Point of View Columns

-America – Land of the Gun and Home of the Dead

Before you read any further a courtesy is extended – if you believe that the right to own any kind of gun more important than the right to live, you should probably stop right now as this column is not an effort to try to convince anyone when it comes to the Second Amendment.

As you are reading this, the grieving families of the 19 children and two adults killed in Texas are trying to make sense of a universe that is now turned upside down and inside out in an unimaginable vortex of grief and pain.

And as you are reading this there are people like Texas Senator Ted Cruz who actually said that the best public policy strategy in the wake of this schoolhouse massacre would be to have more armed guards in the schoolhouse. After all, what could possibly go wrong with having even more guns in schoolhouses across this blood-soaked nation?

It should be quite clear by now that this nation is on a course that can only be described as suicidal. There is literally no other nation in the world which has the frequency of random murders by gun. These are murders with no particular ideological or religious motive because, in a bizarre and twisted way those killing make some kind of sense as opposed to someone walking into a church or a school or a synagogue or a supermarket killing anyone and everyone with no apparent reason.

There has been a lot written and said about so-called American exceptionalism but the uncomfortable truth is that among the league of developed nations the United States is first in deaths by gun violence, first in private gun ownership, first in maternal death rates, first in incarceration rates and last in national health care policy. The uncomfortable truth is that too many Americans are okay with that as long as certain preconditions are met.

Preconditions like white privilege, preconditions like a predatory economic system that rewards greed and punishes anyone who does not grasp and grab for a living. Preconditions like living in a country with a Constitution that institutionalized minority rule in the very first draft of the document – and minority rule works in the country to this very day, if you are a part of the white privileged minority.

It should also be known that those preconditions also include making some people without privilege feel good about themselves because of belief in the false idols of gun ownership, gender bias and gender dominance and a sad version of religious freedom that debases the spiritual beliefs and freedoms of others.

The massacre in Uvalde will be repeated as sure there will be unprecedented wildfires in the American forest and as sure as we will continue to see once in a century weather storms for the rest of our lives.

And I am sure that my seer and guide to the future, Negrodamus, will certainly predict that, by this time next week all of the hollow thoughts and prayers for the victims of this latest massacre will dissipate like the music of that mythical band going over the hill.

And then the gun lobby addicts posing as senators and representatives, men and women who have already sold their soul to the merchants of death, will look to make the American people believe that the right to own a machine gun is more important than the right of a ten-year-old little girl or little boy to dream and see their dreams come true.

America is exceptional indeed.

But not in a good way.

Point of View Columns

Happy Birthday Malcolm X

Today is Malcolm X’s birthday. Had he avoided assassination in 1965 (along with the perils and snares of the CIA and FBI) he would have been 97 today.

History is an interesting phenomenon because the truth turns out to be a shape shifter over time. Indeed, history has always depended on who is telling the story.

In the case of Malcolm X, it is difficult to overstate the impact that he had on Black America and white America during his meteoric rise to fame and prominence and after his tragic assassination (which has yet to be fully solved to this very day). Malcolm X spoke the words that Black men and women had wanted to say out loud for over three centuries.

He stripped away the gossamer web of lies that had been draped over pretensions of white superiority and the myth of an America as a shining example of freedom, liberty and all that was good. And in the process of doing so he gave a voice to the long-silenced voices of Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey and all of the men and women who had their lives mangled in the charnel house called America.

Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey spoke truth to power, but typically their voices were moderated and modulated. They spoke truth to power but took care not to offend too much by telling too much truth.

Malcolm X’s illustrious contemporary, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in biblical terms. Indeed, by referencing the Bible King made clear the grievous sins of America in its treatment of Black people. Malcolm, on the hand, cared not about offending with the truth. He spoke the words that Black men and women could not because their lives would be endangered if they even whispered them.

Malcolm made it clear that the rage and tears of Black America were justified by the facts of history – not made up self-congratulatory history – but the history of the slave ships and the enslavement camps and the raping and killing by the enslavers and the lynching and the daily infinite indignities of Jim Crow.

And from the moment that he started telling that truth, not just on 125th Street or in a mosque in Detroit or Chicago, his life was in jeopardy. His life was in jeopardy because he was a Black man in America speaking Black truth to white power.

By the time of his death, Malcolm X had changed Black America forever and, in the process, he changed white America as well. By telling the truth about America and its treatment of Black people, it was impossible for anyone to erase that truth, no matter how hard that they might try – and indeed as you are reading this there are state legislatures and school boards all across this country trying to do just that, 57 years after the death of Malcolm X.

But they will not succeed.

Indeed, we would do well to take a moment to acknowledge the life of a man who did indeed bring about much needed change in this country knowing that there is still more change to come.

As the late Sam Cooke said – “a change is going to come”.

Point of View Columns

The American Truth

The confluence of recent events has revealed a set of very important truths about America. First, the leaked preview of the draft Supreme Court decision that will overturn Roe v. Wade reveals that male Christian dominance is alive and well and was only hibernating in the years after the Roe decision.

Second, the massacre of Black patrons of a Buffalo supermarket by a gun-toting white teenager reveals that the massacre of non-white people by white people is sadly an enduring tradition that began when the first European emigrants arrived in North America.

Third, the news analyses describing “white replacement theory” as some kind of novel and unique strain of xenophobia are either disingenuous or ill-informed when it comes to American history.

First, as has been noted in this space and in many other commentaries, the rationale of the anti-abortion movement is not based on some all encompassing and passionate care for unborn children. If that were the case the United States would not lag so far behind other so-called developed countries when it comes to universal child care, equitable distribution of educational resources as well as food and housing to the children that are supposed to be the object of such love and caring.

Instead, it should be clear that the anti-abortion is nothing more that a naked and brazen attempt to dominate the lives of any and all females who might at some point decided to have, or not have a child. It is clear that to the extent that even rape and incest cannot serve as exceptions is to make the Handmaidens Tale a horror story come true. In that reality, women are vessels and nothing more.

Second, it should be clear that the mass murder of non-white Americans is literally an American tradition. The genocide against the indigenous people of North America was real. The regular slaughter of Black Americans after the Civil War is a matter of documented fact. Rosewood and Tulsa may be taught in the history books, but there have been so many other mass killings and lynching of Black people that the real numbers are beyond calculation.

What transpired in Buffalo this weekend is just one more example of a sick behavior pattern that is as American as the Fourth of July.

Of course, there is irony in the fact that there are few records of mass killings of white people by Black Americans. Even though Black Americans are armed, many with military and law enforcement experience mass killings of white Americans only take place with white Americans as the shooter.

Finally, it should be clear that the so-called white replacement theory is neither new nor unique. That is not unique is clear from the fact that in France and Germany and Great Britain there are similar mutterings regarding white replacement by the “other”.

Of course, in the United States history shows that with the arrival of Irish immigrants, primarily white Anglo Saxon Americans were violently opposed to their arrival. In time it was the Italians and then the Eastern Europeans and the Jews and the Puerto Ricans and the Cubans and the Mexicans who gave rise to white replacement alarms – until they were absorbed and now there are descendants of the Irish and the Italians and Eastern Europeans and the Jews and the Puerto Ricans and the Cubans and the Mexicans who ring the same white replacement alarms.

The irony is apparent because to date Black Americans and Asian Americans have not been absorbed to any great extent.

And so, we stand at the threshold of a potentially traumatic upheaval in American society unless we can somehow find a way to first of all address and name the uncomfortable truths that lie just below the surface of the American epidermis and then begin find a way to move on differently.

Actually, we have no choice – unless there is someone who thinks that anarchy is a choice.

Point of View Columns

The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning

To paraphrase Winston Churchill’s speech at the end of the Battle of Britain, the current assault on democracy and constitutional rights in the United States represents either the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning.

If the upcoming reversal of Roe v. Wade marks the beginning of the end of rights that have been a settled part of American life for well over a century, it will also mark the beginning of the end of the experiment called the United States. Leaving the establishment and protection of rights to the various states will result in a patchwork of liberties and oppression that cannot help but cross state lines. And if that turns out to be the case it will not be possible for the United States to stay united for very long.

It should be understood that this is not alarmist thinking, this is clear thinking. During his four years in office, the human wrecking ball named Trump appointed over 200 ultra-right-wing men and women to federal judgeships, and most of these men and women are in their 30’s and 40’s and will be serving for life – most will be serving for at least twenty years. The average age of the neoconservative Supreme Court majority is 62 years, which means that this majority could easily rule for at least a decade if not more.

What all this means is that the progress with respect to civil rights, women’s rights, voting rights, environmental protection, academic freedom, affirmative action, workplace safety, gender rights, same sex marriage, even consensual sex will soon be on the Supreme Court docket (i.e. chopping block). What this also means is that this is the beginning of the end of the belief by progressives and rights activists that the battles had been won and victory had been achieved.

It will take an entirely new recalibration of what advocacy and strategic change will look like in this brave new world. And so, if we look at the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice, then it is clearly time for men and women of good will who believe in justice for all to understand that we are now at the end of the beginning of changing this country for the better.

We have seen glimpses of hope and possibility and have prematurely thought that the mission was accomplished. We collectively suffered from a failure of imagination in not realizing that the forces of regression and repression did not disband, indeed they regrouped and reconfigured and metastasized into something more powerful than Jim Crow or the Confederacy or even the epic inhumanity of race-based enslavement. We have not imagined that, in the 21st century this country could bring forth a collective movement that is worse than all of those horrors, worse because these forces are unapologetic and very eloquent in articulating their vision of America.

And so, if the draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade comes to pass, we can hope that our failure of imagination has also come to pass, as we witness the end of the beginning of a struggle for justice with the realization that we must continue to struggle against injustice and confront evil in whatever disguise it may choose.

We can hope that one day, this day which is marking the end of the beginning of our fight for a better country will also be remembered as the point at which true, meaningful and institutional change began to be the goal.

Point of View Columns

First Abortion Rights And Then….

Thanks to Pro Publica the world was given a glimpse into the inner chambers of the United States Supreme Court. And by releasing a draft of a majority decision abolishing abortion rights nationwide, written by Samuel Alito we now understand the agenda of the six Republican appointees in full.

And we have now learned the very hard way something that rightwing ideologues learned a long time ago – elections really do matter.

But first, it is impossible to overstate the unrestrained vigor with which the neoconservatives sitting on the bench are going about dismantling the rights that have been established as bedrock principles during the past 75 years. It is only by reconfiguring the interpretation of the Constitution that the Supreme Court was able to dismantle the infrastructure of race-based segregation and discrimination that had been sanctioned by American local, state and federal governments for centuries.

And it was only by reconfiguring the interpretation of the Constitution that the Supreme Court was able to eliminate governmental bans on everything from abortion to same sex marriage to interracial marriage as well as articulating a definition of civil rights for the modern era. And it was by interpretation that the Court was able to adapt the Constitution to the expectations of the vast majority of Americans.

But interpretation is only a jurisprudential tool. Its utility depends on who is wielding that tool. And by interpreting the Constitution in such a way as to ban abortion the door is now wide open for other actions. If anyone thinks that a ban on same sex marriage isn’t on its way, they haven’t been paying attention. Same sex marriage and gender equity are low hanging fruit for the Gang of Six and it is clear that they are just getting warmed up.

Clearly a 5-4 conservative majority was not enough to totally fulfill the hopes and dreams of the right wing of the right wing. Now, with a 6-3 super majority, there is no limit to the existential damage that they are planning to do to scaffolding of rights and expectations of millions of Americans.

Affirmative action is on the neoconservative hit list along with the rights for the differently able. We can expect expansion of the use of the death penalty and the dismantling of worker safety protections and the protection of the environment. Fair housing, fair fair voting and fairness itself – are now all endangered species.

And the sad part is that it did not have to happen this way. While it is true that the Bush legacy is complicit in this crime against America (Bush I appointed Clarence Thomas – Bush II appointed John Roberts and Samuel Alito), history will record that it was Donald Trump who removed all the guard rails of liberty, freedom and fairness for a generation by his appointment of Barrett, Gorsuch and Kavanagh.

But it did not have to happen this way. Trump only became president because the neoconservatives and evangelicals were laser focused on one thing – the Supreme Court. And being the canny con man that he is, Trump was more than happy to make and keep keep his promise to the right wing.

And while the neoconservatives and evangelicals were laser focused in 2016, the liberals and progressives sweated the small stuff – some people, too many people, didn’t vote or voted for a fringe candidate or even voted for Trump (a very self-destructive move to be sure) because they didn’t “like” Hillary Clinton.

We are sure to witness the evisceration of the rights (like voting rights) that were taken for granted. And now we have learned collectively, once and for all, that elections do matter.

And sadly, we will remember that as we walk through the ashes of broken dreams and expectations, knowing that it just didn’t have to be this way.