parcel of the same attitude that accepts violence in black neighborhoods and schools, even as children are gunned down, without a word, and, in fact, assists in the criminalization of even the youngest students by arresting kids for things that used to get kids sent to the principal’s office.

Change can only come if those who are outraged speak up and speak out,  making more and more people aware of what is going on. Onie Johns, the founder of The Caritas Village in Memphis, Tennessee, has set up a “ministry of presence” there. She moved from the comfort of the suburbs to a house in the inner city where she sees and lives how “the least of these” lives daily. The mission of Caritas is to “break down the walls of hostility between the races and build bridges of love and trust between the rich and those made poor.”

Such a “ministry of presence,” practiced by those who are content and willing to accept the outlandish story of the man who allegedly shot Renisha McBride in the face, might help cut down this senseless, cruel and racist trend – and far too frequent trend –  of fearing for one’s life when a black person is in distress, seeking help. It might make people show compassion and concern, instead of cruelty and viciousness, supported by that fear.

Black parents know the drill in teaching their kids how to interact with a police officer, should he or she ever be stopped. Funny, we haven’t so much given the same drill, instruction on how to act when confronted by a vigilante, or what to do if they get into trouble and need help if they are in a white neighborhood.  We haven’t been teaching our kids on how to act, live and survive in a world where, apparently, far too many people look at us as “the boogie man.”

Perhaps we ought to begin. I am so tired of white people being afraid of black people …just because we’re black.

A candid observation …