Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Plea to My Liberal Friends in America

Please stop using the words "stupid," "crazy" and all of their colorful variations on social media platforms to label people whose behavior and words indicate they are racist, pro-gun, supporters of the Republican presidential candidate who shall not be named, anti-choice, anti-LGBT, and/or some other variation of evangelical Christian conservative. 

From where I sit, calling a DT voter an "idiot" is no different than calling a rape survivor a "slut" 

"Really?" you say. "How?" 

Because the labels only serve to confirm the worst feelings the person you are labeling has about themselves. Regardless of whether they are conscious of those bad feelings or not, the words serve to step on the self-esteem of another in order to lift your own sense of worth and belonging. The primary purpose of labels are to reinforce oppression. And DT supporters (and anti-choice activists and anti-LGBT activists and gun rights activists, yada yada) DO feel oppressed. 

And when people who feel they are being oppressed are organized, they fight back. Tea Party voters and the hundreds of permutations of their ilk, are well-funded and organized. The more we insult, the harder they deeper they feel about their cause and the harder they fight back. 

Think of the lessons American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Imagine the protesters outside of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, chanting "N****r go home!" to the members of Little Rock 9 as they bravely played their role in desegregating America's school. Did the civil right activists stop, think, and say, "Golly! You're right. We are n****rs and we should go home. We don't belong in a well-funded and high performing high school. Thanks for helping us see the light."? No, they got madder and louder and more organized until they won that phase of the battle for civil rights. 

Based on my experience as a community organizer and a thoughtful human being, I believe that every time someone posts a news article with a comment that belittles or expresses patronizing disappointment in the opposition, they are contributing to a mood in which the organized opposition gets madder and louder. 

Maybe using these labels helps to make you feel better. Maybe they also make your fellow liberals laugh. I'm sure you feel righteously superior to the "others" whom you are deriding. It's important to express your feelings. I'm a social worker. I get it. I'm as horrified as most of you are every time I read the news or skim through comments on yet another witty meme circulating in Facebook or Twitter.

But, in the grand political scheme, name calling is doing nothing to change the political tenor of our country. In fact, it's making things worse. 

So stop it. please. 

I Blame the DNC (or Right Candidate at the Wrong Time)

Who is to blame for the rise of the American presidential candidate who shall not be named? Republicans say it is President Obama. President Obama says it is the Republicans. Liberal talk show host Bill Maher blames the self-esteem movement. And everyone blames "the media."

Notably absent from the finger pointing is the Democratic National Committee.

And I think they have a lot to do with this.


By choosing to put all of their support behind a presidential candidate who was "owed" the nomination after years of party activism and loyalty. Regardless of how qualified their chosen candidate is, their analysis of their chosen candidate's ability to unite the party was, in my opinion, flawed. Why? Because it did not appear to address:

  • The political mood of the country: The high "Obama is to blame for everything is wrong in my life and the world" sentiment - from both sides of the political spectrum - should have been a clue to the party that they needed to move even closer to the center politically and culturally to capture the moderate and conservative vote. Translate this as a "we need a moderate white guy" if you wish. I'm not happy about it, and I accept that at this time, it is also likely true. 
  • The likability of their chosen candidate: Regardless of whether Candidate Clinton's "unlikeability" is "fair," "legitimate," or "right," it has been palpable since the first Clinton presidency. Yes, sexism exists and its sucks. But, given all the other factors affecting the election, it should have been clear to the DNC that this presidential election was not the right time to make a socio-political statement about sexism in America. I believe the risks are too high.
  • The potential opposition from inside and outside of the party: Given the political mood of the country and the likeability of their candidate, the party should have seen (a) the rise of a social liberal candidate from within the ranks who would divide the Democratic vote, and (b) the rise of Tea Party opposition who would take leadership or further erode the candidacy of the DNC's Chosen One. 

I believe Hillary Clinton is extraordinarily qualified to be President of the United States.  I don't need to debate whether she deserves the nomination or whether she is qualified. (And stop calling me a sexist for not supporting her with all of my heart and soul.).

Unfortunately, I also believe she's the right candidate at the wrong time. And, the rise of He Who Must Not Be Named (seriously, I can't even type his name without feeling sick) proves that a vocal majority of the opposition party agrees with me.

So DNC, consider this one very angry finger pointing in your direction for helping to create these politically scary times.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

You Say You Want a Revolution?

Two of my neighbors are feeling the burn for Bernie Sanders. It feels like every other Facebook post from them is is proclaiming the revolution is upon us.

One of the many things that makes my neighbors great is that we can have a political conversation in which we disagree with one another. And I disagree mightily with the idea that Bernie Sanders is going to create a revolution.

I think electing Barack Obama was revolution enough for these United States. Eight years after his moderate governance, a presidency marked by enormous but understated success and peaceful, loving kindness towards our fellow humans, what I believe we're seeing is a pendulum swing towards the extreme and hateful right.

I don't need to go through the litany of disagreements with Donald Trump. Or Ted Cruz. Or [insert tea party candidate name here]. You only need to Google these politicans' names to find comparisons to Adolph Hitler, David Duke, Vladimir Putin, and other powerful hatemongers.

And this is where I think revolution is going to be born. In hundreds of battles against the loud, angry, racist, and hateful factions of our country and the peaceful, tolerant loving factions. And, as we're seeing, this is not a revolution that falls neatly along political lines, geographic boundaries, income, or religion. But I believe it will be a revolution.

I was recently reading a biography of Charles Manson. I returned the book to the library without finishing it. The backdrop from which the Manson family emerged, juxtaposed against the current political landscape was too upsetting to me. It feels like we're going to have a revolution on the scale of the civil rights struggle, with massive waves of civil disobedience and violence of a type we have not seen since the 1970s - in all corners of our nation. In fact, we're seeing it start with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the hundreds of rallies across the country in support of an end to the aggressive use of force, particularly against people of color, by public safety officers.

I can stand on the side of love, but love doesn't seem to touch the chuckleheads who decide to give toddlers the right to carry firearms, the fidiots who think that calling for justice for one racial category necessarily means that one is therefore against justice for people of all other races, the ignoramuses who think they have to vote for Trump because they want to "get that (black man) out of the White House." (Guess what? Whether Trump is elected or not, he's leaving in January because he CAN'T BE RE-ELECTED.)

So I'm pissed. I'm pissed because if I had a five year plan, it would NOT INCLUDE joining a revolution against racism and other forms of fear and hate.

I think Bernie Sanders was right when he said it was time for a revolution. But I predict we won't see it with his presidential candidacy. We *will* see it with a President Trump (I can't even type those two words without throwing up a little in my mouth).

With the primary election over in my state, I'm ready for the first battle in this revolution, which is putting everything I can muster behind whomever the Democratic candidate for president is. Who's with me? (Now, where did I put my beret?)