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. . . this is an essay/article I wrote on September 10, 2006. I'll stand this up here today against whatever Cheney is still babbling about.
Stirring Up The Dust At Ground Zero
by Ron Fullwood September 10, 2006
"I will show you fear in a handful of dust." -- T.S. Eliot
Is there anything more repugnant than hearing bin-Laden's taunting words so close to the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks? I don't mean the latest video he sent Bush to amp up the president's fear and smear campaign. I'm not thinking of the grainy shots of bin-Laden greeting his accomplices out in the open air of his mountain refuge.
Bush has been practicing his new protection scheme this past week with a series of speeches in which, as the explainer-in-chief, he's been methodical and zealous in his elevation of Osama bin-Laden; carefully reciting the most offensive and threatening of the terrorist's statements and dispatches. Beginning in the second in his series of speeches, Bush chose the moment right after he had remarked on the "flood of painful memories" and the "horror of watching planes fly into the World Trade Center", to amplify bin-Laden's gloating remarks that the attack was "an unparalleled and magnificent feat of valor, unmatched by any in humankind." On Sept.11 he'll travel to New York's 'Ground Zero' looking for a pile of rubble and a bullhorn to elevate himself and talk down to us from some lofty perch.
Bush is desperate to revive and re-animate the demoted specter he had called his "prime suspect" in 2001. "I want justice," Bush had said then. "There's an old poster out West… I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.' Six months after the attacks, however, he simply turned away from his 'hunt' and acted as if he didn't care anymore about catching him. Our forces had Bin-Laden cornered at Tora Bora, and then, he was allowed to escape into the mountains. "I don't know where he is," Bush replied when asked why the terrorist hadn't been caught. "I-I'll repeat what I said, Bush sputtered, "I am truly not that concerned about him."
It's five years from the date of the attacks, and Bush has finally found cause for concern. His party is poised to lose their majority in the House and, possibly, in the Senate. Voter opposition to Bush's occupation in Iraq has pulled his republicans down in the polls and threatens to take away the power that enabled him commit the troops to Iraq and keep them there. The specter of Osama bin-Laden is the only wedge Bush has to rally his dwindling base and convince voters that his party should be allowed to continue to lord over the authority they squandered in the five years since the attacks.
It's strange to hear Bush bring up bin-Laden. Bush has barely mentioned the terrorist since he claimed to be unconcerned about his whereabouts. In fact, the Senate went ahead and unanimously passed a Democratic amendment this week which restored the Pentagon's bin-Laden unit charged with finding the terrorist that Bush just up and closed without offering an alternative strategy or effort. In Bush's updated, 'National Strategy for Combating Terrorism' that he references in his speeches, Osama bin-Laden is mentioned only once, in a reference to his 'privileged upbringing'. Dredging up all of the offensive rhetoric from bin-Laden now is designed to re-inflate those emotions that were so raw right after the horror unfolded; that uncertainty and anxiety which made Americans fold in the face of his consolidation of power.
Bush's own initial reaction to the terrorist attacks on 9-11 was a mix of paranoia and bluster as he cast the fight as a defense of 'freedom' that he said the attackers wanted to 'destroy'. "They hate our freedoms - our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other," he declared in an address to a joint session of Congress. In his statement at the signing of the "anti-terrorism," Patriot Act, in October 2001, six weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, President Bush claimed that the measure would counter the threat of enemies that "recognize no barrier of morality and have no conscience." He sought to assure that the measure "upheld and respected the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution." He ends his statement with a pledge to enforce the law with "all of the urgency of a nation at war."
However, the President neglected to tell us which war he was referring to. The anti-terrorism measure was cobbled together in a few short months to take political advantage of the urge in Congress for a legislative response to the terrorist attacks, despite the president's claim that the bill was "carefully drafted and considered." It was a direct assault on the liberty, privacy, and free expression of all Americans.
From that document came a flood of legislative 'remedies' that would take advantage of the administration's blanket excuse of 'national security' that they and their minions in Congress draped over every stalled piece of legislation that could be remotely tied to their 'war on terror'.
But, their transparent politicking with their new anti-terror tools had nothing at all to do with catching the perpetrators they said were responsible for the 9-11 attacks. Their hunt became eclipsed by the violence their Iraq diversion had produced. Iraq became a terror magnet, just as Bush had planned. Instead of just "fighting them over there", our occupation had the effect of producing more individuals with a grudge who would do our troops, our interests, and our allies harm.
No amount of saber-rattling at Iran, showdowns with North Korea, or escalation of troops in Iraq to further prop up the crumbling Maliki regime can substitute for bringing bin-Laden to justice. Five years on the loose has made the terrorist into an inspiration for others who have been provoked by the mindless collateral killings by the U.S. in Bush's dual Mideast occupations. Yet, Bush has decided to elevate bin-Laden even more in his speeches and remembrances leading up to the 9-11 commemorations.
In Bush's radio address for Sunday, he speaks of a 'solemn occasion' and proceeds to muddy it up with more of bin-Laden's taunts. The president advances the terrorist's call for a Caliphate as he bids us to "hear the words" of the terrorist. "Osama bin Laden has called the 9/11 attacks, "A great step toward the unity of Muslims and establishing the righteous Caliphate," Bush tells us. "Al Qaeda and its allies reject any possibility of coexistence with those they call "infidels."
Hear the words of Osama bin Laden," Bush says about his partner. In their respective protection schemes, both use the extreme violent reactions of the other to justify their self-appointed roles as saviors and protectors of their followers. Both are counting on their words to elicit fear among their minions and their foes alike, but, Bush is playing bin-Laden's surrogate in this latest promotion; elevating the terrorist to a political equal, looking to give bin-Laden's words a place in our commemorations; hoping Americans will focus on the barbarity and zeal of the attacker rather than his own inability to suppress and capture him.
So, Monday, in his 9-11 commemoration tour, Bush will return to Ground Zero, looking for rubble and a bull horn to elevate his made-up role as protector-in-chief. But, the residents there have gone on with their lives, removed the debris, and paved over the hallowed ground for politicians to come and preach, and for others, to pray.
All that is left in that city of the tragedy of September 11 are survivors and memories; and dust; the scattered remains from those pernicious, poisonous mountains of dust that exploded from the towers as they fell. The dust of the humanity of innocents and terrorists alike co-mingled with the debris, hovering for an eternity before it fell down upon the city; memories and the past inextricably mingled in the miasmic haze.
Bush can do nothing this September 11 except stir up settled dust from that hallowed ground; stirring up resentments and recriminations, deliberately soiling his immaculate cloak. He will not be there to unify our nation, as it had come together on its own right after the attacks. He's coming to Ground Zero with bin-Laden's specter on his sleeve, looking for a political lift out of his swaggering militarism.
He will be looking to widen the divide that he's been nurturing since he ascended to power between those who have resisted his imperious grab for false authority in the wake of the violence, and those who still believe that he's protecting them with his blustering militarism and assaults on our own civil liberties.
However, there is no pile of rubble and humanity left in New York, or anywhere else, that Bush can stand on and bullhorn his way back into the nation's confidence. Some of the disturbed dust has revealed a shameful, reckless indifference to catching bin-Laden, as those individuals in the top echelons of our government who were responsible for directing our nation's defenses ignored the myriad of reports coming from the agents in the field. His 'War on Terrorism' has been nothing more than a scam unleashed against the liberties of blameless Americans, and his collateral military campaigns have had a unifying effect among those combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan who would resist his swaggering imperialism and consolidation of power.
Bush spoke of "vigilance" at the end of his radio address. "With vigilance, determination and courage, we will defeat the enemies of freedom," he says, "and we will leave behind a more peaceful world for our children and our grandchildren. That's an amazing contradiction to his own strident use of our nation's military to overthrow and occupy two sovereign nations in his term. It's a load of hubris from Bush, who has pledged to continue the occupation of Iraq "as long as he's president", and has bequeathed the disaster to "future presidents.'"
Abraham Lincoln spoke of our responsibility to vigilance at a debate in Edwardsville, Illinois, on September 11, 1858:
"While the people retain their virtue and vigilance," he said, "no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years."
We must resolve ourselves to vigilance against Bush's campaign to divide Americans into those who support his terror policies that he regards as patriots; and those who resist his imperious assaults on our civil liberties, diversion of forces and resources to Iraq, and his failure to catch the perpetrators defined in the very authorization that he claims gives him the power to ignore our nation's laws and our Constitution, that he portrays as traitors.
"By the frame of the government under which we live," Lincoln said, "these same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have, with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals."
Come, November we must hasten the return of our democracy to our hands. No amount of fear-mongering from Bush and his murderous specter should be allowed to stand in the way. Bush should not be allowed to dictate our future to us, using the voice of this terrorist's violence.
Posted by bigtree | Sun Sep 11, 2016, 11:02 AM (1 replies)
Hillary made one of the most visionary choices ever in defining her candidacy on such a personal and socially conscious level.
'Stronger Together' is the perfect response to Trump's divisive rhetoric. It confronts the bullying and threats with a firm resolve to unite, and invites Americans to move forward together against the obstruction and self-interest which is the hallmark of the republicans' cynical political racket.
Trump presents us with the opportunity to face the heart of the republican wall of opposition to progress, head on, by keeping what unites us at the forefront of our political efforts. It's a brilliant strategy - a strong rebuke to trump republicans, and a perfect rallying point for a political movement.
Ruby Cramer @rubycramer Jan 25
What @HillaryClinton believes, and has for nearly 50 years:
Posted by bigtree | Wed Aug 10, 2016, 06:47 PM (4 replies)
Zerlina Maxwell @ZerlinaMaxwell 19h19 hours ago
When black death goes viral, it can trigger PTSD-like trauma http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/black-pain-gone-viral-racism-graphic-videos-can-create-ptsd-like-trauma/#.V5ZDvzmfOGA.twitter
____Escaping the imagery can be nearly impossible, especially as online users post commentary and news updates. For some, it can merely be a nuisance. But research suggests that for people of color, frequent exposure to the shootings of black people can have long-term mental health effects. According to Monnica Williams, clinical psychologist and director of the Center for Mental Health Disparities at the University of Louisville, graphic videos (which she calls vicarious trauma) combined with lived experiences of racism, can create severe psychological problems reminiscent of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
“There’s a heightened sense of fear and anxiety when you feel like you can’t trust the people who’ve been put in charge to keep you safe. Instead, you see them killing people who look like you,” she says. “Combined with the everyday instances of racism, like microaggressions and discrimination, that contributes to a sense of alienation and isolation. It’s race-based trauma.”
A 2012 study found that black Americans reported experiencing discrimination at significantly higher rates than any other ethnic minority. The study, which surveyed thousands of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, also found that blacks who perceived discrimination the most, were more likely to report symptoms of PTSD. Although African-Americans have a lower risk for many anxiety disorders, the study reported a PTSD prevalence rate of 9.1 percent in blacks, compared to 6.8 percent in whites, 5.9 percent in Hispanics, and 1.8 percent in Asians.
Social media and viral videos can worsen the effects. During the week of Sterling’s and Castile’s deaths, a scroll through timelines of black social media users could uncover subtle expressions of mental and psychological anguish, from pleas for others not the share these videos, to declarations of a social media hiatus. Williams says that’s not unusual. These expressions of anger, sadness and grief can hint at something much more serious.
“It’s upsetting and stressful for people of color to see these events unfolding,” she says. “It can lead to depression, substance abuse and, in some cases, psychosis. Very often, it can contribute to health problems that are already common among African-Americans such as high blood pressure.”
read more: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/black-pain-gone-viral-racism-graphic-videos-can-create-ptsd-like-trauma/#.V5ZDvzmfOGA.twitter
...found this to be disturbingly true a few years back which led me to seek help and completely remove myself from contact with the media (including DU) in order to recover. I couldn't understand what was happening, at first, but it became disturbingly clear that my nearly daily focus on issues relating to black killings were leading me into a declining mental state; things like weeping uncontrollably and uncharacteristically quick to anger.
It was weird to me, at the time, never having experienced anything of the sort, but more understandable now that I've been more self-protective when accessing and viewing media on the net.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Aug 6, 2016, 11:25 AM (3 replies)
...just got home from work and listened to Michelle's speech again.
I'd highly recommend giving her speech a listen (or two, or three). I daresay, it will be some time (hopefully not another eternity) before we find such important truths spoken from that elevation; truths spoken from a perspective of a newly realized, newly actualized personal empowerment which will undoubtedly resonate throughout generations to come.
I don't think it's an accident that the revival of black political power the Obama presidency has ushered in has been met by a concerted and desperate campaign by the right-wing to demonize, denigrate, and disenfranchise black Americans who may now recognize a personal stake in our democracy, energized and inspired by Michelle's husband's historic achievement.
The unity of purpose which put Barack Obama in the position of power and influence is still alive in Hillary's historic campaign, buttressed by her own brand of inspiration, which will undoubtedly influence and inspire millions more to believe in the power of our democracy to advance their own ideals and ambitions into action.
Our primary and this nomination is an affirmation of the message the Obama coalition of voters brought to our nation that we are stronger when we act together, both politically and socially. All of the attempts to divide us can be effectively brushed aside if we can remember where we stood eight years ago; where we stand right now; together.
Thank you Michelle, for reminding us. May we never forget these inspirational days as we work to build on this dynamic presidency, together.
Posted by bigtree | Tue Jul 26, 2016, 11:19 AM (2 replies)
I've read several articles and posts asking for 'solutions' and suggestions on ways to address the issue of 'white privilege' in America. These are certainly important questions worthy of consideration and debate. I hesitate to express even small criticisms of characterizations of what white privilege means - most often with these definitions coming from white individuals, which isn't something I feel is damning or seriously inappropriate.
That said, I do feel it's much more important to listen to the expressions of non-white individuals who feel subject to negative aspects and consequences of disparities in treatment, opportunity, or other realities of our existence in society.
Of course, while correctly pointing to the sometimes condescending or subjugating attitudes of some white people toward black individuals, it should be remembered that there are also stereotypes made and perpetuated against white Americans. The difference, of course, is the consequences in a majority white society in which black people are regularly discriminated against, judged, repressed, or attacked in a disproportionate measure by many in that white majority. Still, we should refrain from assuming these patronizing and subservient attitudes are universal and inherent in all white individuals; just as it's imperative to refrain from stereotyping black individuals.
Many black Americans, myself included, grapple with the way racism is so ingrained in all of our everyday insecurities about ourselves and others; and how its almost impossible for black Americans today to put aside those insecurities when so many perceptions of us and so many actions and attitudes of us are still so negatively skewed in ways which allow whites opportunities to define black lives outside of the boundaries of opportunity, acceptance, and understanding that they afford their own.
I had the opportunity to illustrate this to a former white soldier who had experienced verbal abuse upon his return home. He regularly characterized blacks who had run afoul of the law as 'thugs' and 'criminals' and I asked him to put himself in their place by questioning whether he thought he had served honorably and was a good soldier.
When he replied in the affirmative, I pointed out that he was able to remove his uniform and avoid the stereotyping that had motivated the people castigating him for his service; but that blacks had no way of removing their 'uniform' or changing the color of their skin which compels so many to associate them with the worst our society has historically labeled our race with.
Point is, we need to avoid entering into interactions with each other assuming the worst of what we believe or assume about each other. It's, perhaps, naive and disarming, but that's the only way we'll be able to move beyond these barriers of perception; on either side of the racial divide. Easier said, then done, I know - but, we can all do our part to push past these artificial and contrived images of ourselves. Our national history has affirmed this possibility. There's no reason at all to second-guess ourselves or become overly cynical about our respective intentions now.
What I'd really like to express here is that it's not reasonable to expect black Americans to respond to acts of racism directed toward them - or to racism directed toward other black Americans which has been highlighted recently with the increased profile of disproportionate killings of black individuals at the hands of white law enforcement officers - solely with an analytical focus on solutions; solutions like engendering trust between police and our community. It just seems, to me, strange to expect that black Americans would be able to generate attitudes like trust, acceptance, understanding, or respect in white individuals harboring the worst of instincts, beliefs, or fears toward their black counterparts.
We are, after all, imbued with as much personal pride and self-respect as the next person. We don't necessarily regard ourselves as subservient to anyone else's prerogative or initiative in every interaction. We should expect that we would be treated equitably in our interactions with others, in our interactions with authorities. It's perfectly understandable that we would act defensively when we are not, and we all know that defensiveness isn't always rational or accommodating.
I watched and listened a good while back as the highest official in the country, a black man, responded to the Eric Garner decision against prosecution of the officer involved by raising concerns over 'trust.' Trust in our justice system; trust in police practices; is such a remote and unlikely possibility to me right now that I'm almost ready to just tune the those sentiments out from any public official or officer who purports to speak down to me about trust from their positions of authority and influence.
Yet, there was something refreshingly direct in President Obama's statement which, perhaps, wasn't made as clear in the snippets offered along with news reports of the non-indictment of the cop filmed committing what was ruled a homicide, a murder of Eric Garner, by the city coroner. There was something in his statement which finally connected with my own thoughts and determination. The president used the word, "accountability," to buttress his concern about Americans "being treated equally under the law."
"I'm absolutely committed as president of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everyone believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law," President Obama said at the White House Tribal Nations Conference.
"We are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement," he continued.
That sentiment, so eloquently expressed, I believe, is directly on point. To me, there is nothing short of accountability from these police officers and police departments which will assuage my concern and commitment. I don't see any way that 'trust' will ever be achieved without a clear avenue for accountability, both within the institutions and from our courts. Standards, training, and even cameras on officers are essentially meaningless without accountability for the actions of these officers and officials of the law. In the case of Eric Garner, for instance, strangleholds were already against police policy, and it's clear that filming the killing did little to effect accountability and justice for the assailant.
Moreover, there really isn't any provision of law which mandates 'trust' - or even understanding, or respect for each other - as a condition of our rights to equal treatment under the law. Those are certainly fine aspirations, but our rights are inherent in the Constitution which (improbably, at the time of its inception) asserts that we are all created equal. That's where our rights are drawn from, not from any expectation that we love or respect each other before they are administered fairly.
The only way to ensure proper management of departments and policy is for individuals employed to 'protect and serve' to fear for their own liberty or job security if they violate provisions or laws in their duties. There's far too much comfort in these police departments and impunity in the actions of their officers, creating an authoritarian atmosphere where officers feel safe in using excessive force without repercussions or serious rebuke.
That effort is going to require individuals in positions of power who respect those rights and who are committed to enforcing them. There's really nothing less which will bring about the changes many want to see in the disposition of these rights. The law is where our protests and demands originate and reside; the rest of those aspirations should flow from that demonstrated understanding of equal treatment in any legal reprimand from police or adjudication in court. We begin with our demands and exercise every instigation of democracy (and civil disobedience) to achieve them.
I also believe we're long past the point where blacks need to prove their worth to anyone to expect equal justice under the law. We need to force the system to adhere to justice, to respect our rights, no quarter. That effort isn't always going to be rational, accommodating, or solution based. We're only human, and there are consequences which can arise from angering a people or backing them into a corner. I don't expect the black community to stand still or just genuflect in the face of oppression. If the white community is uncomfortable with that, perhaps it's time to consider how they're going to modify the ways they interact with the black community. If not, perhaps they'd better buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Jul 9, 2016, 11:48 AM (0 replies)
I put together a small gif slideshow of 5 pics from a homecoming parade in a sleepy Charleston, W.Va. that my father participated in sometime at the later end of the 40's. It's a 'snapshot' in time, a window into a not-so-distant past. I think the mix of races in the crowd is fascinating.
My father's in one of the closer pics grinning at the camera. He retired from the Army when he got back from New Guinea after WW2 ended. He told me that on the way home after being shipped back to the base out West, he had to change train cars on the rest of the way back home to Pennsylvania from the integrated train to the 'colored' rail line when they reached the segregated towns.
This parade and the obviously interested crowd is also notable for the young folks who witnessed this fascinating and pretty unique (for the time) unit of black soldiers. I've always named the one photo with the single soldier strutting out in front 'Proud Soldier' for the one fellow's sense of pride and the apparent appreciation shown by the mix of residents of the town looking on . . .
We have a Fourth of July parade down our circular street every year. It's a bit of hometown magic - not large by any standard, but probably the nicest thing about this town.
Happy July 4th, everyone!
Posted by bigtree | Mon Jul 4, 2016, 12:33 PM (4 replies)
Well, that was it for Garrison Keillor as host of Prairie Home Companion. He had his last show yesterday, but I waited for the Sunday morning rebroadcast so I could sit outside one last time and listen to the sounds of his hometown chatter and song mingle once again with nature. I got lost one last time, drifting deep into my own thoughts, recalling narratives from my own life as I listened to Garrison's storytelling.
I guess I'm past the denial stage... I'll download the all-too-brief last telling of the News from Lake Wobegon later, I suppose, and listen to it with my wife at some quiet time. Maybe even play a couple of the sad goodbye songs from songstress Heather Massey, before and after.
But, man, what a bittersweet show. President Obama actually phoned in, to my delight, recalling how the show kept him company on long drives around the country. I suspect that was the case for many of us. Garrison's show was a fantastic companion, wherever you happened to be at the time.
"How does it feel?" fellow cast member Tim Russell asked Keillor.
"Well, it's the first last show I've ever done, so I don't know how it's supposed to feel," Keillor answered.
"How does it feel?"
Garrison suffered another seizure this year, so I am certainly wishing him well and hoping he can find some healing time away from work and closer to his family. I wrote about this moment a while back. Like the hopelessly vain, hopefully read writer that I am, I'm sharing it out again, one last time...
Wobegone Is Me
Posted by bigtree | Sun Jul 3, 2016, 12:32 PM (10 replies)
...is absolutely stunning. The illogic just berns.
Here, he's railing against the fact that the majority of supers have lined up behind Hillary. Sanders first admits he's behind in earned delegates, the appears to argue for some sort of proportional allocation of superdelegates...
Sanders Sunday w/Jake Tapper:
“If I have 46 percent, she has 54 percent. The point that I was making is there’s something absurd when I get 46 percent of the delegates that come from real contests — real elections, and 7 percent of the super delegates.”
Is he arguing for proportional representation of supers, or not? Tapper tries to pin him down:
“Should we assume that means that you believe the candidate who has the majority of pledged delegates by the end of this process should be the nominee?” the CNN host wondered.
No way Sanders was going for that, after all, what he just argued for basically conceded the primary to Hillary. Instead, he shifted to his amazingly hypocritical argument that the establishment supers he's all but called corrupt should back his candidacy, even though he's certain to trail Hillary in earned delegates and votes...
“I understand that it’s an uphill fight to go from 46 percent where we are today to 50 percent in the nine remaining contests, I got that,” Sanders admitted, adding that super delegates should take an “objective look at which candidate is stronger.”
Here's the thing, expecting party pols, basically the folks he's spent this campaign attacking as establishment insiders, to overturn the will of voters in our primary, isn't revolutionary, progressive, or any other heroic label he and his supporters choose for their campaign. It is an anathema to democracy, it's a kick in the teeth to the people his 'people's revolution' claims to represent and support.
It's based, unbelievably, on the view that polling should take precedence over actual votes. It's stunning in its cynical expectation that there's some sizable contingent of superdelegates willing to leapfrog democracy and advance the losing candidate.
I can't help think about what reaction the Sanders campaign would have if the results of the primary had been reversed. Not just things like their reaction if the more diverse regions and states had supported him over Hillary, but their reaction if Hillary had made a public campaign out of seeking party insiders to overturn those results.
You don't get a pass for an anti-democratic campaign just because you label yourselves as a movement. The only movement which should be given precedence is the movement of those who actually show up at the voting booth. That's where Sanders' revolution against our party has been tested, and that's where it's failed.
Not at rallies with Sanders preaching from the podium; not outside campaign events where partisans shout obscenities at rivals for supporting a different Democrat in this race; not on the internet where invectives and strident rhetoric is substituted for substantive debate; not out of hate and threats made over the phone; but in the voting booth.
I don't think it's too much to expect Sanders and his supporters to know the difference.
Posted by bigtree | Mon May 23, 2016, 03:07 PM (9 replies)
I'm in what I think is a unique position in my life (to many other younger folks), where I've been subject to a government which did not fully recognize or defend my rights or my citizenship as a black American.
Moreover, I've lived through a time where there was scant representation in our national government of black legislators, and the product of our government reflected that dearth of diversity. I still recall the mere handful of blacks I found in Congress when I first explored the Capitol as a young adult. I remember seeing the tall head of Rep. Ron Dellums, ever present on the House floor, and imagining that there were many more like him in the wings. It wasn't until 1990, though, that we actually saw a significant influx of minorities elected to Congress, enabled by the 1990 census Democrats fought to reform and manage (along with their fight for an extension of the Voting Rights Act which Bush I vetoed five times before trading his signature for votes for Clarance Thomas) which allowed court-ordered redistricting to double the number of districts with black majorities.
Now, in my 50's, I'm living through a time where there is not only a steady influx of blacks elected to the House, but also a smattering of legislators elected to the Senate. Of course, there's the two-term presidency of Barack Obama to measure the distance our nation has traveled from the passage of the Voting Rights Act, to the nomination and election of our first black occupant of the White House.
I raise these points to try and get folks to understand how much effort and struggle it took to get the leaders of our black constituencies in place in government - in positions where they could actually make a difference in the debates and deliberations which, only a few decades ago, excluded them from even being considered in allocations, benefits, protections, assistance, opportunity, and other vestiges of citizenship which had been denied to individuals in our communities.
If you could only see through my eyes just how absurd the notion of a political revolution against the Democratic establishment looks in the wake of a largely successful presidency which has only been limited in it's progressive accomplishments by an entrenched and obstructive republican majority.
I'm not a big fan of the process of government in our national legislature. It's an institutionally cumbersome process which too often dwells on the lowest common denominator. Still, you have to understand, I'm not feeling the glory and liberation of unsettling legislators who have overcome historical obstacles, as well as institutional ones (such as redistricting and gerrymandering) to gain a seat at the political table. From my perspective, we've barely just arrived, and some who profess to having 'progressive' interests want to show them the door.
I get that I'm exaggerating, but who has the luxury to be sanguine about supposed 'movements' which not only threaten legislators over daring to support another candidate for president, but denigrate the voters (South) who enable them into office with their votes? I don't have that luxury, and I reason that others in my community do not, either.
I know there are people who will come back to me about the primacy of issues over the color of a legislator. Sanders, himself, said pretty much that in an early interview. Although, he declared in another contradictory instance, that our party's problem was it's inability to appeal to white men. 'Wooing white males,' it was called in my day.
Moreover, Sanders has argued throughout the primary that progressive economics is a panacea for what ails the black community which is disproportionately disadvantaged by poverty, unemployment, and a crumbling infrastructure. Yet, there is much for our community to be wary of in that assessment of his. A rising economic tide certainly raises many boats, but it can just as certainly drown those unable to float on their own.
Democratic socialism isn't something which provides consideration for the unique problems faced by black Americans, many of which can be laid at the doorstep of discrimination. A higher minimum wage, for instance, is no good to someone denied employment or advancement.
Much has been written about Sanders' economics and its parallel to FDR's New Deal. Sen. Sanders and his supporters can confidently point to the legacy of Roosevelt in establishing a social safety net as they promote their candidate's own populist agenda - clearly influenced by a proud and thoughtful Socialist legacy - many facets of which, as he noted in a speech explaining his invented political moniker, are currently being practiced by successful, progressive economies around the world.
Yet, it should be remembered that FDR left a whole host of productive and worthy Americans out of his grand bargain... from wiki:
The New Deal programs put millions of Americans immediately back to work or at least helped them to survive. The programs were not specifically targeted to alleviate the much higher unemployment rate of blacks. Some aspects of the programs were even unfavorable to blacks. The Agricultural Adjustment Acts for example helped farmers which were predominantly white but reduced the need of farmers to hire tenant farmers or sharecroppers which were predominantely black... Some New Deal measures inadvertently discriminated against harmed blacks. Thousands of blacks were thrown out of work and replaced by whites on jobs where they were paid less than the NRA's wage minimums because some white employers considered the NRA's minimum wage "too much money for Negroes." By August 1933, blacks called the NRA the "Negro Removal Act."An NRA study found that the NIRA put 500,000 African Americans out of work...
And women were initially left out of the bargain as well...
At first the New Deal created programs primarily for men. It was assumed that the husband was the "breadwinner" (the provider) and if they had jobs, whole families would benefit. It was the social norm for women to give up jobs when they married; in many states there were laws that prevented both husband and wife holding regular jobs with the government. So too in the relief world, it was rare for both husband and wife to have a relief job on FERA or the WPA. This prevailing social norm of the breadwinner failed to take into account the numerous households headed by women, but it soon became clear that the government needed to help women as well.
FDR's Social Security Act had similar exclusivity for white men... from wiki:
____ Most women and minorities were excluded from its benefits of unemployment insurance and old age pensions. Employment definitions reflected typical white male categories and patterns.
It bears reminding that most legislative progress has been historically incremental (and progressively evolving), even with passage of sweeping initiatives. There's certainly much to be desired and demanded from our political process, but progressive change requires coalition-building, not tearing at the fabric of our party that many vulnerable and politically precarious Democratic communities are counting on to represent them. For many of these legislators (most minority legislators are in the House), they are, essentially, the voices of their communities or districts - voices unique to these communities and desperately needed.
We wage revolution against enemies, not allies. If we are to be successful in effecting progressive change, we'll need to build and repair bridges of support within our party as we continue to press for action. That's how change happens. There's no shortcut to be found by dividing our ranks. Let's make it happen.
Posted by bigtree | Mon May 16, 2016, 10:40 AM (44 replies)
Zeke Miller @ZekeJMiller
"WTF is it then?" indeed. More precisely, where's the revolution?
Of course, there never really was a real people's revolution, and, maybe labeling the Sanders campaign as one is a bit of opportunistic politics on either side. The entire notion of a decades-long D.C political figure waging a broad brush revolution against the political establishment he's still part and parcel of is an absurdity in the still-ebbing wake of a successful, two-term Democratic presidency.
In fact, the campaign of this newly declared Democrat - who kept the party at arms length throughout his legislative career until he decided he needed our coalition for 'media coverage' for his presidential run - has focused his revolution almost exclusively in this primary against any Democratic figure or institution who dares associate themselves with his rival. The entire campaign has devolved into an anti-Hillary endeavor which appears to be more about electing him at this stage than anything substantive.
What are we to make of the mere handful of Sen. Sanders' peers who have stepped forward to endorse his candidacy? The dearth in support from Congress is amplified by the spectacle of all but a couple of members of the 'Progressive Caucus' he founded when he was a congressman backing his opponent.
What are the American people to make of a campaign which promised a revolution of support, yet, halfway through the primary have seen a sizable majority of the voters who are a legacy of the Obama coalition rally to his rival? How does a campaign which is so far behind in votes and delegates earned get to claim that it's a 'movement?'
With a lot of damn hubris, is how. Here in this forum, the Sanders campaign is presented as some heroic deed; the final chance to save our party from itself. Yet, Sanders campaign and supporters have far overestimated the appetite of Democrats to eat their own in an aftermath of their divide and conquer campaign which has left an astounding number of Democratic and progressive icons by the wayside.
As the campaign, and eventually the candidate himself, put aside Sanders' expressed objections to personal attacks against his Democratic rival, they are left with very little comity available for a rival who's seen republican smears co-opted by Sanders defenders to suit their increasingly cynical campaign.
What a rising majority of our party's voters are actually saying by choosing Hillary Clinton, is they don't see a need to tear down the structure of our Democratic coalition, but have expressed their desire to continue and build upon the gains made in the past 7 years under Barack Obama.
The candidate who emerges victorious at the end of our primary is the person with the legitimate claim to any 'movement' of voters. No amount of the projection that's occurring here and elsewhere from Sanders supporters toward Hillary can diminish the hopes and desires of those who've rallied to her campaign.
The values and principles they hold are not defined by whatever the opposition is projecting on their rival. They are no less 'heroic' than anyone else investing their resources and dreams into this campaign which presents an especially historic prospect in the election of the first-ever woman nominee for president, as well as the potential advancement of the maverick candidate from Vermont. Supporters of Hillary should be proud of their candidate, and themselves, as well, for committing to the election of this historic choice.
Black and Latino voters should also take pride in their efforts in providing wide majorities of votes in several states which have buoyed Hillary's delegate and popular vote to over THREE times Barack Obama's biggest lead at this point in 2008. That's a 2.5 million + vote lead, so far, over Sanders.
Instead of just talking about a revolution, these voters are creating a movement of their own. It's no coincidence that these folks are under direct attack from the republican opposition. They also deserve more recognition than intended by the Sanders' camp's 'low information voter' slurs and the crushed meme of some regional difference in knowledge or support between voters in the North and South.
At some point, the party will need to respond to these voters' interests and concerns, rather than just process angry rhetoric from someone tilting against them who can't rally enough actual voters to his cause to even defeat his Democratic rival.
Posted by bigtree | Thu Mar 17, 2016, 10:17 AM (95 replies)