It’s Over

The evening of the election, I planned to ignore the watch.  I had canvassed door to door, donated money, and voted.  I was done.  However, before bed, I peeked at the returns.  Ohio was leaning bad.  In the middle of the night, I woke up and could not get back to sleep.  So I got up, and looked on the internet.  It all looked bad. I was still in a state of disbelief when I turned on the radio, just in time to hear the acceptance speech.  I posted to Facebook:

We are so screwed. The whole world is so screwed.

Politicians have long been fond of saying they have “faith in the American people.”  Trump’s election proves another saying more apt: “There’s a sucker born every minute”.

In the following days, around the country there were pointless juvenile expressions of denial.   Just what were they protesting?  The Constitution?  Where was all of that energy before the election, when it could have done some good?

trump-klan-flyerThe election is over.  The American people have spoken. Once the party of lofty ideals personified by Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican Party, has become the party of bigotry, deceit, and willful ignorance, personified by an operator of bankrupt casinos. Nevertheless, voters have put Republicans in control of the presidency, both houses of Congress, and most state governments.  The party that begat interminable Benghazi hearings is will now be appointing judges throughout the land.  Willful ignorance, in the form of climate change deniers and Biblical creationists, will be put in charge of protecting the environment and educating our youth. White Nationalists are holding victory parades, and hate crimes are being reported across the country.

The American Century is over.  America once saw itself as a “shining city on the hill” (Matthew 5:14), spreading freedom and prosperity throughout the world.  However, the American people looked at the bold new brightly colored multi-cultural world of the future and fearfully retreated to a dim dream of the past.  The America of today does want to be leader of the free world, and frankly, a people that elected a such a charlatan is not worthy to lead it.

Democracy is difficult.  It demands informed, engaged citizens committed to the civic good.  Around the world, democratic republics are overwhelmed by by identity politics, by corruption, by the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, and by institutions that primarily serve to perpetuate the wealth and power of those in charge.  The opposition, weak, disorganized, and fragmented by competing utopian visions, is easily suppressed.  In such places, the democratic institutions might appear to be intact, but the vision “of liberty and justice for all” is but a distant dream.

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Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, Greenville, Mississippi

However, that is not going to happen here.  The Fascists might have won a battle, but this is not the Germany of the 1930s.  Even in Mississippi, the vast majority has no desire to return to the days of church burnings and lynchings, when the KKK was allowed to run rampant.  The burnt out church will be repaired, the sun will rise, and the rafters will again resound with the people praising God.

Our constitutional institutions are intact.  Throughout America, there are people of integrity, judges, policeman, bureaucrats, and even some Republicans, ready to prevent abuses of power.  We need to be vigilant, informed and ready to act.

After the new Constitution was written, Ben Franklin was asked what kind of government it was.  He replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.

We can and we must.  This election has shown us that our democracy is much more fragile than he had imagined, but the great experiment in government by the people and for the people that began over 200 years ago is definitely not over.

Let us join together and make America great again.

 

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The Democrats’ Lost Opportunity

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“It’s the economy, stupid”.  But not this year.

The economy is doing so well that even Forbes magazine, hardly a friend to the Democrats, declared, “Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth and Investing”.  Nevertheless,  Republicans all over the country, ably assisted by Fox News, were able to mount successful campaigns founded simply on “Obama, Bad”.  Bizarrely, many Democrats apparently agreed. Instead of countering the Republican disinformation with the very real achievements of the last few years, many Democrats ran away from the president, treating him like a pariah.

Allison Lundergan Grimesmeet-mitch-m

For example, in south western Ohio, we were subjected to the dueling ads of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes.  McConnell’s job approval rating was even worse than Obama’s, so there was a reason for the Democrats to get excited about her prospects.  But the campaign was ridiculous. McConnell spent his time chaining Grimes to Obama and bashing the president. Grimes countered McConnell’s “Obama, Bad” with “McConnell, Worse”, though she seemed to agree with McConnell on the things that mattered, such as guns and coal, and even on how bad Obama was.  Grimes put as much distance between herself and Obama as she could, to the point of refusing to say whether or not she voted for Obama in the last election.  The whole strategy was based on the voters ignoring her party affiliation: it was doomed to failure.

The Republicans and their allies at Fox News are very skillful.   After six years of constantly undermining Obama, occasionally  pointing out real missteps, but more often resorting to half truths and outright fabrications,  they have succeeded in convincing many Americans that Obama is a disaster.

However, the Republicans are not just character assassins: they have an agenda.  Concerning the changing climate, they advocate a head in the sand approach, ignoring or denying the evidence that human activity is having any effect.  In economics, the Republicans subscribe to a “trickle down” policy that first protects the “job creators”, anticipating that the bounty will eventually reach the rest of the economy.  We have had over 30 years of experience since this approach was introduced, the evidence is that it benefits only the wealthy. I could go on, but that is not the point.  The Republicans have candidates who stand for something, and even when these candidates loose, they affect the debate and the direction of the country.

What is most galling about the Grimes campaign and others like it is that it does not really stand for anything.  It wastes an opportunity to present a clear alternative to the bone headed policies advocated by the Republicans.  As a result, the voters drift a little further off course.

The Bush administration, starting from a booming economy and a budget surplus, drove the economy into near collapse.  The Obama administration, despite Republican attempts to sabotage everything he did, succeeded in rebuilding the economy.  Employment is up, and the stock market is at record highs.  This is the kind of success the party should be embracing, not running away from.  The Democrats should be running on their vision for the future, like they did so successfully in 2008.  Then, even if they had lost a midterm election where the prospects were rather dim, they would have had an impact on the long term.  Instead, they ran away from their strength and offered nothing but bluster.  It is no wonder the well oiled, well financed, Republican machine rolled them over.

This year, the Democrats lost more than an election, they lost an opportunity to shape the debate among the American people. In this election, the Democrats deserved defeat.

White Privilege

Controversial Nevada Rancher Sparks Backlash From Previous Supporters After Racist Comments Cristopher Lollie

I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro”.  Most of them are a lot smarter than Cliven Bundy.

If a black man decided to appropriate some government land for himself, refuse to pay taxes, make racist remarks to the press, gather together a bunch of his buddies, armed to the teeth with automatic weapons, and threaten government officials, he would be dead.  Those officials would not tolerate him as they have Cliven Bundy.

At the other end of the spectrum, an incident in St. Paul with Chris Lollie began with him sitting on a bench, minding his own business. If he had been white, it is highly unlikely that anyone would have taken notice.  Some call this White Privilege.

However, Chris Lollie was being black, given the way he wore his hair, unapologetically so.  The police were called. Lollie took offense and asserted his rights.  The incident escalated to the point that he was tased and arrested.  Because other people witnessed what happened, the charges were later dropped.  Watching the recording of the incident that Lollie posted on YouTube, I can imagine that if he were a larger man, say the size of the late Mike Brown of Ferguson, Mo., this totally unnecessary incident could have easily escalated to something much more serious, perhaps even fatal.

I am a privileged person.  I am most aware of my privilege when visiting another country, one where the poor are desperate and largely without rights.  I have a roof over my head.  I have enough to eat.  I received a first-rate education.  My inalienable rights, as declared by my forefathers, are basically intact.  I see my privileges not as a consequence of being white, but of being a citizen in a functioning modern democracy.  I do not expect to be able to act like Cliven Bundy without consequences, but I do expect to be able to walk down the street in peace, and when I see a policeman, feel that he is there to protect and serve people like me.  I know that this is not the experience of most blacks.

NeilTysonOriginsA-Crop_400x400 Neil DeGrass Tyson tells a story of exiting a store at the same time as a white man when the alarm went off, indicating that someone was walking out with merchandize he hadn’t paid for.  Naturally, the security people assumed the culprit was the black man, so they stopped him while the real thief calmly walked away.

There are of course many more such incidents that I could list: people getting harassed for driving while black, for voting while black, for bleeding while black,even going to your own home while black”. The reason that people are so upset at the killing of Mike Brown by Ferguson police is not just because of the tragic brutality of this one unnecessary death, but that it is not an isolated incident.  Rather, it is the tip of an iceberg that weighs on the life of every African American in this country.

Ben Carson The O’Reilly Factor recently aired an episode entitled “The Truth about White Privilege”, which he “does not believe in”.  In support of his point of view, he brought on a black man, Dr. Ben Carson, who said,

“We have a social problem and not so much a racial problem. If you put any group in an environment where there are no father figures, where people resolve issues with violence, and where drugs and alcohol are easily accessible, they’re going to meet up with law enforcement or with other people who are raised the same way. In either case you’re going to have a disaster. It’s not a racial thing, it’s a social thing.”

I agree that education and family cohesion are critical factors in the lack of economic success among the poor in this country, both black and white. However, O’Reilly’s analysis almost completely dismisses the stigma that the descendants of slaves still experience on a daily basis, and what role that has on their prospects in life.  Neil Degrass Tyson, in the same clip I linked to above, gives  a much more nuanced understanding of the obstacles he had to overcome to become a successful scientist.

I share with O’Reilly a dislike for term “White Privilege”, though for different reasons.  First, because I think it misidentifies the source of the privileges that I enjoy.  Secondly, it is describing something that is part of the black experience, not the white experience, in this country.  Finally, the term seems to convey a sense of  collective guilt that I do not think is healthy.  However, the only alternative label I can suggest is Black Stigma, which is just too ugly to consider seriously.

Whatever terms we use, it is important for European Americans like myself to be aware of the indignities that African Americans still experience as a part of daily living.  When we witness the remnants of racial oppression, we must actively intervene, lest we become complicit in that oppression.  We cannot bear the burden that our society continues to lay on the descendants of slaves, but, through understanding, we can lighten that burden, and bring us closer to the day when society no longer finds it acceptable to treat people differently because of the color of their skin.  This has already been achieved in law.  Once this is accomplished in practice, we can relegate the concept of white privilege to the dust bin of history, where it belongs.

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Post Script. Obama said “As a general rule, things don’t end well if the sentence starts with, ‘Let me tell you something about the Negro’..” I think this is good advice, but I couldn’t resist doing the opposite. I hope I have succeeded in violating this general rule.