The most sobering thing I’ve read in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri didn’t focus on Brown, his uniformed killer, or Ferguson at all. It was a news item from last December about an incident in Iceland.
On December 2, police shot a man to death in Reykjavik, the first such shooting in Iceland’s history as far as anyone knows. He was reportedly firing a shotgun in his home for reasons not disclosed, and fired at police as they entered the building after an unsuccessful attempt to subdue him with teargas. The chief of police held a press conference the same day, describing the shooting as “without precedent” and noting “police are deeply saddened by this tragic event and would like to extend their condolences to the family of the individual in question.”
As the Guardian article linked above points out, Iceland is by no means a gun-free society. GunPolicy.org estimates its citizen gun ownership to be 30.3 per 100 people, ranking Iceland 15th in the world on a per-capita basis (the United States tops the list with a rate roughly three times higher). They also estimate that Icelandic police have an arsenal of 1,039 guns, though police officers on “routine patrol” do not carry firearms.
Iceland’s population of about 326,000 is very close to that of St. Louis, with about 318,000. Yet in 2011 alone, police in St. Louis shot 11 people, three of them fatally, according to statistics compiled by crime writer and former FBI agent Jim Fisher. (Ferguson, eight miles away, is part of the Greater St. Louis area, but has its own police force, however dysfunctional.)
In 2010, gun deaths per 100,000 people in the United States stood at 10.1, while Iceland’s 2009 rate per 100,000 was 1.25 and never went above 2.85 in any year between 1996 and 2009. Continue reading ‘Police are deeply saddened by this tragic event’
For President Obama, a list of difficulties has become the equivalent of a list of failures. If the world is a mess, it is because of his foreign policy. If Republicans are obstructionists, he didn’t “lead” and win them over. If a mid-level bureaucrat in one of the six far-flung federal districts creates a public crisis and embarrasses the government, the President should have been standing over his shoulder. Scope or scale no longer matter. The only accounting is a single ledger list of his faults—which includes policies and fights that were on Democrats’ wish list–and even things he should have done, extrapolated from current events. How dare he not have a prophetic vision?
This idea of a list of his failings has expanded to include even his obvious victories. Obama fail is a helpless craving, prompted by a President who inspired a phantasmagoria of fallacies and fear so rich that he alternates between being considered utterly inept and having embedded diabolical wiles whose ruses and ploys are able to summon and capture world-class terrorists in faraway lands on command, to protect and distract the public from his failures.
“Too neat,” several pundits have described Obama’s announcement of the capture of one of the leaders of the 2012 armed strike on the US consul in Benghazi. Add it to the list as a coarse example of another Obama political stunt.
Boehner pointedly thanked the troops.
Obama is a dumb guy who keeps terrorists in his back pockets. He stages their capture whenever he needs a political boost. The new list of failures even allows for mutually exclusive ideas.
This line item strategic equivalence of failure is assigned to every presidential action Obama undertakes—and for every event that takes place anywhere in the world. It is an easy default of add-ons that avoids a list of reasons, requires no thought, and plays well in the press.
The narrative of Obama failure is not only the one in the press. One of his difficulties is the narrative of our history. Unique to America’s DNA, that historical narrative also finds a way to wrap its tentacles around every act and view of the President. It is the host and source for his failures and has proven malleable and durable through the years.
To some, it is invisible; to others, it is denied. It is alternatively small and large. Mainly it is dismissed. But it is a silent, unspoken constant; one that makes the fur fly about equality, equal opportunity, qualifications, character, ideology, justice, safety nets, slavery, education, personal ethics, stereotypes, American strength. It is attached to our tailwinds, our progress as a nation.
The President rarely makes note of it. The few times he has, he has been excoriated for it. It has come up in jokes at the WHCD. In remarks to the press about gun violence. The fact that the President seems unfazed by it infuriates many people even more.
Its presence and weight, its burden and well known place is demonstrated by the fact that, although unnamed, by now you know exactly what I am talking about. (His birth certificate? His inexperience? His vacations? No?) It’s race.
It has an inverse effect on his power. The greater Obama’s accomplishments, the greater the denial. The more low-key the recognition, the louder the cry that he exceeds his authority.
The media is especially culpable in creating the boxed-in myth of post-racialism—in the midst of one of the most active periods of individual and political expressions of race we have witnessed in our history.
The media drags the President down by its omission of race as a silent embed in our national noise, around since Frederick Douglass was begged and implored not to march in a Republican street parade in Washington, DC (he ended up carrying his delegation’s banner!); since W.E.B. DuBois identified its effects as a “double consciousness” regarding African-Americans; since lynchings by color persisted through the early 20th century, followed by vigilante violence and Midwestern sundown towns (all blacks out by sundown!)—since the only Supreme Court decision whose full effect of law was delayed with “all deliberate speed” (Brown v. the Board of Education, Topeka, KS). Race has been used to tarnish achievements since Dr. King’s legacy (his desire for equality made him a communist!) and before and since to justify the brutal lynching of Emmett Till, the smearing of the NBA, to advance the coverage of television reality stars who rewrite history to deny their visceral, unrelenting hate of President Obama—due to race—by making race and fault the same, with nothing between. Continue reading Race and Obama: The Longstanding Silence of Hate’s Empty Dream
How you have felt, O men of Athens, at hearing the speeches of my accusers, I cannot tell; but I know that their persuasive words almost made me forget who I was – such was the effect of them; and yet they have hardly spoken a word of truth. But many as their falsehoods were, there was one of them which quite amazed me; – I mean when they told you to be upon your guard, and not to let yourselves be deceived by the force of my eloquence. They ought to have been ashamed of saying this, because they were sure to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and displayed my deficiency; they certainly did appear to be most shameless in saying this, unless by the force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for then I do indeed admit that I am eloquent. But in how different a way from theirs!
— Socrates, The Apology
In a written account of a runaway from slavery, authorities stopped a suspected fellow, questioning him closely. “Where are you going?” they asked. “I am from South Carolina!” he replied. Puzzled, unsure about his answer, they let him continue on his way. His empathetic response won the day.
“I’m from South Carolina!” Do you think I am so stupid as to run away, knowing what I face if captured? Surely the masters of fear succeeded in deterring the thought of escape and made profoundly clear my lot, and I my willingness to accept it without challenge.
“I’m from South Carolina!” Need I say more than this simple moral plea, even for a bondsman? Is justice found in the demands for denigration and physical cruelty that respect no rights except wealth and power?
“I’m from South Carolina!” I know you will never admit my feat of deception, or the success of my journey so far; it casts a long shadow on your beliefs and institutions and shows how the cherished follies you substitute for truth fall woefully short, including the idea that superior intelligence and character is tied to skin color and the land of birth or heritage. I am African. Stop me–and reveal to yourselves your failure, and know you will fail again. You can not face this failure, so you will ignore my success. Let me go; you will pretend this never happened and that your fears and narcissism are intact.
“I’m from South Carolina!” You are powerless. I will not respond to your confrontation. Nor be drawn into a defensive fight. I have said enough. My truth is deaf to your demand. Let me pass.
These four dialogues—different than Plato’s—are multiple sides of the gnostic “that-which-is,” the search for a reality based in truth, in which no simple explanation by itself gives the right reason, but they all do so collectively, as air, water and sun enjoin the storm.
The South Carolina runaway flees at the zenith of oppression by race. At a time and point when the enslaved were captured as fighters and sold like commodities. They were shipped stacked like casks of myrrh, the dead deposed like scraps; landed, then worked like beasts, bought and sold as capital on balance sheets, widely used as instruments of status and pleasure—while being sources of ridicule and disdain and proclaimed sub-human. In America, the enslaved lost the fight for any external right of freedom by government, except those granted by individual property holders.
But the experiences of slavery and the enslaved reveal something more. Race in the form of slavery was at the center of a global debate about the sacred nature of life, the authority and rule of a divine presence, about the relations of a highly visible and tempting secular life of wealth and ease to the unseen admonitions of logic and faith. Some men refused to hold the enslaved as property because it profaned a sacred trust.
Over time the discussions and views which once vigorously embraced the deep, centered questions of slavery and race moved away from the foundations of faith and in-depth human inquiry. No longer was the discussion filled with the terms of the celebrated principles of the gifted Greek philosophers and others who carefully charted the grand reviews of who we are, of life’s meaning, of the nature and fundamentals of truth, and how suffering, punishment and accountability are described and distributed in secular and sacred justice.
Over time, we have forgotten race had a deeper, more profound core: it was a prism into humanity, into how we thought and felt about ourselves and others; about who we were and what we celebrated; about what values were inviolate and what principles we would defend, even how we saw the image and hand of God and stewardship and mercy and how we responded to its paradox.
Race tested the limits of governments and men to envision the reach of deceit and sin. It set limits on liberty. It changes economics: in the 1781 case of the British slaver, the Zong, its insurers were ordered by a lower court to pay the costs of Africans jettisoned as cargo because the ship ran low on drinking water. The court found that even for the enslaved, the British maritime principle holds that a captain who jettisons part of his cargo in order to save the rest can claim for the loss from his insurers.
The case was so egregious that the British high court threw out the lower court’s ruling to issue an insurance payout on the dead souls of a deliberately jettisoned cargo of men, women and children, a ruling which had suddenly made slavery’s horrors benign and its greed for profits obscene.
In a three-day period on the Zong, 54 children and women, then 36 men, were lost, followed by another 42 thrown overboard (and these numbers may be too small). Many on the last two days were jettisoned after it rained!
A replica of the Zong
Chained together, 10 enslaved jumped from the Zong in protest. These captives would not settle for the lives of slaves as a condition of the death of others. They surely would not settle today for the crumbs of riches given as welfare. Even then they would not settle, before the courts ruled, ignoring precedent, that the killing of innocents was lawful.
The Zong case revealed a shameful paradox: that men could turn other men/women/children into slaves, sell them for profit; that God and law had become separated in the souls of some. It held another lesson hidden in its horror: that truth will embody change. The old status quo passes and brings new issues forward. But the new issues of freedom after slavery turned race from reality to myth.
In an irony of American thinking, the greater the progress made against racial oppression, discrimination, bias and injustice, the more the old roots that anchored the discussion were pulled up. The buying and selling of human beings, forcibly transmitting across an ocean to an alien land, is the central issue of slavery, not the work ethic of those enslaved. But powerful outside forces shape the conditions of slaves and their descendants, and their hard work to become victors over the odds seems to garner less respect.
Race became a story robbed of its epic soul. No longer debated in the words of Christ and Socrates, or the great English, French and German philosophers, or the Grimké sisters, Frederick Douglass, or the eloquent abolitionists, including England’s William Wilberforce and Granville Sharp, race, no longer a pivot point, has became a wedge of hate and blame—of power and politics. Hate and blame used denial to limit and distract its discussion. Race has evolved into a debate over stereotypes, from which there is little escape, with all sides engaging in blame. Too little, too much; too lazy, too mean; too denied, too rigged; too late, too entitled.
We have forgotten the inclusiveness with which Frederick Douglass addressed a nation from Arlington Cemetery in May 1871, when he asked, “What Shall Men Remember?”
If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans, which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth, and sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold—swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves—and planted agony at a million hearthstones; I say that, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember?
A country has forgotten and altered its meaning. The profound has been replaced by the stupid. Instead of Monroe Trotter, Henry Highland Garnet and W.E.B. DuBois’ gifted insights, we get Michele Bachmann’s mangled facts and Newt Gingrich’s Mau Mau spree. Instead of lynchings, we get leeches; even as the lynching of young men continue by gunshot rather than rope. Instead of a common humanity, we get officials who said their idea of God led them to refuse to marry those in love with members of different races. Instead of respect, we get soldiers refusing service under a legally installed black Commander-in-Chief as a matter of “conscience.”
We get a party that ignores its historic Southern strategy, directly tied to exploiting race; only to remind us that white Democrats were once racists—and the same group to which its Southern strategy appealed!
We get a news media that says the right to private conversations under free speech inoculates someone with racist views from consequences; ignoring that a doctor using drugs privately is at professional risk; a person sleeping with your spouse can be sued; a baseball player, track runner, cyclist, or weight lifter privately using drugs can be barred from competition. Donald Sterling needs to know words are acts. Words do not belong in a separate category when it comes to consequences, especially in the marketplace and under a signed agreement of authority that spells out consequences for acts of speech.
The days when property holders who claimed the ownership of people and occupied high office are gone, because law—words—created a new reality. It is perfectly permitted within the culture, when mayors, city council members, and the President call a racist myth reprehensible to take action—no society has to endorse its sin to preserve its freedom. And four hundred years of evidence and witness that includes four years of a war that produced the largest number of American war dead of any conflict, is not a rush to judgement about liberty and rights. Continue reading Race and Myth Revisited
I spent the week watering the well. Drinking coffee from five Ethiopian regions, feeling a link to the small family farms that depend on the income from the sales of beans, thankful to have a good relationship with a coffee seller in DC who provides me the 15 to 20 pounds my daughter sends me every two or three months.
But I can’t get my friends to try it! The corporate brands have them dialed in. So this morning’s Sumatra brings an old question: how do you get people to change? Why is change resisted?
In part the questions explain the Republican attraction: People don’t have to give up very much except government to be Republican. It’s a safe default for the risk-averse, even when in sight of something better.
I also spent the week anticipating the visit of friends I haven’t seen in 40 years. That energy was a celebration of passage; how vision grows out of change. Vision pushes away fear and brings hope. That why Sarah Palin sneered at “that hopey thing”—it give a freedom found on the inside, a freedom to grow; not just a freedom to fight government. Friends bring collective energy, a unique group experience that in politics is called the public good.
Republicans have abandoned that part of the public square, substituted profit for its focus, and measure of profit.
The maxim that people are willing to turn down collective advancement and fight against their own interests is proven both by the experimental and empirical. Why are we surprised?
What’s the strategy that will make the resistant change their minds?
On race? No way. On women? Lip service contradicted. On the public good? A rip-off! On income? Be glad for what you got.
This core is the Republican fortress. Impenetrable. But it’s placed to cause the maximum fright. As Barack begins to end his second term, race matters less; the coded challenges now go after his record and deliberately misconstrue his policies. The goal is to tear down his legacy. Listen, you can hear it from all sides. Continue reading Try It Out!
The latest Fox News controversy was Megyn Kelly and her insistence that Santa Claus and Jesus are white, in response to an article by Slate columnist Aisha Harris on the concept that Santa Claus should not be depicted only as an older white man. Watching the video of Kelly’s assertion showed that she was not speaking in jest and seemed rather offended that Santa could be depicted as anything other than an older white man. Ms. Harris proposed that Santa be depicted as a penguin.
Why Santa Looks the Way He Does
The present image of Santa Claus is based on Thomas Nast’s illustration for the Clement Moore poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” published in 1823. Mythical and fictional characters are going to take the form of the demographic group that is looking at them. Since the US is majority white, the depictions will be white, including the legendary 1st-Century itinerant Jewish rabbi from Nazareth in the Roman province of Judea. He is normally shown as if he was born in Bethlehem, PA rather than Bethlehem, Judea.
Going around the world, Jesus is generally shown in the form of the society in question. He is Japanese in Japan, Ethiopian in Ethiopia, and so on.
A comedy aside: I’ve listened to quite a few comic routines on the depiction of Santa Claus, especially by black comics. Of course Santa is white; he has to be. A black man would never get to creep around people’s houses late at without someone calling 911!
White Skin as Iconic Norm
Megyn Kelly, along with her defenders, all agree that the iconic white, “normal” version of Santa, Jesus, and any other major figures, is the only one that shall be in the public domain. Even pseudo-libertarian right-wing former radio host Neal Boortz interrupted his retirement to weigh in on the issue. He said that he would complain that Martin Luther King, Jr. is always depicted as black. Seriously? He is going to complain about the accurate depiction of an actual person as opposed to the depiction of a fictional character? This goes to the iconic level that whiteness has to the majority, that Boortz would be so entitled to say something that stupid out loud. Continue reading Megyn Kelly and Fox News’ White Santa—A Cautionary Tale
The George Zimmerman trial ended with his acquittal. He is now a free man, and a black teenager, Trayvon Martin, is dead. The defense portrayed Zimmerman as a victim of a young black thug. The fact that he ignored the directions of the police dispatcher not to follow Martin, and his rather limited list of injuries, do not match the lethal force used by Zimmerman.
Just another day in the US injustice system.
There are plenty of cases where black defendants are found guilty and punished more severely than white defendants. Powder versus crack cocaine is an example, but the examples are legion; a Google search will show them. In the presence of a racist caste society, the darker-skinned members of the lower caste are considered criminals and not really citizens, or even people. The laws and rules do not matter because those protections are not extended to them, only the penalties. In the famed segment of the ABC program What Would You Do? that shows three different people dealing with a locked bicycle, a black man, a white man and a white woman, the black man was immediately interrogated by passersby and had the police called on him; the white man was looked at, but no action taken by passersby; the white woman said that she was trying to steal the bike and assistance was offered. If there were any question that race matters, it does. Innocent until proven guilty does not apply to everyone.
Supposedly, we’re a nation of laws. However, the laws have always been ignored when it is convenient, not to mention that the laws do not apply to everyone. Roger Taney, Chief Justice in the Dred Scott decision, summed it up when he said that the Negro had no rights that the white man need respect. See the Medgar Evers and Emmitt Till cases, and the concept of jury nullification. In jury nullification, the jury has the option of ignoring the charges of the accused and declaring the accused not guilty, regardless of the evidence presented. That’s why cases in the pre-Civil Rights Era with white defendants and black victims rarely ended in the conviction of the accused. The federal government had to pass civil rights laws so that they could prosecute when the states would not.
Self-defense and legal protections are not for black people. The law and juries failed Marissa Alexander, John McNeil and John White; all black defendants with self-defense claims. Alexander used a gun to defend herself from an abusive husband; McNeil and White defended themselves against white attackers. Their claims were rejected and all were convicted and sentenced.
OJ Simpson, Zimmerman, and Rodney King
A lot of people cite the result of the OJ Simpson trial as a great injustice, but it is noted for the wrong reasons. It is not that OJ Simpson was acquitted, but the fact that a black man, with enough money, got away with killing white people. That is never supposed to happen, period – only the other way around. Note that the corrupted and poorly done LAPD investigation is never mentioned. Continue reading Just Another Day of Injustice in the USA
The Supreme Court returned a decision in the voting rights case, Shelby County, AL v. Holder (2013), that invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. In short, the jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination no longer have to go to the Justice Department in advance of any changes in voting laws.
Please pardon my cynicism, but I’m not losing any sleep over this. It is not that it isn’t a bad decision; I think it is, but it does not rise to the level of the worst Supreme Court decisions. There are four of those, and two have invalidated the rights of black people, specifically Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), denying citizenship to all black people and invalidating the 1820 Missouri Compromise and allowing slavery in all territories. The other is Plessy v. Ferguson (1898), which allowed “separate but equal” Jim Crow segregation. The rights of black people have always been at the whim of the powerful and those whose rights are not in question at any given moment. The activist judges have done it again. Not the first time this has happened.
There are options the federal government still has; they will have to be prepared to work a lot harder. Section 5 is still intact, but weakened. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that Congress remained free to try to impose federal oversight on states where voting rights were at risk, but must do so based on contemporary data. However, that will be difficult with a divided Congress. Note that the corporatist Chief Justice said this out loud, so that is an option, though not an easy one. Section 2 is still intact: any jurisdiction that has passed a law that is discriminatory in nature can be taken to court. The Justice Department must remain vigilant, now even more so. Sections of the Voting Rights Act can be rewritten to pass Constitutional muster and be reauthorized by Congress. Maybe voting laws can be standardized at the federal level. I’m sure there are other options available.
There is something that can be done at the grass roots level, also. The obvious one is to use this as impetus to vote out the GOP and their racist counterparts at all levels. There is the coming demographic shift, especially in the red states, where people of color will eventually outnumber white people in general, not just in certain areas. There’s also the GOP’s vulnerability – they tend to cater to older white racists. Those are becoming fewer in number, in spite of their attempts to increase their numbers, while those who do not vote GOP are increasing. The struggle is far from over. Continue reading Why I’m Not Losing Any Sleep on the Voting Rights Act Decision
“It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye!” The time-tried admonishment by parents when their children are doing something inherently unsafe that could bring about dire consequences; like playing with a BB gun, like voting Republican.
The author of the most recent “I used to be a Republican” article fell on very hard times and saw his political party in a new light. That “new” light has been on for the past 40-plus years. Like just about 100% of all of these “epiphanies,” the now-former Republican met with hardship and found himself out of the Republican fold. That person now has to has to stand next to and/or live near “those people,” the people that Republicans focus all their negative attention on. He now has to use the social programs that his former political party has been trying to end, or cut to the point of being useless, or post so many roadblocks to access that no one can use them. He sees the light, has a change of heart, and stops voting Republican. Then, as always, the concluding statement: “I didn’t leave the Republican party, it left me.”
As a member of the demographic group that the Republicans bash on a regular basis and use for campaign material (see the recent Mitt and Ann Romney interview) I look at these “epiphanies” with a cynical eye. I put “epiphany” in quotes in these cases for a reason. Not because the person has fallen on hard times and has seen the light, but that it took such a fall for him to see the light.
People of color in general are behind in every social category, yet we have a political party that ignores those facts and castigates them as being a drain on society, only wanting “free stuff” and to live off the government. Ignorance, in this case voting Republican, can only function in the absence of truth and the darkness of lies and hatred.
I have heard various racists and the ignorant joke about how great it would be to be black. One of my mother’s friends commented, lightheartedly, that she wished she could get free services upon hearing that my mom had gotten some free minor home upgrades, like a ramp for the door to the garage and safety bars for the bathtub, because she was black (with a white father, but that does not change anything in a racial caste society), over 65, female, and disabled; my mother has asthma and severe osteoarthritis in both knees, has to walk with two canes, and is a candidate for knee-replacement surgery. In contrast, her friend is white, late 50′s, medium build, and walks for exercise most every day. Nothing wrong with free stuff, but why would anyone want to joke around like that? Neither my mom nor anyone else, for that matter, wants to be disabled.
Did everything magically change such that some think people of color are now equal to the majority in all social categories just because a black man is President of the USA? Are they that ignorant of the facts and history? I guess they are. Continue reading On Republican ‘Epiphanies’ (or It’s All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses an Eye)
The sad news is that Republicans have added to their list of the left’s conspiracies: the latest being the notion that Barack Obama actually won reelection as the President of the United States. Of course, Barack Obama received 62.26 million popular votes, won 26 states with 332 electoral votes—an electoral vote number that GOP pundits Dick Morris, George Will, Newt Gingrich and others predicted and called a “landslide”—for Romney! When the President actually achieved those numbers, becoming one of only five Democrats in history to twice receive 50 percent of the vote, the same bokors of make-believe called it a close election, becoming one of the few conspiracy groups in history to ignore the obvious.
Conspiracies are usually built around things unseen. In the dark mysteries of human ideas, conspiracies are born when people spring to action to carry out evil and destruction to gain power and turn human suffering into a demonic benefit that destroys the cherished good of freedom and prosperity. Conspiracies attack a life reasonably free of want, and crush to ruins a pride based on person production and skill.
History is filled with the great societies of prosperity and pride with a legacy of inside and outside conspiracies; ancient Egypt, the Mayans and Incas, the Dynasties of China and Persia, the Iroquois and the Sioux nations. These early societies had material wealth and superior knowledge, exhibited fantastic engineering success beyond their spectacular buildings. China and Persia, and the Mayans, for example, had extensive underground water systems, with reservoirs. But conspiracists no longer embrace global, historic or infrastructure success. For many conspiracists, these successes are an a priori sign of an invisible cabal, whose power is multiplied by the depth of its secrecy.
So of all the conspiracies attributed to Barack Obama, it was obvious that socialists carrying clipboards with petitions, illegal ACORN registrations, or backdoor gifts from socialist Europe or radical communist countries like Cuba, Estonia, Russia or China didn’t win the election. (Although the Romney-Sheldon Adelson connection offers fertile ground for outside influence by China and Israel!) It was obvious that the million mailed releases of a DVD tying Barack’s mother to Chicago labor leader Frank Marshall Davis, claiming a new baby daddy for infant Barack (one which incidentally would have firmly established his American citizenship—at odds with birther conspiracies!), didn’t work, either.
It’s also hard to claim that a President with a good mid-range jump shot and an arching, floating lay-up, who picks his own NCAA Final Four brackets (men and women’s), regularly invites Stevie Wonder to the White House, and brews his own pale ale from White House honey needs “to learn how to be an American.” So as all the conspiracies failed, falling one by one, it was obvious: Barack Obama won due to a yet-undiscovered-conspiracy even more wrongheaded and subversive than the GOP overpaid crybabies had thought!
Before we say “good riddance,” let’s do a careful review. For Karl Rove and many others, race has all minuses and no pluses in national politics. They assume a wider distribution of doubt and lingering worry over race than the actual election results revealed. What they missed is that as race once magnified negatives—the stereotypes of criminality, morality and personal ethics—it now also multiplies the character of success, skills at speaking, reasoning, caring, leadership and vision.
Rove and others assume these positive traits are dampened down by race. As they see it, race limits the upside of the positive narrative while acting to amplify and enlarge mistakes and negatives. But their cultural calculus is passing from a changing American national community; the new American national identity is a patriotism that proactively seeks to include all heritage communities and build a national community of trust and tolerance. In this America, stereotypes have almost no impact on the acceptability for leadership among members of heritage communities. Stereotypes do still exist, but as jokes that ridicule old-school thinking as much as they do the targeted group. Look carefully: much of contemporary humor uses stereotypes to laugh at the notions and distortions that stereotypes imply—and mock the stereotypes themselves!
But for Rove and others, the old ideas are still life and death. In a great irony, they see the election of a black man as President as the death of liberty rather than its celebration. Liberty has killed itself, they think, by going too far and becoming imprudent. Thus, their campaigns are always about the dangers of democracy: the decisions and acts that are, in their defective world view, excesses, bad, condemned. Continue reading The Sad News of A Bad Bet
I love history because I feel it. Others enjoy a kiss or music, great art; history flows deep in my soul with its own compass of beauty. My challenge is to wander outside of language’s cages and find how we are bound to freedom, for history is always about the drama of freedom. Barack Obama’s re-election is one of freedom’s greatest moments. I loved it. But every wisdom tradition warns that in the shadows of great moments are dangers and obstacles throbbing and alive with their losing gasp.
I congratulate the President—and the country—but I am going to write about the dangers swept up in that great moment; the dangers, though defeated and diminished, that are a threat to the freedom that I love. History shows dangers, after being pummeled, return redoubled. If dangers are not guarded against, the great moments of history become a pinnacle of achievement rather than a base camp for building greater success. And in the great success and jubilation of celebrating the re-election of Barack Obama with the support of states from east to west (and maybe south!), mighty danger lurks.
In a country where men and women from Kenya were captured, shipped and sold as property at public auctions and stripped of legal and personal rights, denied even the right to marry by Christian ministers and church elders, made into forced labor, compelled to accept forcible rape upon their women, our President, a descendant of Kenya, was told by an immigrant, speaking as his opponent’s surrogate, that he needed “to learn to be an American.” That immigrant overlooked that the sons and daughters of Africa know all too well and have learned too deeply what America means. The danger in the casual denial of his words hints at the old auctions, except the descendants are increasingly being marginalized. Their worth extracted, they are floss. The old story is still written in the wastes of higher unemployment, lower incomes, in communities overrun with crime, violence, and dropouts.
These communities must return to their history of self-help, established within the communities created by the auction block, communities that honored marriage and deeply embedded a self-love unbroken by violence and words, a self-love whose self-worth was tied to its ethics and pride in education, work and achievement. The African-American community need be painfully aware of the dangers that stand in front of its destiny, blocking its progress, subtly attempting to change its inner truth. At the moment of the highest achievement by one of its improbable sons, it stands on the precipice of imploding doom.
An irony of last night’s success is that women were the prime group in re-electing a man. In state after state, the President’s margin depended on women voters. His opponent narrowly tried to isolate employment as a single issue for women voters, as his party isolated women as a group. Not just jobs; health care is primarily economic. The Republican resistance to Obamacare is not to health, but to costs, or how the payment and revenues are directed. Before Obamacare, virtually every state had higher costs for women, with giant holes in coverage related to women, on reproduction and illness that affected women at a higher incidence than men. In many ways, women are the driver’s of the national balance sheet; Walmart has woefully exploited their skills, other women have sold them out, some buy into an ideology that marginalizes them, many miss the global picture, and more struggle with poverty. Continue reading Remember Caution Is a Prerequisite of Success