Why do I gasp at my purple neighborhood? Because dudes, I thought it was deep red.
Yet I keep getting pleasantly surprised to find I’m not alone. Case in point: Steve and I were walking through our nabe the other morning.
We passed a neighbor we always say hi to. She and her husband are really nice, outgoing, great with plants, and like cats. But I once heard her say, “I’m a one-vote voter.” That generally means anti-abortion. And I don’t call it “pro-life.”
So Nan, You Must Be Pro-Abortion
Well, no. I’m not pro-abortion. I’m pro-choice.
“Double Standard!!!” begins a general clamor.
No. I just believe that, if a woman has to make the extremely difficult choice to terminate her pregnancy, she needs to be able to do it safely. If I were pro-abortion, I would, according to how I read the statement, be telling everyone to get one. I want nothing of the sort.
Now, on the flip side, “pro-life” indicates to me that one would also be against the death penalty, which many so-called “pro-lifers” are not. They would also be for the rights of LGBTQ people to live their lives safely and without harassment. And they’d be waving Black Lives Matter signs.
So I think “anti-abortion” is more honest. Or “pro-pregnancy.” Because in my experience many “pro-lifers” do not give a rat’s ass about those unwanted babies once they’re born, and have never given a thought to their mothers.
(For a well-reported read on how evangelicals have changed their tune on abortion, check out this piece by Joshua Holland.)
Back to Our Walk in Our Surprisingly Purple Neighborhood
So due to that, I’ve tended to keep my conversations with my neighbor, when I see her, brief and surface. But the other evening, she stopped us in our tracks with this snappy opener:
“I don’t know how you voted, but did you hear what our president said?” The way she said “our president” is kinda the way I say it. As in, not tremendously respectful.
Well, how could we not be all ears? Our neighbor proceeded to go off on Mr. Trump. This was the day after the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha. She rattled off the anti-racism books she’s reading, including the newest by Ibram X. Kendi, whose Stamped from the Beginning should be required reading for every high school student in the country, and until that happens long enough for us to catch up, everyone else as well.
Holy moly. Our little neighborhood is waking up. I’m willing to concede I’m the furthest to the left in my immediate surroundings. But it’s literally a much shorter walk to find a kindred political spirit than it was four years ago.
Here, by the way, is a photo from my neighborhood just to give you all a break. Not purple, but, appropriately enough, known as bittersweet. Pretty, yes?
Newest Newspaper Follies
That encounter encouraged me to do something I’d about given up on: Address the latest nonsense in the local paper. I have been so disheartened and annoyed by the frankly idiotic letters that the paper is printing, bizarre tangles of Bible verses and exhortations to vote for Mr. Which End of This Bible Thingy Is Up?, aka The Fresh Prince of Peace, that I’d basically said screw it. But a recent one had really bugged me. I don’t have the heart to copy it in its entirety. But you should be able to get the gist from my response.
It’s a book-length response, and two cycles of the paper have arrived without it. They’re not going to print it, either due to length—I mean, seriously, this thing is really, really long—or because I go after a letter writer specifically.
I’ve interspersed it with headings because, well, it’s really, really long.
Suggested Title: “Party of Anarchy: A Fact Check.”
In the August 25 edition of the paper, writer Carol Timm (letters section: “From party of the people to party of anarchy”) makes a few assumptions that I would like to address. First off, to say that the Democratic Party has a “systemic racism ideology” (reproducing the writer’s quotation marks) is to indicate that such a thing exists in some sort of codified form. If Timm knows where this “ideology” has been written down, perhaps it can be shared.
While Timm locates that, here is a definition of systemic racism from a recent article in USA Today, hardly a mouthpiece of the radical left; it comes from NAACP President Derrick Johnson: “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantage African Americans.” This manifests in difficulty in obtaining loans, discriminatory housing and zoning rulings and laws, and the fact that African Americans are repeatedly turned down and often not even considered for jobs. And do we really have to point out the deaths and injuries of countless African-Americans at the hands of the police, in disproportionate numbers to white deaths and injuries?”White guilt ” or the lack thereof is not the issue, despite Timm’s claims. Sure, addressing systemic racism may be motivated by white guilt in some instances. But people can also be motivated by a fervent desire for justice, and to make our country more fair.
Did You Know that White Men Ended the Tyranny of Black Slavery? Yeah. Me Neither.
Timm goes on to say that “white men … ended the tyranny of black slavery.” Of course, white lawmakers enacted laws that freed some of the slaves (but only those in rebel states; border states cooperating with the Union could keep their slaves, no problem). There were no Black lawmakers, or women lawmakers of any race; it’s hard to run for office when you can’t even vote. To say that white men are responsible for ending slavery is pretty insulting to the thousands of African Americans who risked their lives, many of whom were killed, to defect to the Union side and fight for their freedom, where many more died in service of a country that wouldn’t even count them as full citizens at the time.
And the statement gives zero credit to the white woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” opened the eyes of the US and the world to the horrors of slavery in a way that nothing previously had. Women, black and white, dressed as men to fight in the war, and some were among the most effective Union spies.
Timm next says “The Democratic Party screams ‘racist’ at every issue” without any examples, and then brings up a lengthy and accurate history of racist incidents perpetrated by that party of which no one could be proud, ending at 1968. But Timm subsequently fails to bring up the equally ugly record of the Republican party since that time. Right-wing warrior Ronald Reagan propagated the poisonous myth of the “welfare queen”—for starters, most recipients of welfare are white, not Black, like his fictional queen—and used it to attack housing benefits and food stamps, directly targeting people who live in poverty, who are disproportionately people of color. Bush Sr. got elected by using the race-baiting Willie Horton campaign, for which he never apologized.
On the flip side, his son, George W. Bush, has called explicitly for an end to systemic racism, speaking of his “anguish” at the “brutal suffocation of George Floyd.” He is one of many Republican voices who are speaking in favor of an open dialogue that helps us ensure liberty and justice for all, and that at least shows respect for listening to voices of Black Americans.
Finally, to say that the Democratic Party “uses ‘black victimization by alleged racist white males’ to justify Marxist Socialists, Antifa and BLMS violence” is to show that one isn’t paying attention. Democratic leaders across the nation, from Joe Biden to Lori Lightfoot, have condemned the senseless violent acts that have, unfortunately, followed a minority of peaceful protests.
And please consider this: When a white self-described “militia man” shot and killed two people during the recent looting in Kenosha, he walked away from the scene, in full view of police, a huge semi-automatic weapon hanging from a strap around his neck. His hands were up, so I guess that cancelled out the gun. You can watch the video online: The police let him go to sleep in his own bed, not arresting him til the following day for cold-blooded murder. He’s now in custody, but he’s also a hero of the far right.
Then, just for balance, do me a favor and click over to the shooting that started the riots: Jacob Blake, unarmed, shot 7 times in the back, in front of his children in the back seat of his car, now partially paralyzed and yet still, until this morning, handcuffed to his hospital bed. I urge all to also watch the statements from his sister, Letetra Widman, who says, “I don’t want pity. I want change,” and his mother, who, through tears, says that the violence does not honor her son or her family.
And Here’s the Kicker
In a closing shot, Timm dubs the Democratic Party “The Party of Anarchy and Mass Destruction!” (exclamation point Timm’s). I have to wonder if Timm has ever met a Democrat. News Flash: We value the same things as everyone else: safe homes and communities, fairness, justice, and the heartfelt desire for the best possible country in which to raise our kids, and where they can raise their own in peace. We do not foam at the mouth or keep unlit Molotov cocktails handy to hurl at the businesses and cars of any white men we see. My white husband, son, brother, and male friends do not cower upon my approach, fearing that I, as a white woman, will blame them for all the nation’s problems. That would be silly.
So maybe try getting in touch with more perspectives from Black people. A good start is to talk to a few. And if you don’t know any, well, meet some. Follow up reading “A Derailed Dream” with some other studies: “Stamped from the Beginning,” by Ibram X. Kendi, “White Rage” by Carol Anderson, “So You Want to Talk about Race” by Ijeoma Oluo, and a host of others you can find via a quick google search. No one has a lock on righteousness or evil. Both parties have sins to address. Let’s stop making baseless accusations about people we haven’t taken any time to understand and recognize that we’re all human.
[NOTE, not from my letter: Timm mentioned a self-published book by a Black minister, “A Derailed Dream,” that apparently blames LBJ for hurting Blacks with his Great Society policies. It’s endorsed by Ralph Reed of the ultra rightwing Faith and Freedom coalition. Which tells you pretty much what you need to know.]
As US citizens, we have the right to peaceful protest, but also the responsibility to live up to the promise of “securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” We have the right to choose the party that we feel best helps us achieve that dream, and the responsibility to not demonize our neighbors who feel differently. Perhaps instead we can all take Abraham Lincoln’s plea that we look to “the better angels of our nature” for guidance in these volatile times.
Now What, Long-Winded One?
Well….I remain vastly annoyed with the people who write stupid shit to the local paper. But I’m working on a whole new thing, one that hopefully hits some of the folks hardest hit by the pandemic: small group tour guides who’ve seen their businesses evaporate now that no one’s traveling. I’ll be keeping you posted on that, and am in process of starting a podcast that I hope will be a lot of fun. So stay tuned, stay awake. And thank whatever you thank for the courage of neighbors to reach out and correct your lame assumptions.
Free Your Mind. The Rest Will Follow.