In 2016 when 45 won the election, one of my overseas friends posted on my wall that the most delicious thing he had ever tasted were the liberal tears. That saddened me deeply, but it essentially reflected the attitude of 45’s supporters over the last four years. Everything about the GOP has been focused on making liberals sad or angry, whether it was good governance or not.
Now the pendulum has swung the other way. The small, petty part of me that festers in darkness wants to post snarky comments on the Facebook walls of everyone who smugly told me that 45 was going to win by a landslide, but that would be emulating the morally bankrupt, tinsel-coated con-man who will soon fade into the mists of ignominy.
I don’t want conservative tears. For the duration of this administration, many Republicans have been shoving their middle fingers in the faces of Democrats, chanting “He won, get over it.” It’s time for them to take their own advice. For eight years, Mitch McConnell did everything he could to stymie and block any legislation proposed by President Obama; it’s time for that to end. America deserves better, and if Republicans want to spend the next four years making sure that no progressive legislation is even considered, let alone passed, they will be obstructing themselves into irrelevance.
I don’t want conservative tears, I want conservative coöperation for the benefit of all of us. I want people to be able to reach across the aisle and craft legislation important to Americans the way Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch did in 1997 to provide healthcare for half of America’s 10 million uninsured children. We need this, and we deserve it.
I don’t want conservative tears. The simple fact that Joseph Biden will be president doesn’t mean that conservative values are suddenly irrelevant; it doesn’t mean that liberals all of a sudden will come for your guns, make you all have abortions, close your churches, put everyone on welfare, open our borders to every conceivable immigrant or make your children change their gender. It does mean that – as ever it has been – America consists of people with similar hopes and dreams for themselves and their families but different viewpoints about how to get there. I want to see us make America a nation (and by extension, the world) a place that works for everyone, with no one left out.
If you truly believe that certain segments of our population don’t deserve to prosper, don’t deserve to be healthy, don’t deserve equal opportunities, don’t deserve to feel safe from abuse or oppression, don’t deserve a living wage, or don’t deserve to be happy… by all means, shed as many tears as you want. There is no room in the America I believe in for viewpoints that oppress, diminish, or sideline others just to keep others feeling good about themselves. But it is my hope that you will come to see that conservatism does not mean Trumpism or authoritarianism or fascism or brutal oppression of differing viewpoints or lifestyles, and conversely that being a liberal does not equate to Soviet-style socialism or a communist ideology.
What Americans of all stripes want is jobs to support their families; safety in their neighborhoods; and national security. That’s really about all that’s important. The freedoms that so many people are screaming will be taken away by this party or that are guaranteed in the Constitution – freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of religion (or from religion), and even the freedom to bear arms. That document is so frightfully difficult to amend, by design, that it’s unlikely those freedoms will ever be abridged regardless of who is in power. If they are, then the great experiment wrought by our founders will truly have failed.
Let us work together. This election was legitimate, despite the hateful lies spewing forth from the White House. There was no cheating. There were no dead people voting. Mail-in balloting is not rife for fraud. It just happened that more people voted for the Democratic ticket this time.
Now, to my Republican friends and family, I say this: If you want to see another Republican in the White House in 2025, put forth a candidate of good character, one who can represent all Americans even if they don’t happen to agree with everything (s)he believes in. Craft a platform that shows all Americans that you care about their welfare. Campaign on achievable goals that will raise the standard of living and the quality of life of all Americans… and you will stand an equal chance of winning. Not by voter suppression, not by gerrymandering, not by hateful lies and smear campaigns, but by virtue of honesty, dignity, and human decency. But please don’t ever again nominate an evil clown like the one we’ve all had to suffer with for the last four years.
I have recently seen claims that Democrats support “abortion on demand up to the point of birth – and beyond – in some states.” This is a complete falsehood; not just a dogwhistle but a foghorn. Democrats do not believe in infanticide. Doctors do not believe in infanticide. People like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are simply lying when they claim otherwise.
Joseph Biden believes that Roe v Wade is the law of the land and supports it, feeling – just as Hillary Clinton does – that “abortion should remain legal, but it needs to be safe and rare,” but he has never said that he supports elective, late-term abortions unless a pregnancy has gone catastrophically wrong. This is another gross Republican misrepresentation.
It is important to understand that Donald Trump is not pro-life. He simply echoes the views of his evangelical supporters, the part of his base that he can most easily manipulate because of this single issue. And they themselves are not pro-life, they are only pro-birth, without any regard for surrounding circumstances.
If the GOP were pro-life, they would be providing increased government support to Planned Parenthood, which prevents far more abortions on an annual basis by providing family planning services than they ever facilitate.
“Roughly half of the more than six million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended. And many of them are to young mothers: according to the Guttmacher Institute, the rate of unintended pregnancies among sexually active teens is double that of all women. Despite opponent’s claims, the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s work is devoted to the organization’s more central goal—helping people avoid unwanted pregnancy altogether.”
(Michael Specter, the New Yorker)
If the GOP were pro-life, they would all be wearing masks and supporting a national, comprehensive plan to fight the pandemic instead of being “maskdebaters,” waving Confederate flags and screaming about “muh freedom!”
If the GOP were pro-life they would be marching in the streets protesting the horrible conditions immigrant families are subjected to, in cages, their children cruelly torn from them (and Stephen Miller has said out loud that cruelty was the point).
If the GOP were pro-life they would be immediately voting for Medicare for All instead of trying to take healthcare away from millions of Americans and dismantle the ACA – a plan they hate only because it was put in place by a “black, socialist president”, the thought of which still galls them – and maintain a status quo that favors profit and “maximizing shareholder value” over health and well-being.
If the GOP were pro-life they would be enacting reasonable gun-sensibility laws like banning the insane high-power, high-capacity rifles and other weapons that no one needs to hunt deer, supporting universal background checks for every gun sale public or private, and treating guns and gun owners with exactly the same kinds of regulations required to own and operate a car (which, it may be noted, almost everyone does regularly and abundantly, mostly without complaining about the “draconian government control” of education, licensing, inspection, insurance, registration and taxation that are part of that privilege.)
If the GOP were pro-life, they would immediately get us back into the Paris accords and work as a global leader with the rest of the world to control anthropogenic climate change. The National Bureau of Economic Research predicts that if climate change is left unchanged, higher temperatures could lead to 85 deaths per 100,000 people globally per year by 2100. Calculating from today, that comes to a half-billion lives lost. That’s not pro-life in anyone’s book.
No, the GOP and by extension Donald Trump – who has no other values than his bank account and his galactic ego – are not “pro-life.” They only use this term to court the evangelical right and make sure that their political opponents are demonized for being “baby killers.”
You may believe – as I do, parenthetically – that all life belongs to God and should be treated sacredly. I don’t fault you for this belief. But a huge percentage of our nation doesn’t share your values, and decisions of government should never be based on religion, as enshrined in the First Amendment.
A real pro-life stance is far more complicated than that.
I just saw something come across my newsfeed about the “Great Barrington Declaration,” a document which essentially recommends against any Covid-19 protections, like social distancing and wearing masks, and promotes the development of herd immunity by exposing less-vulnerable people through living normal lives.
But consider this, from Wikipedia (emphasis mine.)
The World Health Organization and numerous academic and public-health bodies have stated that the proposed strategy is dangerous, unethical, and lacks a sound scientific basis.
They say that it would be impossible to shield all those who are medically vulnerable, leading to a large number of avoidable deaths among both older people and younger people with underlying health conditions, and they warn that the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still not fully understood. Moreover, they say that the herd immunity component of the proposed strategy is undermined by the limited duration of post-infection immunity. The more likely outcome, they say, would be recurrent epidemics, as was the case with numerous infectious diseases before the advent of vaccination. The American Public Health Association and 13 other public-health groups in the United States warned in a joint open letter that the Great Barrington Declaration “is not a strategy, it is a political statement. It ignores sound public health expertise. It preys on a frustrated populace. Instead of selling false hope that will predictably backfire, we must focus on how to manage this pandemic in a safe, responsible, and equitable way.”
The Great Barrington Declaration was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.
The costs were paid for by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian think tank that is part of a Koch-funded network of organizations associated with climate change denial.
These social inconveniences – and that’s what they are, not oppressive, draconian measures – are admittedly not fun. It is a pain not to see people’s smiling faces. It is difficult to not go places we want to go, see people we want to see, travel to other cities or countries, gather in restaurants and bars for fun and celebrations, enjoy blockbuster movies in theaters, see Broadway plays, be at the side of loved ones who are going through difficult times, attend weddings and Bat Mitzvahs and funerals and Christmas parties and all the things we used to take for granted. Yes, it’s a massive pain in the tuchus.
But it’s the only way we will continue to fight the spread of this very evil, very nasty virus that kills across all spectra and leaves countless others with reduced quality of life forever, until the healthcare researchers can understand this virus and develop effective treatments and viable vaccines.
If you have never worn a mask in public because you think the government is oppressing you, or that the liberal left is promulgating a hoax, and you’re exercising your rights as a free American, or something else equally inane, you’re not a patriot. You’re an asshole. You may be maiming or killing people. And you need to go home and re-examine your life.
This restaurant in Las Vegas has the right idea:
The supposed “FTBA Mask Exemption Cards” are bogus and carry no legal or social weight of authority. If someone gives you one of them, give them back one of these:
For the love of all that’s holy; for the sake of decency and caring about your own health and that of your fellow humans around you, wear a mask and practice social distancing until this pandemic is under control and treatments and vaccines are available.
Yesterday the White House issued a proclamation on Columbus Day, purportedly from the *president.
First of all, let’s be honest: The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office had virtually nothing to do with this proclamation.
Columbus Day is not even on his radar, because it makes him no money.
It’s full of vocabulary that is only taught after the third grade, which means there’s no way the Orange Screechweasel could have penned it. It was doubtless written by one of his sycophantic staff, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it had been penned by Stephen Miller, it’s so full of jingoistic, nationalist rhetoric.
One paragraph is especially egregious:
Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy. These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions. Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister. They seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy. We must not give in to these tactics or consent to such a bleak view of our history. We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus.
Instead of providing inspiring national leadership, 45’s *administration can never resist an opportunity to demonize his political opponents in particular and liberals in general. Fortunately, there are people like Justin P. Cowan, Associate Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at Western Connecticut State University. He took the “red pen of rational thought” to this paragraph and crafted something far more reasonable.
The edited version is a much more satisfying read:
“Thankfully, in recent years, thoughtful citizens have sought to contextualize Christopher Columbus’s legacy. These mindful people seek to broaden discussion of his vast contributions by recognizing his failings, evaluating his discoveries alongside his atrocities, and acknowledging his achievements while not overlooking his transgressions. Rather than ignore our history, this centrist ideology and its adherents seek to engage with it, recognize its splendor, while not overlooking its sinister acts. They seek to cultivate a generation of thinkers and intellectuals. We must celebrate these tactics and consent to a more well-rounded, representative, and factual view of our history. We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the relocation of monuments to our problematic heroes like Columbus to museums where both their achievements and inherent flaws can be equally evaluated.”
I appreciated Dr. Cowan’s re-imagining of what a proclamation from a normal, human president might look like. It admits of Columbus’s significant contributions while at the same time refusing to whitewash the severe consequences of his journeys. Although Dr. Cowan is not a historian by profession, Dr. Heather Cox Richardson is, and in her “Letters from an American” she states,
For all of Trump’s attention to patriotic education, his proclamation is quite bad history. Aside from its whitewashing of the effects of Columbus’s voyage of “discovery,” the proclamation misrepresents the original point of Columbus Day, which had a lot more to do with putting down white supremacy than celebrating the “enduring significance” of Columbus in opening “a new chapter in world history.”
Her complete essay about the proclamation and other events of the day is definitely worth a read.
Don’t get the idea that I’m jumping on the “Hate Columbus” bandwagon with these thoughts. Half of my blood comes from Italy, and I respect and love that heritage. Columbus is part of the reason that I get to live under the Constitution of this nation, for which I am immensely grateful. But as Dr. Richardson went on to explain,
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially instituted Columbus Day in 1934, but the idea for the holiday rose in the 1920s, when the Knights of Columbus tried to undercut the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan by emphasizing the role minorities had played in America. In the early 1920s, the organization published three books in a “Knights of Columbus Racial Contributions” series, including The Gift of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois. They celebrated the contributions of immigrants, especially Catholic immigrants, to America with parades honoring Christopher Columbus. The Knights of Columbus were determined to reinforce the idea that America must not be a land of white Protestant supremacy.
As an aside, these are things I never knew; I certainly wasn’t taught these facts in school. History must of necessity take all factors into account if it is to be a valid basis for national introspection and growth. We can’t look just at the good, or just at the bad.
I’m grateful for the positive results of the voyages of Cristoforo Colombo, but I’m mindful of the atrocities that were perpetrated along the way. The best thing humanity can do to atone for the destruction of the Taino and Carib populations is to take a good hard look at the realities of the Spanish conquest of the Americas and vow to treat all people with equality, dignity, and respect in the future. As a race of people, we’ll never make it to the stars if we can’t stop rolling in the mud.
Watch this video (Begin at the 3:00) mark. Listen to Joe Biden’s words. If you don’t have time to watch, read the transcript below.
While not as heart-pumping as Bill Pullman’s “we will not go quietly into the night” speech from Independence Day, this one is the real thing, addressing real issues and real dangers that we as a nation face. I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative – this is the kind of president we need right now. Issues and concerns can be debated, positions can be put forward, compromises can be made, once people of good will – not obstructive, power-hungry ideologues – are in charge of leading us.
“Thank you all for being here. Thank you. I appreciate you being here on this gorgeous day in a magnificent, magnificent setting, until you think about all the lives that were lost here. Y’all please, all have a seat.
On July 4th, 1863, American woke to the remains of perhaps the most consequential battle in American soil. It took place here on this ground in Gettysburg; three days of violence, three days of carnage, 50,000 casualties, wounded, captured, missing, or dead, over three days of fighting. When the sun rose on that Independence Day, Lee would retreat. The war would go on for nearly two more years, but the back of the Confederacy had been broken. The Union would be saved. Slavery would be abolished, government of by and for the people would not perish from the earth, and freedom would be born anew in our land.
There’s no more fitting place than here today in Gettysburg, to talk about the cost of division. About how much it has cost America in the past, about how much it is costing us now, and about why I believe in this moment, we must come together as a nation. For President Lincoln, the Civil War was about the greatest of causes. The end of slavery, widening equality, pursuit of justice, the creation of opportunity, and the sanctity of freedom.
His words would live ever after. We hear them in our heads. We know them in our hearts. We draw on them when we seek hope in hours of darkness; “Four score, and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Here on this sacred ground, Abraham Lincoln, re-imagined America itself. Here, a president of the United States spoke of the price of division, and the meaning of sacrifice.
He believed in the rescue, redemption, and rededication of the union. All this in a time, not just of ferocious division, but of widespread death, structural inequity, and fear of the future. And he taught us this, a house divided could not stand. That is a great and timeless truth. Today, once again, we are a house divided, but that my friends can no longer be. We’re facing too many crises. We have too much work to do. We have to bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the Shoals of anger and hate, and division.
As we stand here today, a century and a half later after Gettysburg, we should consider again, what can happen when equal justice is denied, when anger and violence and division are left unchecked. As I look across America today, I’m concerned. The country is in a dangerous place. Our trust in each other is ebbing. Hope seems elusive. Too many Americans see our public life, not as an arena for mediation of our differences, but rather they see it as an occasion for total, unrelenting, partisan warfare.
Instead of treating each other’s party as the opposition, we treat them as the enemy. This must end. We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country. A spirit of being able to work with one another. When I say that, and I’ve been saying it for two years now, I’m accused of being naive. I’m told, “Maybe that’s the way things used to work, Joe, but they can’t work that way anymore.” Well, I’m here to tell you they can, and they must if we’re going to get anything done.
I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president. I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans. I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me, as those who do. That’s the job of a president; the duty to care for everyone. Refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. It’s a choice we make.
And if we can decide not to cooperate, we can decide to cooperate as well. That’s the choice I’ll make as president. But there’s something bigger going on in this nation than just our broken politics. Something darker, something more dangerous. I’m not talking about ordinary differences of opinion, competing viewpoints give life and vibrancy to our democracy. No, I’m talking about something different, something deeper. Too many Americans seek not to overcome our divisions, but to deepen them, we must seek not to build walls, but bridges. We must seek not to have our fist clenched, but our arms open. We have to seek not to tear each other apart, we seek to come together. You don’t have to agree with me on everything, or even on most things, to see that we’re experiencing today is neither good nor normal.
I made the decision to run for president after Charlottesville. Close your eyes, and remember what you saw. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK coming out of the fields with torches light, veins bulging, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile herd across Europe in the ’30s. It was hate on the march, in the open, in America. Hate never goes away, it only hides. And when it’s given oxygen, when it’s given an opportunity to spread, when it’s treated as normal and acceptable behavior, we’ve opened a door in this country that we must move quickly to close. As president, that’s just what I will do. I will send a clear unequivocal message to the entire nation, there is no place for hate in America.
It will be given no license. It will be given no oxygen. It’ll be given no safe harbor. In recent weeks and months, the country has been riled by instances of excessive police force, heart-wrenching cases of racial injustice and lives needlessly and senselessly lost, by peaceful protesters, given voice to the calls for justice, by examples of violence and looting and burning that can not be tolerated. I believe in law and order, I’ve never supported defunding the police.
But I also believe injustice is real. It’s a product of a history that goes back 400 years, the moment when black men, women, and children first were brought here in chains. I do not believe we have to choose between law and order, and racial justice in America. We can have both. This is the nation strong enough to both honestly face systemic racism and strong enough to provide safe streets for our families and small businesses. The two often bear the brunt of this looting and burning.
We have no need for armed militias roaming America’s streets, and we should have no tolerance for extremist white supremacy groups, menacing our communities. If you say, “We should trust America’s law enforcement authorities to do the job,” as I do, then let them do their job without extremist groups acting as vigilantes. If you say, “We have no need to face racial injustice in the country,” you haven’t opened your eyes to the truth in America.
There’ve been powerful voices for justice in recent weeks and months, George Floyd’s, six year old daughter, who I met with, who looked at me and said in her small child’s voice, “Daddy changed the world.” Also, Jacob Blake’s mother was another. When she said, “Violence didn’t reflect her son and this nation needed healing.” And Doc Rivers, the basketball coach, choking back tears when he said, “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’ve been hung. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”
I think about that. I think about what it takes for a black person to love America. That is a deep love for this country. That has for far too long, never been recognized. What we need in America’s leadership that seeks to deescalate tensions, to open lines of communications, to bring us together, to heal, to hope. As president, that’s precisely what I will do. We paid a high price for allowing the deep divisions in this country to impact on how we deal with the Coronavirus. 210,000 Americans dead, and the number’s climbing. It’s estimated that nearly another 210,000 Americans could lose their lives by the end of the year; enough, no more. Let’s just set partisanship aside, let’s end the politics and follow the science.
Wearing a mask… wearing a mask is not a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Social distancing isn’t a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Testing, tracing, the development and all approval and distribution of a vaccine, isn’t a political statement. It is a science-based decision. We can’t undo what has been done. We can’t go back. We can do so much better. We can do better starting today. We can have a national strategy that puts politics aside and saves lives.
We can have a national strategy that will make it possible for our schools and business to open safely. We can have a national strategy that reflects the true values of this nation. This pandemic is not a red state or blue state issue. This virus doesn’t care whether you live, or where you live, what political party you belong to, it affects us all. It will take anyone’s life. It’s a virus. It’s not a political weapon.
There’s another enduring division in America that we must end, the division in our economic life. That gives opportunity only to the privileged few. America has to be about mobility. It has to be the kind of country where an Abraham Lincoln, a child of the distant frontier, can rise to the highest office in the land. America has to be about possibilities.
The possibility of prosperity, not just for the privileged few, but for the many, for all of us. Working people on their kids deserve an opportunity. Lincoln knew this. He said that the country had to give people, and I quote, “An open field and a fair chance. An open field and a fair chance.” That’s what we’re going to do in America. We’re going to build together. We fought a civil war that would secure a union that would seek to fulfill the promise of equality for all.
And by fits and starts, our better angels had prevailed again, just enough, just enough against our worst impulses to make a new and better nation. And those better angels can prevail again, now. They must prevail again, now. 100 years after Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, the vice president, Lyndon B Johnson also came here, and here’s what he said.
He said, “Our nation founded soul and honor in these fields of Gettysburg, we must not lose that soul in dishonor, now, on the fields of hate.” Today, we’re engaged, once again, in the battle for the soul of the nation, the forces of darkness, the forces of division, the forces of yesterday are pulling us apart, holding us down and holding us back. We must free ourselves of all of them. As president, I will embrace hope, not fear. Peace, not violence. Generosity, not greed. And light, not darkness. I’ll be a president who appeals to the best in us, not the worst.
I’ll be a president who pushes toward the future, not one who clings to the past. I’m ready to fight for you and for our nation every day, without exception, without reservation, with a full and devoted heart. We cannot, and will not, allow extremest and white supremacist to overturn the America of Lincoln and Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglas, to overturn the America that has welcomed immigrants from distant shores, to overturn the America that has been a Haven and a home for everyone, no matter their background.
From Seneca falls to Selma, to Stonewall we’re at our best when the promise of America is available to all, we cannot, and we will not allow violence in the street to threaten the people of this nation. We cannot and will not walk away from our obligation to at long last, face the wrecking on race and racial justice in this country. We cannot and will not continue to be struck in the partisan politics that lets us, this virus, thrive, while the public health of this nation suffers.
We cannot and will not accept an economic equation that only favors those who have already got it made; everybody deserves a shot at prosperity. Folks, duty and history call presidents to provide for the common good, and I will. It won’t be easy. Won’t be easy. Our divisions today are long standing, economic and racial inequities have shaped us for generations, but I give you my word. I give you my word. If I’m elected president, I will Marshall the ingenuity and Goodwill of this nation to turn division into unity and bring us together because I think people are looking for that. We can disagree about how as we move forward, we must take the first steps. It starts with how we treat one another. How we talk to one another. How we respect one another.
In the second inaugural Lincoln said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we’re in to build up the nation’s wounds, bind up the nation’s wounds.” Now, we have our work to reunite America. To bind up our nation’s wounds. To move past shadow and suspicion. And so we, you and I together, we press on, even now. After hearing the second inaugural address, Frederick Douglas told President Lincoln, “Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.” We have to be dedicated to our own sacred effort. The promise of Gettysburg and the new birth of freedom was in hand.
I think it’s at risk. Every generation that’s followed Gettysburg has been faced with a moment when it must answer this question, will they allow the sacrifices made here to be in vain, or be fulfilled? This is our moment to answer this essential American question, for ourselves and for our time. And my answer is this, it cannot be that after all this country has been through, after all that America’s accomplished, after all the years, we have stood as a beacon of light to the world.
It cannot be that here and now in 2020, we will allow the government of the people, by the people, and for the people to perish this earth. No, it cannot. And it must not. We have it in our hands, the ultimate power. The power to vote. Its the note instrument ever devised to register our will in a peaceable and productive fashion. And so we must. We must vote. We will vote. No matter how many obstacles are thrown in our way, because once America votes, America will be heard.
Lincoln said, “The nation is worth fighting for.” So it was. And so it is, together as one nation under God, indivisible. Let us join forces to fight the common foe of injustice and inequality, hate and fear. Let’s conduct ourselves as Americans who love each other, who love our country, who will not destroy, but will build. We owe it to the dead who were buried here at Gettysburg. We owe that to the living, and to future generations yet to be born.
You and I are part of a covenant, a common story of divisions overcome and hope renewed. If we do our part, if we stand together, if we keep faith with the past and with each other, then the divisions of our time will give way to the dreams of a brighter, better future. This is our work. This is our pledge. This is our mission. We can end this era of division. We can end the hate and the fear. We can be what we are at our best, the United States of America. God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you. We can do this.”
I want our nation to return to sanity. The mad divisiveness that infects our politics now is not anything that our founders envisioned. We need to get back to government by reason and compromise instead of bombastic ideological warfare and obstruction. We owe it to our children, our grandchildren, and future generations.
This coming November, please vote to sweep the authoritarians from power, and return our nation to the democratic republic that we were given at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. ¹
The Old Wolf has spoken, but Joe Biden has spoken better.
¹ A good exploration of Franklin’s quote, “A republic if you can keep it” can be found here.
This is a Twitter thread from Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) on June 11, 2020, condensed here for easier reading and without all the responses – many of which are simply ignorant and do nothing to improve the conversation. You can visit the original thread here.
All right. Let’s talk about how the Confederacy survived the Civil War, was absorbed into our culture, laws, and politics, and remains an everpresent threat we must destroy. I didn’t know any of this until I started researching American Rule.
First things first, the Confederacy is hardly dealt with in our history or curricula. There’s a reason the Civil War is reduced to a history of battles and military maneuvers. To look any deeper would mean an actual reckoning with white supremacy and power in America.
The truth is that the Confederacy considered itself the true ancestor of America and that the North had betrayed America’s founding and purpose as a white supremacist state. It wasn’t a different country. It was America interpreted as a white supremacist nation.
There’s a reason why George Washington is all over Confederate iconography. Why Jefferson Davis was inaugurated in the shadow of a Washington statue. The Confederacy was battling over the United States of America, not creating a separate nation.
And for all of the lies about it being about state’s rights, it was explicitly about white supremacy, which Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens made clear in so many words. Stephens, by the way, still has a statue in the Capitol.
Another reason we don’t talk about the Confederacy is because it was a twisted version of America, with its blatant white supremacy and its basis in white-identity Christianity. As the South lost battles, its leaders demanded humiliation, days of prayer, reckoning with God.
As I’ve mentioned before, Confederate preachers told Southerners that the Christian God was white supremacist, that he demanded white supremacy as the law of the land. The Confederacy saw itself as the real America and God’s chosen nation.
In addition to not understanding what the Confederacy was, the myth that it simply went away when it surrendered militarily has done massive damage. America re-absorbed the Confederacy and ingested its blatant white supremacy and continued its customs and laws.
To get into this properly and deal with our history, we must reckon with our myths, including the messiah-ization of Abraham Lincoln, who had troubling views on race and even tried to sell freed slaves to other countries to remove them from America.
There is a possibility Lincoln could have continued evolving had he not been assassinated, but we’ll never know. That murder, however, created a scenario wherein America could make its post-Civil War reality into a mythologized moment of redemption.
Instantly, Lincoln was turned into a martyr, his death a moment of redemption and a chance for spilled blood to scrub America’s sins clean. It was a Christianized myth that served to hide our history and the reality of race in America.
In this twisted marriage of national and Christian myth, Washington became the Father, Lincoln the Messiah Son, and Americanism the Holy Spirit. The narrative was that Lincoln had saved us from white supremacy and that America was now ready for an equal future.
What we don’t discuss much is Andrew Johnson, who took over following Lincoln’s death. Johnson was a toxic white supremacist who fought against Reconstruction and denied dignity and rights for freed slaves. This is what happened.
Johnson told black luminaries like Frederick Douglass that equal rights were an abomination and that blacks had conspired with Southern slave owners against poor whites. Johnson was disgusting and hindered the project of equality from the beginning.
Johnson installed white supremacists as governors in the south, including Florida’s William Marvin, who told freed slaves to still call their masters “master” and that they were not equal to white people and to never believe otherwise.
Meanwhile, white supremacists worked behind the scenes to create laws that could keep freed slaves as close “to the condition of slavery” as possible. The developing laws were meant to hide the insidiousness of blatant white supremacy behind laws and government.
As this was done, paramilitary groups like the KKK performed domestic terrorism, attacking African Americans using their new freedom, as well as the white allies who helped them. In this way, the Confederacy became an invisible empire enforced by law and violence.
US Grant, as president, fought against this continued Confederacy, empowering organizations and waging war on the KKK. But white voters grew tired of their taxes and his means of waging that war. They let down African Americans in a huge way.
Reconstruction was hindered by propaganda that claimed it was a means of helping lazy and inept African Americans, a conspiracy against white southerners. Meanwhile, the black community organized at record pace and was incredibly successful despite these setbacks.
The man who arguably killed Reconstruction before it was complete was Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president. Hayes wasn’t even that interested in the presidency, but promised if supported he would return the South to white supremacist southerners.
To continue the story, for years the South worked with white supremacist laws. Eventually, academics like Woodrow Wilson would use their work to wash the Confederacy clean of its white supremacy and portray it as dignified, and the war as being over state’s rights.
Wilson was a disgusting racist whose work claimed Southern slave owners loved their slaves and that they were wrongly attacked. This “Lost Cause” mythology sought to protect white supremacy and changed history completely. Unfortunately, it was incredibly successful.
Wilson’s writings eventually inspired projects like Birth of a Nation, that completely revised Construction and the post-Civil War South, portraying the KKK as necessary heroes. This affected our collective history in terrifying ways.
It was around this time that so many of the Confederate statues we’re now tearing down were put in place to continue the revision of history and remind African Americans that the Confederacy survived the Civil War in our culture, laws, and politics.
Wilson used his revised history to scrub America cleans of its sins in preparation for World War I, where he used propaganda to portray this country as fair and righteous and to hide our white supremacy so we could be a world power that supposedly believed in equality.
Wilson’s propaganda changed the American story, so when the Civil Rights Movement began Americans didn’t believe there was any fight to be had, equality had been won. The fight was to challenge this narrative in order to finally realize a semblance of equality.
There’s a reason why the South turned to Confederate flags during desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement. The Confederacy had survived in our laws, culture, and politics. This was a clear symbol that it had simply been hiding the entire time.
Meanwhile, open white supremacists like George Wallace made the connection crystal clear. He supported the Confederacy and, like the CSA, believe white supremacy was under attack by a communist, anti-American conspiracy, because the CSA WAS America.
Just like we’re seeing now, protestors were abused, brutalized, all because white supremacists believed it was a conspiracy. Instead of Antifa, it was communists, anarchists, anyone who could fit the conspiratorial mold.
By now we’re all familiar with Nixon’s Southern Strategy, but it’s important to note that this took the Confederacy and white supremacy, and drove it further under the veneer of rhetorical dog whistle appeals. It was about hiding the Confederacy but still embracing it.
If you haven’t already, please see my work on the Cult of the Shining City and Jerry Falwell and Neo-Confederate preachers. The hiding of the Confederate God in white-identity Christianity was yet another illusion that maintained the Confederacy while hiding it.
The attempt to continue white supremacy and the Confederacy and our politics continued with Ronald Reagan, who took it another step forward and hid it behind tax rhetoric and “colorblindness,” or pushing the idea that America no longer had racial inequality.
Reagan claimed that America was finally equal and that the market and economy would determine winners and losers. But the market and economy were made explicitly with white supremacy in mind. It was a giant lie from the very, very beginning.
If you haven’t before, look up Reagan’s speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, where white supremacist murders had taken place. Reagan took right off with Woodrow Wilson’s propaganda, promoting “state’s rights” and implicitly supporting the Confederacy.
Reagan’s dogwhistling and rhetorical appeals to white supremacy further legitimized white supremacy and the Confederacy, driving them further and further into American politics while giving them cover to operate without the ability to be scrutinized.
Following Reagan and HW Bush, the GOP and American Right began flirting openly with the New World Order conspiracy theory, which was a Neo-Confederate belief that white Americans were being threatened by evil outsiders and traitorous liberals.
We like to frame Timothy McVeigh as a lone nut, but he believed he was a soldier in the invisible war against the New World Order. There’s a reason he wore a shirt calling Lincoln a tyrant. This was the Confederacy declaring war, once again, on the United States.
The OKC Bombing was a battle in a fictitious war against the New World Order, or the Deep State, or the cabal, whatever you want to call it. American conspiracy theories are inherently white supremacist fantasies fueled by white supremacist paranoia and weakness.
McVeigh was inspired both by Right Wing appeals and Neo-Nazi literature that sought to return American to the Confederacy, which inspired the Third Reich in the first place. American domestic terrorists are seeking a return to the CSA and a racist dystopia.
There’s a reason Donald Trump is supported by these people. White supremacists see him as their warrior, a president who will explicitly stand up for them and continue hiding the Confederacy in culture while furthering its surviving goals.
He is a Confederate president.
You need to understand, the Confederacy wasn’t limited by geography or a moment in time. It was an ideology that was felt throughout the nation.
This is why the flags are everywhere, in the North, West, every part of the country.
It is a surviving worldview.
White supremacists and fascists and Confederates would much rather hide in plain sight, behind the American flag and the veneer of American equality.
That’s what they want.
But as we’re seeing now, they’re more than willing to show their true colors if necessary.
It’s no coincidence we’re having these debates now, that Trump is standing up for blatant white supremacy and the Confederacy. The movement is making actual inroads into dealing with our white supremacy, and they’ll seek comfort in the CSA just like Civil Rights opponents.
We need to relearn our history, see what actually happened, and how the Confederacy never went away. It was absorbed, hidden, empowered by its disguise. America is riddled with the Confederacy and if we want to avoid fascism, we have to rip it out by the root.
PS: As an educator, I have to say that any fight against white supremacy has to involve radical discussions about how to revise our curriculum to tell the honest story of America, because what we have now is propaganda designed explicitly to hide and empower white supremacy.
PPS: I’ve taken a ton of history classes and always considered myself really informed. Until I started on the new book so much of this was completely unknown. It’s all out there waiting to be discovered. It has to be discovered and it has to be told.
This blog post is republished from an entry posted on August 17, 2016 by Ellis Winningham, who wrote about MMT and modern macroeconomics. The relevant website is now defunct, but this article was retrieved from the Wayback Machine on 9/14/2020, as of 30 May 2018. It deserves to be read, and read again. Any emphasis is mine.
There is an immense problem with the term “socialism”, especially in the United States, where the word is abused endlessly by right-wing politicians, “free market” enthusiasts and now, even liberals have joined the red-baiting bandwagon, labeling former Sanders supporters, many of whom are now Stein supporters as “socialists” and any proposed economic initiatives as “socialism”. This is the result of a successful long-term propaganda campaign of intentional misinformation which causes the general public to view any public purpose spending as socialism and so, they irrationally fear the public purpose. Meanwhile, the 1% reaps the benefits through continued abuse of an unwitting public, allowing them to profit at the expense of the national economy and society. Let me assure you that there isn’t an academic definition of socialism for those of us who possess degrees and then an entirely different one for the general public. It doesn’t work that way. There is only one definition of socialism and we will discuss it today, because the nonsense needs to stop.
Many people think that universal healthcare is socialism. It is not.
Many people think that public schools and free college education are socialism. They are not.
Many people think that welfare is socialism. It is not.
Many people think that police and roads are socialism. They are not.
And many people now think that a federal Job Guarantee is also socialism. It is not.
I mentioned “red-baiting” a moment ago. It’s important to our discussion. Some of you, especially the younger generation, might not know what it is. Back in the 1950’s when the Soviet Union was the world’s enemy and the Cold War was in full swing, prominent politicians were certain of a communist conspiracy afoot in America and elsewhere in the western world and told every American to fear communist subversion.
A whack-job named Senator Joseph McCarthy rose to prominence in 1950 and led a highly un-American nation-wide campaign to root out every last commie. He claimed that communist spies were everywhere, lurking in the shadows, awaiting the opportunity to lure our children in and poison their minds. They could be teaching in our schools, working at the post office, acting on the silver screen, writing books, pumping gas, bagging groceries; they could even be in the highest levels of government. He began accusing people by name of being communist spies and sympathizers. Given the public’s fear of the Soviet Union – the result of intense Cold War propaganda – most people believed McCarthy’s accusations. This caused many to fear ending up on McCarthy’s “hit list” so to speak. The Senator’s tactics became known as “McCarthyism”.
McCarthy’s wild and unsubstantiated accusations, labeling people communists or communist sympathizers, is what we call “red-baiting”. It is a fear tactic that is used today, mostly by those of a right-wing political persuasion, to either derail or totally silence progressive political opinion and initiatives. Because the Soviet Union is long gone, the words communism and communist have mostly fallen into disuse by politicians and the general public. Today, “red-baiting” takes the form of accusing people and their ideas of being socialist. Of course, there are delusional individuals on the far right such as “the Tea Party” who accuse people of being a “fascist, Marxist, socialist commie” (whatever that is), but on the whole, accusing people of socialism is the new “red-baiting”.
Like communism, socialism is seen as un-American, unpatriotic, anti-freedom and most importantly and relevantly, “anti-free market”. If you’ve followed my articles for any length of time, you’ve learned that there is no such thing as a “free market” when a national government like the US federal government, issues its own sovereign currency. Because the market uses the government’s US Dollar, the government has the authority to regulate that market as it sees fit for the benefit of the nation. The market does not make laws and so, does not have the authority to determine what is best for the nation. That is the job of the federal government. In a modern monetary economy, the US government is the monopoly issuer of US Dollars. They come from nowhere else in the world. It is the issuer and since its US Dollar floats freely on an exchange (See FOREX) and is non-convertible fiat, it has an infinite supply of US Dollars at all times. It needs no income to spend. And when you are but a mere user of the federal government’s US Dollar, like the market is, you are entirely dependent on the federal government for your survival. There is no such thing as a “free market” and “free market ideas” cannot successfully function, nor can the market self-regulate for the simple facts that the market has no authority to create laws and it can run out of US Dollars and go broke. Involuntary bankruptcy is not possible for the federal government. It is the sovereign to which the market is subject. With that out of the way, let us turn our attention to what socialism actually is versus what many people incorrectly think it is.
Socialism is the complete control over the means of production by the workers (the people), with government as the people’s central representative authority. It need not be democratic. For instance, in authoritarian socialism, a regime could take charge of the federal government and seize the entirety of production, leaving the people as slaves to the state. Democratic socialism, on the other hand, is the democratic control over the means of production. Here, the federal government controls the entirety of the production infrastructure and the people have a democratic say in employment conditions and the direction output takes. But what is important here is that socialism, whatever flavour, means the complete control over the means of production. It is the throwing off of capitalism altogether and the restructuring of the entire economy and society to one of central planning. Public purpose spending for programmes such as universal healthcare cannot and will not result in the entire means of production in every sector shifting from independent businesses to government control. Such thinking is nonsense.
Because the federal government is the highest public authority and charged with the duty (US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8) to issue US Dollars, it must issue currency with the intent of serving the needs of the public in its entirety, not just a few private individuals and entities. The US Dollar is public “money”; the sole product of the federal government and must be issued for the public purpose. What then is the public purpose? That which benefits the entire nation.
1.) The provisioning of the federal government with goods and services, ensuring that it can properly function for the benefit of the nation.
2.) Military spending for defense of the nation.
3.) Infrastructure – transportation, railways, airports, roads and highways, bridges, power grids and energy resources, hospitals, buildings and ports.
4.) Indefinite full employment which allows for perpetual economic stability, ensuring that whatever the United States produces can be purchased by consumers.
The US government – A public entity. US Dollars – Public currency. All US citizens – The public.
Private markets – Social and individual activities within the national boundaries that are not conducted by agencies of federal, state or local government, nor a function of federal, state or local government, but which are entirely dependent on public funds issued by the federal government to function and are subject to the laws of the land – full stop.
As time advances, new technology arises that enhances the quality of life and the security of the citizenry. The US Air Force is clearly not mentioned in the US Constitution, precisely because nobody alive in 1791 could completely envision a future where man could fly, let alone use the flying contraption for defense of the nation. Hence, the US Air Force was created and is now funded by the US government to meet the needs of the military, or more precisely, to meet the needs of the public purpose.
As the US government is the sole currency issuer and as it has an infinite supply of that currency and as its constitutional duty as that sole currency issuer is to issue US Dollars for the public purpose, only the US government can ensure that infrastructure can be fully modernized, that full employment can be sustained indefinitely, that disease and spinal cord injury research can be properly conducted, that the health needs of the public, whatever the treatment needed, can be completely looked after, that the educational needs of our children and college students can be met without financial hardship.
And so, we continue with our list of what constitutes the public purpose. The question is never “how do we pay for it?” The question is always “Does the United States have the real resources available to meet the needs of the public purpose?”
5.) Education – an uneducated populace hinders today’s economy as well as a future economy by obstructing advances in technology necessary to increase the citizenry’s standard of living and enhance their quality of life as well as the expertise needed to work with that technology. Student loans do not advance education, but rather, damage today’s economy and mortgage the nation’s future by leaving students who are lucky to be employed spending a large chunk of their income on debt, rather than on goods and services today, resulting in unemployment. For those who cannot find a job in their field due to reduced consumer spending, their intellect and input remain idle, thus obstructing the advance of technological development for tomorrow. Those who cannot afford college and do not wish to go deep into debt to pay for it, forego a beneficial education, further compromising a future economy.
6.) Healthcare – an unhealthy workforce is an inefficient workforce, hindering production. An unhealthy populace means a reduced labour supply, which in turn, means reduced output capability. A population burdened by healthcare costs means debt and bankruptcy and so, reduced consumer spending which then contributes to persistent unemployment and reduced output.
There were no iPhones, cars, refrigerators and airplanes in 1791, legs and arms were amputated regularly for injuries that are easily treatable today, dentistry was questionable, people died of diseases that are easily treatable today. You cannot operate a modern monetary economy from a 1791 perspective, unless you are willing to forego all of the advancement from that day to this. Two hundred years from now, things will have advanced even further and that which is related to the public purpose will only expand, along with the federal government’s spending to ensure it. The failure of the US government to advance the public purpose through deficit spending is detrimental to the people’s standard of living, their quality of life and the nation’s security.
Understand me clearly here – a capitalist framework does not imply a restricted public purpose. Whatever technology is developed by private entities using the government’s US Dollar that enhances the quality of life of the citizenry, increases their standard of living and ensures the nation’s security, that technology has a public purpose and the federal government has a duty to fully utilize it for the common good. I am not saying here that the federal government must seize control of the technology and all sectors of production (socialism), but utilize it, fully funding both national programs which the public can access free of charge and fully funding the private entities developing that technology through appropriate levels of deficit spending, resulting in increased consumer spending, thus increased private profits and development (capitalism).
Within capitalism, there is still the federal government at the head. It is the centerpiece of a modern monetary economy and issues the currency necessary which capitalism uses to function. Universal healthcare is not socialism. Free primary and secondary education is not socialism. Police and roads are not socialism. A federal Job Guarantee is not socialism. It is capitalism functioning properly and efficiently within a modern monetary economy.
When the state seizes control over the entire means of production, issuing three and five year plans for production across every, single sector, then you can call it socialism – not before.
Stop listening to the right-wing fear-mongers and talking heads who would have you looking for Bolsheviks under your bed every night. America’s Constitution is sound, and despite efforts by The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office to destroy everything good that our nation stands for, we will never become a Soviet wannabe.
Stolen from the Facebook page of a friend; it was deleted by their “anti fake news” algorithm, it being unable to distinguish satire from real information. Saving it here for posterity.
Finally!! A user-friendly guide to the whole 5G-Covid 🦠 Deep State 🇷🇺 Wuhan Obama Paradigm! 🗺
If you are having trouble connecting the dots or understanding how mechanized murder hornet drones 🐝 will vaccinate 💉 world 🌎 populations and bring Bill Gate’s 5G empire 🤴🏻 to the forefront with new 2020 Comet Ping Pong Pizza 🍕 cryptocurrency 💰 funded by Soros and Branch Covidians 🚀 aligned with the 9-11 Illuminati elders, this handy composite guide can help.
Aluminum foil sold separately.
Protect your pets now before the cytoplasmic pipeline between Areas 51 and 57 is completed on July 3rd. 7G is already functional in Cuba 🇨🇺 and parts of Epcot. 🙀 Julian Assange knows this, and is helping Putin and Citizenfour procure 7 billion N-97 masks 😷 to initiate the first wave.
Disclaimer: this is pure parody, in case you need to be reminded.
First off, a disclaimer: I’m not a sociologist. I don’t claim to be well-versed in the psychology of racism, bigotry, or prejudice. These are my own thoughts, based on a lifetime of experience and observation from someone born into white privilege and adopted into a generally disparaged faith.
This is a long post. Sorry not sorry.
They taught us about slavery in elementary school. We learned about the ship that arrived in 1620 carrying “twenty and odd negroes.” We learned about how people were stacked in ships like sardines. We learned about the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation. But we learned nothing about what it was like to be a slave, or the 400-year aftermath.¹
A white citizen in America today cannot really know what it’s like to be a slave, or to live as part of a still-oppressed, marginalized, and often brutalized population.² But I can read, and I can learn, and I can empathize. And over time, in the following works, I have gained a glimmer of understanding about what Africans and African-American peoples have had to deal with over the centuries, up to and including today. There are many, many other accounts out there, but these are the ones that have impacted me the most over the years.
If you have a microgram of compassion in your soul, these books cannot help but touch you, and help you to understand what is happening today in Minneapolis and elsewhere, and why.
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin, Native Son, Black Boy, and 12 Million Black Voices by Richard Wright:
Baldwin and Wright had different ideas about the black experience and how to chronicle it. Both are seminal writers. Particularly Wright’s Black Boy left me absolutely gobsmacked at what growing up in the South was like for a young man who came to earth with a mind that questioned why life around him was the way it was, and could see the injustice, and express it profoundly and honestly.
A quarter of a century was to elapse between the time when I saw my father sitting with the strange woman and the time when I was to see him again, standing alone upon the red clay of a Mississippi plantation, a sharecropper, clad in ragged overalls, holding a muddy hoe in his gnarled, veined hands— a quarter of a century during which my mind and consciousness had become so greatly and violently altered that when I tried to talk to him I realized that, though ties of blood made us kin, though I could see a shadow of my face in his face, though there was an echo of my voice in his voice, we were forever strangers, speaking a different language, living on vastly distant planes of reality. That day a quarter of a century later when I visited him on the plantation— he was standing against the sky, smiling toothlessly, his hair whitened, his body bent, his eyes glazed with dim recollection, his fearsome aspect of twenty-five years ago gone forever from him— I was overwhelmed to realize that he could never understand me or the scalding experiences that had swept me beyond his life and into an area of living that he could never know. I stood before him, poised, my mind aching as it embraced the simple nakedness of his life, feeling how completely his soul was imprisoned by the slow flow of the seasons, by wind and rain and sun, how fastened were his memories to a crude and raw past, how chained were his actions and emotions to the direct, animalistic impulses of his withering body…
From the white landowners above him there had not been handed to him a chance to learn the meaning of loyalty, of sentiment, of tradition. Joy was as unknown to him as was despair. As a creature of the earth, he endured, hearty, whole, seemingly indestructible, with no regrets and no hope. He asked easy, drawling questions about me, his other son, his wife, and he laughed, amused, when I informed him of their destinies. I forgave him and pitied him as my eyes looked past him to the unpainted wooden shack. From far beyond the horizons that bound this bleak plantation there had come to me through my living the knowledge that my father was a black peasant who had gone to the city seeking life, but who had failed in the city; a black peasant whose life had been hopelessly snarled in the city, and who had at last fled the city— that same city which had lifted me in its burning arms and borne me toward alien and undreamed-of shores of knowing.
Wright, Richard, Black Boy, Cleveland, World Publishing Company, 1937
Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin
This work was a product of the 60s, but is important for a number of reasons. It’s often disparaged as a naïve social experiment that was doomed to failure precisely because the author was white, but I find it a work that brings me back again and again.
No, it makes no sense, but insofar as the Negro is concerned, nothing makes much sense. This was brought home to me in another realm many times when I sought jobs. The foreman of one plant in Mobile, a large brute, allowed me to tell him what I could do. Then he looked me in the face and spoke to me in these words: “No, you couldn’t get anything like that here.” His voice was not unkind. It was the dead voice one often hears. Determined to see if I could break in somehow, I said: “But if I could do you a better job, and you paid me less than a white man …” “I’ll tell you … we don’t want you people. Don’t you understand that?” “I know,” I said with real sadness. “You can’t blame a man for trying at least.” “No use trying down here,” he said. “We’re gradually getting you people weeded out from the better jobs at this plant. We’re taking it slow, but we’re doing it. Pretty soon we’ll have it so the only jobs you can get here are the ones no white man would have.” “How can we live?” I asked hopelessly, careful not to give the impression I was arguing. “That’s the whole point,” he said, looking me square in the eyes, but with some faint sympathy, as though he regretted the need to say what followed: “We’re going to do our damnedest to drive every one of you out of the state.”
Griffin, J.Hl, Black Like Me,, 1960
Griffin himself even said,
As I had suspected they would be, my discoveries were naïve ones, like those of a child.
The entire book has the overriding attitude of “You mean this really happens? This is what life is really like for black people in the South? Yes, the discoveries were simple, and everything was filtered through the mindset of a white man of privilege, but it’s still very much worth reading.
Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools by Jonathan Kozol:
Above and beyond describing the hideous disparity that existed in the Boston public school system in the ’60s, it shone a light on the vicious racism that took root there. The persona of the “Art Teacher” is especially breathtaking in its ignorance and ingrained evil – she was a master at destroying the souls of children whom she clearly thought belonged to a sub-genre of humanity. Read it and weep.
“All white people, I think, are implicated in these things so long as we participate in America in a normal way and attempt to go on leading normal lives while any one race is being cheated and tormented. But I now believe that we will probably go on leading our normal lives, and will go on participating in our nation in a normal way, unless there comes a time where Negroes can compel us by methods of extraordinary pressure to interrupt our pleasure.”
Kozol, Jonathan, Death at an Early Age
To Be a Slave by Julius Lester:
While this book is aimed at youth readership, its collection of tales from people who actually lived through slavery cannot fail to move adults if they have a shred of humanity.
“One day while my mammy was washing her back my sister noticed ugly disfiguring scars on it. Inquiring about them, we found, much to our amazement, that they were Mammy’s relics of the now gone, if not forgotten, slave days. This was her first reference to her “misery days” that she had made in my presence. Of course we all thought she was telling us a big story and we made fun of her. With eyes flashing, she stopped bathing, dried her back and reached for the smelly ol’ black whip that hung behind the kitchen door. Bidding us to strip down to our waists, my little mammy with the boney bent-over back, struck each of us as hard as ever she could with that black-snake whip. Each stroke of the whip drew blood from our backs. “Now,” she said to us, “you have a taste of slavery days.”
Frank Cooper, Library of Congress
Don’t You Turn Back by Langston Hughes
As described by Nancy Snyder at Bookriot.com, “Langston Hughes was the chronicler of African American life in Harlem, New York City, from the 1920s through the 1960s. Hughes set out to portray the stories of African-American life that represented their actual culture—including the piercing heartbreak and the joy of everyday life in Harlem.” His poetry is beautiful, yearning, and haunting. It should be on the to-read list of anyone who is interested in the human condition.
Dream-singers, Story-tellers, Dancers, Loud laughers in the hands of Fate— My People. Dish-washers, Elevator-boys, Ladies’ maids, Crap-shooters, Cooks, Waiters, Jazzers, Nurses of babies, Loaders of ships, Porters, Hairdressers, Comedians in vaudeville And band-men in circuses— Dream-singers all, Story-tellers all. Dancers— God! What dancers! Singers— God! What singers! Singers and dancers, Dancers and laughers. Laughers? Yes, laughers….laughers…..laughers— Loud-mouthed laughers in the hands of Fate.
Hughes, Langston, Don’t You Turn Back
Be warned, these books are “products of their times,” and the language used in most of them would be highly offensive by today’s standards. But this is the way it was, and you can’t whitewash it or sanitize it.
We didn’t know nothing like young folks do now. We hardly knowed our names. We was cussed for so many bitches and sons of bitches and bloody bitches and blood of bitches. We never heard our names scarcely at all.
Sallie Crane, Library of Congress.
A recent post (June 2, 2020) on Facebook by Caroline Crockett Brock illustrates poignantly that these attitudes, these experiences are not a thing of the past. They are not just the stuff of history, of Emmett Till and Rodney King and George Floyd and so many nameless others. It relates the experiences of Ernest Skelton, the owner of Grand Strand Appliance Repair Services.
When Ernest, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in.
As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate.
Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what white person actually addresses racism head on, in person, in their own home?
When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions.
What’s it like for you on a day-to-day basis as a black man? Do cops ever give you any trouble? The answers were illuminating.
Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year.
He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another.
Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car–parts and pieces of appliances.
They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he’s selling drugs.
These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way.
Every time he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him.
Ernest used to help folks out after dark with emergencies. Not anymore.
He does not work past dinnertime, not because he doesn’t need the business, but because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark.
He says “There’s nothing out there in the world for me past dark.”
Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him.
He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth. A truth that needs to be heard.
Ernest has a bachelors in electronics and an associates in HVAC.
Ernest says most white people are a little scared of him, and he’s often put in a position where he has to prove himself, as though he’s not qualified to repair appliances.
After getting a job for 2 years at Sears appliance, Ernest started his own company, one he’s been running for several years.
He is the best repairman we’ve had, and has taught me about washer dryers and how to maintain them myself, even helping me with another washer/dryer set and a dishwasher without charging me.
I highly recommend his company, Grand Strand Appliance.
Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is.
His dad taught him “It’s a white man’s world”, and he’s done his best to live within it.
When I asked him what I could do, he said, “everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people”.
I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south. I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world—by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up.
I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses. That’s what I can do today.
Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple. #listenandlift
The Watts riots. The Rodney King riots. The George Floyd riots. These are “the methods of extraordinary pressure to interrupt our pleasure” that Jonathan Kozol mentioned. Taken by themselves, the destruction and looting are senseless and wrong. Taken in the context of 400 years of systemic oppression, they are entirely understandable. These things happen because the white establishment refuses to listen, to understand, and to act.
The BLM movement is being used by opponents of progress and maintainers of the status quo to show their ignorance. There is no implied “only” in front of “black lives matter.”
An exquisite example of this happened in 2016, when a supposed group of law students wrote a letter to Patricia Leary, a professor at Whittier Law School, taking her to task for wearing a BLM teeshirt “on a day in Criminal Procedure when we were explicitly discussing violence against the black community by police.” ³ Images of the letters and concomitant transcripts can be found at Imgur; the professor’s response to these entitled and presumptuous brats is a takedown worthy of 1998, when the Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of Hell in a Cell, and he plummeted 16 feet through an announcer’s table.⁴
Of course all lives matter. Despite the fact that there are pervasive problems of racism, discrimination, racial profiling, and unwarranted brutality among police departments today, blue lives matter too. But as mentioned before, BLM is not about “only” black lives. It’s a movement because black lives are the ones that have been being – and continue to be – devalued and oppressed and taken.
Two recent artistic representations of current events:
We are at a difficult and critical juncture of our nation’s history right now. Things could go a number of ways. It’s not inconceivable that given the attitudes of our current leadership, we could see a Tienanmen Square type of event in our country. Or much in the way of Occupy Wall Street, the BLM movement could peter out into irrelevance and we could see a return to the status quo. These are extremes. It is my hope that the momentum gained in recent times will continue, and that rational heads will prevail, because we owe it to our founders to preserve the republic that they gave us.
Edit: This belongs here.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ Just in passing: Most of the kids in my class were white and Jewish. I was one of only three goyim. There were two black kids. Most of us have stayed in touch for 65 years. We never heard from the black kids again, even though we tried hard to find them for our 50th reunion.
Edit: recently found one – he was delighted to be contacted!
² Some white people in this country know what it’s like, even if for a brief time. I refer you to the depredations suffered by members of the newly-formed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they were cursed, hunted, slaughtered, mobbed, abused, robbed, subject to a statewide legal extermination order, and driven west across the country from 1830 to 1847. It was a small taste of what slaves and their descendants have suffered for over 400 years. But the point is that unless you’ve experienced this kind of systemic hatred and persecution first hand, you can’t really understand what it’s like.
Edit: It occurred to me some time after writing this post that understanding persecution does not always automatically translate into compassion and sensitivity. The history of the Latter-day Saints with regard to people of color is unenviable.
³ Although the text has been widely shared with critical details redacted, Inside Higher Ed posted the relevant details to show that this was an actual event that really and truly happened.
⁴ With thanks to redditor u/shittymorph for the useful reference.