Friday, August 25, 2017

We're Chumped...but Not Out

If the past few months (weeks, days, hours) have anything to teach us, we can expect that the guy in the White House will do something outrageous and offensive before the end of the month. My guess is that it will either happen by Saturday, Aug. 26 (Women's Equality Day), but definitely no later than Monday, Aug. 28 (which is the March on Washington commemoration). It is his nature to be offensive, especially if we expect him to be otherwise.

Quick pause: I began writing this earlier in the day, BEFORE the pardon (mentioned in the next paragraph) was issued. This guy trolls us even in the midst of a natural disaster bearing down in the form of a Category 4 Hurricane! SMH

So it's way past time for us to collectively adjust our expectations so that we can stop acting alarmed when he baits an overreaction by his ridiculous behavior. Of course he looked up at the eclipse without those special glasses. Of course he went forward with an ill-timed rally in Arizona and flirted with the possibility that he will pardon the racist sheriff. Of course he defended the white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Confederacy. Of course he is feuding with Congress. Of course he has bankrupted the Secret Service. Of course he thinks it will be perfectly fine to shut down the government over a stupid wall.

And this was all the nonsense of just this week!!!

It will never stop. Because some of our fellow Americans thought he would be their man in Washington who would drain the swamp, or just stick it to the man (who was Obama, I think), there is no stopping this guy from making a giant ass of himself every chance he gets. So all of our FB haranguing about all of the damage he has done to our country, all of the defriending and blocking of your high school classmates, all of the counter-trolling, etc...I mean, keep doing it if it makes you happy. However, just know that it will make not an iota of difference.

His supporters love him and will continue to love him. They will send their teenage daughters out into the world to defend him like these young ladies here:

Or they will arm their sons and nephews with tiki torches and pretend that their outrage is really about old forgotten statues that no one cared about in communities where they don't live (and most of them don't even know why they're still standing):

Or they will send out their religious hacks to condemn your faith/patriotism/humanity:

Or they will huddle up in their posh owner's box to hatch a plan to discredit a modern-day John the Baptist for taking a knee during the anthem (you know, since football is like a religion for some of you, I thought I would analogize):

I could keep going, but I don't wish to post a picture of him on my blog, especially not the most recent one from the rally this week that prominently featured a legitimately unhinged black supporter. In a classic product placement move worthy of a Clio, "Mike" was intended to dispel the notion the Trumpets are racist/sexist/stupid. Or whatever.

I'm just putting it all out here to illustrate the point that he is here to stay. Remember when he said that he could shoot someone in Times Square and not lose any support? Well...??? Sure, he hasn't done that yet, but give him time.

Nothing will rid us of this troublesome honey badger. He don't care and we are definitely stuck with him until January 21, 2021. Now that is not a statement of resignation, but it is the truth because there won't be an impeachment. Believe me. There is no infrastructure in place to make that happen. This Russian probe is totally going to be the Iran-Contra hearings all over again. The fall guy might be someone expendable, like Don Jr., but that's why his Dad floated out the prospect of pardons. His congressional opposition consists of disorganized Democrats and Paul Ryan supporters. Mitch McConnell is his bitch. He's surrounded himself with military generals. He's been making friends with every authoritarian on the planet. And he has the nuclear codes.

I am not arguing that we give up, but I am just suggesting that we face the facts. Our energy is better spent counting down the 1,245 days until he boards that helicopter for the last time on our dime. Which means we do EVERYTHING to remind him of our disdain and odium. We use the same grassroots organizing tactics that have resulted in every other major social advancement in our country. We organize. We march. We rally. We keep making cool protest signs. We light candles for the Notorious RBG. We educate ourselves and our children. We protect our prophets (like Kaepernick); we mourn our martyrs (like Heather Heyer).  We raise our voices. We VOTE in 2018, and again in 2020, and every subsequent election. We find the folks who erected this chicken on the ellipse and mass produce miniature inflatable duplicates to pass around at his rallies like beach balls. We RESIST!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Gods and Generals

I think I want to go back to teaching American Government and History at the precise moment when Donald J. Trump boards Marine One and they take him to Andrews AFB so that he can fly back to his tower in New York City. Or wherever, so long as he is headed out of town NEVER to return as the Commander in Chief.

I know that I might end up teaching a few students who were supporters of his, and that we may or may not debate the disaster that was his Presidency. I know my position on him will be easy to discern from the absolute glee that might emanate from me, but there is another reason: I want students to truly understand how our government and system are supposed to work without the distraction of "alternative facts" and false equivalencies.

I wrote a screed on my FB page the other day in which I invoked the concerns I have about the current President's misleading interpretations of our government functions. How if he were a student of mine, he would fail...but not because I wouldn't have tried my best to impart knowledge, but because I'm convinced he would try his best not to receive it. For only a person who resists sound instruction would believe that there is ultimate power invested in the President despite the fact that our government consists of three co-equal branches. And then continue to act as if his executive powers are not subject to judicial review or congressional veto. Despite the fact that he, as a private citizen, spent the better part of the last four years cheering on the very checks and balances of power as exercised by his co-equal partners.

In addition, I need him to learn a more comprehensive version of American History--the story that offers a more in-depth understanding of both our country's founding after the Revolution and its near destruction during the Civil War. Because if the President understood those two crucial points in our history, he would not have casually and recklessly thrown out the suggestion that once statues of Confederate generals come down, so too would statues of our slave-holding Founding Fathers.

So let's unpack the difference, in anyone needs a tutorial--the Founders established this country, the Confederates tried to destroy this country. And to offer a little more nuance, in case there are more questions, slavery was bad. The Founders who owned slaves have that cloud hovering over their legacies, that stain permanently set in their expensive linens. And there is no denying that the Confederate generals who fought to maintain the southern economic engine fueled by the free labor of slaves also share that same permanent stain. Yet more than a clouded legacy or permanently blood-stained clothing, they also bear the responsibility for the death of every life lost in that struggle. The Confederate generals who took up arms in rebellion against the nation founded by those slave-holding Founders do not deserve an elevation of status on par with the Founding Fathers. In fact they shouldn't even have a proper adjective capitalized with the letter "C"...

But that is where I stray into opinion, so let me pivot back to facts. As difficult as it might be for me to separate the ownership of slaves in the 18th Century from owning slaves and defending that practice to the death in the 19th Century, that is not the point of comparison that distinguishes the two groups of men. And I know this because of my recent trip to Mount Vernon.

My Niece, who loves all things George Washington (thanks to the clever marketing genius of the Nationals' Racing Presidents), my daughter and I visited Mt. Vernon this week. I had tried to take them back in July, but I misread the hours of operation, so when I had a chance to take them on Monday, we took the drive down and had a chance to see most of the property. She loved it, I appreciated being able to see it through her eyes, and my hope is that she will continue to learn more about the founding of this country.

When George Washington decided to seek a second term as President of the entire nation, it was at a moment when it could have fractured along the very same regional lines that divided the nation 69 years later. In contrast, Robert E. Lee (ironically both a distant cousin of Washington and also his great-grandson in-law), chose exploit that rupture in 1861 when he opted to serve the Confederacy against the Union with his home state of Virginia.

Could it be argued that Washington, a traitor to England, should be remembered for that as a permanent sin? Well, the British people have opted to honor Washington in Trafalgar Square with a bronze statue presented to them by the Commonwealth of Virginia! So far, I can't say whether he is honored similarly in Canada, but that is none of my business...

The point is that not all monuments deserve public veneration. These confederate statues of generals might deserve a place of honor in communities where they did more than lead a rebellion against their country. So for example, Washington and Lee University, named for both generals and their contributions to that institution, can and should honor General Lee in whatever manner they deem appropriate. It is a private institution, and as such, the students who choose to matriculate there do so with the understanding that it has a specific history. But that does not mean that Lee deserves to have statues dedicated to his memory maintained at public expense in every city across the Commonwealth, so if some communities decide that he should retired to greener pastures, then that isn't erasing his memory insomuch as it is relocating it to a more appropriate venue.

Our country's history is very complicated, which is the other reason why we need a better understanding of those complexities. We need to agree that there are facts, and various opinions, and that what we teach are the facts and not the opinions. We don't need history taught by pundits who have a vested interest in promoting a certain perspective instead of uncomfortable truths. And we certainly don't need history reduced to 140-word character tweets dispatched by a leader desperate to prove his legitimacy. And as great as it is that most young people develop an interest in history because of interpretations in popular culture, this isn't actually a history lesson either:

But it is funny.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Last of the Rebel Yells

This piece evolved from an initial intent to post an article on the Busy Black Woman FB page featuring the faces of the "Unite the Right" protestors from Charlottesville. When the article and my commentary failed to post on my FB page (very unusual), I began writing the piece below in response, also in reflection from having attended my family reunion in Fredericksburg, VA. Here is part of what I wrote:
Unfortunately, the article I tried to post yesterday with the photo of the Unite the Right protestors did not post, nor did my message. But today, after all of the chaos, terror, destruction, and the unfortunate deaths, I have another opportunity to express my utter despair at what happened in Charlottesville yesterday.
As all of that nonsense was going on, I was in Fredericksburg for my family reunion. As a child, we would travel to "the country", at least once a year the second weekend in August to reunite those family members who had remained in Fredericksburg with those who had migrated to DC and Philadelphia. I hadn't been to one of these events since my grandmother passed away more than 20 years ago, for a variety of reasons I may share later. On the drive down I-95, we passed an enormous confederate flag that has been erected just past Quantico and right before Warrenton, VA.
So, just over an hour's drive away from the Nation's Capitol, the confederacy has resurrected itself on the side of a major interstate. I saw it the last time I drove down to Fredericksburg for my Aunt's funeral last fall; this time I asked my niece to take a photo so that we could post it online. She didn't get the picture, and now that I have had a chance to digest what occurred yesterday, I believe it was the hand of God maneuvering things so that we would not continue to spread the hate that flag represents. Of course, my reason for wanting to post a picture was to highlight that very sentiment, but it doesn't need to be broadcast by me.
I don't know all of the details of what happened yesterday in Charlottesville because we were absorbed in our bubble of reacquainting ourselves with distant relatives. But I was reminded of the very powerful reason why my grandmother and her favorite cousin left the "county" for DC and Philly so many decades ago--they wanted a better life for their children. They understood the limitations of opportunity for black Southerners, so they joined that Great Migration as young women and later established branches of our family tree in northern communities like so many of their peers. I can only imagine that some incident or mindset, similar to what was on display in Charlottesville yesterday, is what spurred them to leave.
I posted it here because in the days since the protests, I have been reflecting a LOT about what this all means today in 2017. Not that I had no expectations that the backlash to the Obama era had begun and ended with the last election (because, sadly this is only the beginning of the counter-revolution), but it builds on a theme that I felt compelled to express a few weeks back on July 4th. I framed that piece about being woke enough to cautiously appreciate that holiday, but now I want to stake out an even bolder position--that our celebrations of this country serve to appreciate our evolution, and then to demand that we continue to strive towards becoming a more perfect union.

Because these grand American ideals are for everyone.

If your ancestors died to preserve ideals that did not expand rights or that were meant to exclude people, then that is a reason to mourn, not celebrate. Your pride is rooted in something that is the very antithesis of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the ideals of our Founders--not the Confederate generals whose cause you defend. When you choose to stand for racial segregation, gender inequality, religious intolerance, and any other form of systematic oppression, it betrays them and every person who has ever shed blood for this country.

And of course, as I was writing this piece, the Trumpet sounded off again...and so I'm convinced that whenever I think I've missed the window to respond to his nonsense, I just need to give him six hours to say or do something else outrageous.

Too much has happened to unpack everything in one piece. So here are some themes I hope to address as I continue to examine my counter position to MAGA--America is for all of us:
  1. We all hear your dog whistle, Mr. President, so no need trying to conceal it by deliberately changing the subject and getting angry. No more fake nuclear crises or hollow threats to fire members of your Cabinet.
  2. Ironic that no one thought to be this overt during the tenure of the first black President. The worst you could muster up against Obama were racist cartoons, but this angry white mob thing is really quite a step forward. Feel free to march through the hood on your way back to the suburbs.
  3. My Grandma Viola and her Cousin Ruth, and my other Grandmother Amanda and the many other thousands of black folks who migrated out of the South clearly understood why you march to preserve your old confederate monuments. And they aren't spinning in their graves over any of this because Barack Obama was the real shock...this backlash was to be expected.
  4. There is no slippery slope when it comes to venerating Founding Fathers and Confederate generals. While many people have issues with our slave-owning Framers, most of us can see the difference between honoring the first President of the United States and honoring the President of the Confederacy. They are not equals.
  5. This title of this piece comes from the name of a roller coaster at King's Dominion, an amusement park located in Virginia, north of Richmond. For years, I never knew to associate the name of the coaster with anything connected to the confederacy, but I had a doh moment a few years ago when I was teaching. That's how embedded certain colloquialisms are...yet, we need to be mindful as we evolve as a society. If these truly are harmless symbols, then moving them should not evoke such emotion.
  6. Finally, thank you for leaving your bed sheets at home so that the world could really see your faces. Like many people, I was expecting to see more rowdies from the MAGA crowd because they are easier to ridicule. But color me shocked to see the IT guy at work, the guy who sells life insurance, the guy who manages the electronics store, and the kid's soccer coach. All clad in your Ralph Lauren polo shirts (he's a Jew, btw).