Who’s Coup-ing Who?

Who’s ‘Coup-ing’ Who?

Often we think of a government coup as a revolution, an attempt by one ideological group to wrest the reins of government from those currently in power. We see it as a quick bloody battle where the perpetrators run a risk of death or imprisonment if they don’t succeed. If those in power lose then a new leader sits in the seat of power and sets policy. Those who rise to power can execute, imprison, or exile the ousted leader and his/her followers.

Overturning a leader through a democratic election usually is not considered a coup. Donald Trump is trying to change that. He claims that the Democratic Party is attempting a coup against him. The House is attempting to take over the executive branch, he says. Of course, in this case the Democrats in the House of Representatives are exercising legal prerogatives assigned to them in the Constitution of the United States. Congress is supposed to act as a check if the executive branch looks as if it has gone rogue. All that means is that they are allowed to ask questions and collect facts to make sure that a President and others in the Executive Branch are upholding their oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. The Constitution and historical practice places few limits on the investigative powers of the House or Senate Congressional Committees. Congress has oversight responsibilities over the Executive Branch. Investigation is Congress’s superpower.

Trump is a master of the craft of twisting reason until our brains feel ready to explode. He is claiming that the Democratic representatives in the House are using (or planning to use) their investigative powers to take over the Executive Branch and thereby, take over the American government. They are using the Constitution to invalidate the Constitution. (Did your brain explode yet?)

It is possible to have a bloodless coup, a coup whereby one political party pushes another political party out of power through chicanery and rigging elections. This kind of coup can take some time. Coups are things that generally happen in what we once named “third world countries”, countries where democracy is ‘iffy’, in places that are now labelled “illiberal democracies”- democracies in name only. We are supposed to be a “stable democracy”, well-established; the democracy, against which all others are measured.

But we have a President who accuses the Democratic Party of being traitors to the nation, of trying to turf him out of office and take over the government through a legal procedure called “impeachment”. Or perhaps, he asserts, they want to damage him so badly that he loses the 2020 election ( while at the same time he claims this is impossible.) Yes, he is obviously a desperate man, but he is accusing the Democrats of being traitors, guilty of treason!, just to wiggle out of having the nation hear the possible proofs of his bad behaviors.

He says that the Democrats are partisan, so they cannot be objective. Well that’s when I have to ask, “who’s coup-ing who”? The Democrats only appear to be partisan because the Republican Party has put them in that position. When Mitch McConnell said that he would obstruct everything Obama did he meant it and the GOP was behind all the disrespect towards Obama and the Dems that people insisted on blaming on both parties. It was the GOP who refused to do the compromise negotiations that have made our basically two-party system work. With obstruction, if one party absolutely refuses to compromise the other party must either capitulate completely or join in the standoff. Which party is partisan? Both I guess, but one by design, and one by default. The Republican Party has not stopped opposing the Democratic Party to this day.

We are in a pitched battle. It seems to be about the size of government and whether or not government should pay for programs that benefit the American people. It now seems to be also about whether or not America will be, going forward, a white, Christian nation. We are in this battle because industry fled and money went to safe havens and all the blood (money) went to the head (the wealthiest). Do we keep wealth inequality because these wealthy people deserve what they have (according to them)? We know what happens biologically when our lower body is deprived of blood flow. Will the same thing happen if less and less money ‘trickles down’ to those who are not at the very top of the social heap? Will the society die from within?

This picture of the future does not bother the Republicans, in fact they seek it, they are trying to hold on to this lop-sided distribution of life’s blood (which sadly, right now, is money). The Democrats would like to be the party of balance, of restoring a democracy which is fast disappearing The Democrats are not the ones who denied giving even a hearing to a legal nominee to the Supreme Court. The Democrats are not the ones who keep trying to use the “I’m Rubber, You’re Glue” strategy to pin their sins on the other party.

If anyone is staging a coup it is the Republican Party (which is now headed by Donald Trump). The GOP has been attempting to ‘own’ the entire federal government of the US and they have not been the least bit worried about doing this by the book. Tinkering with elections has been the GOP’s favorite weapon to use in their coup. They almost succeeded. In 2016, using a number of voter suppression and voter propaganda techniques (and perhaps by allowing a foreign government to interfere in an American election) they succeeded in taking over all three branches of government. They haven’t been able to hide their game plan so they just blatantly get on with it. Dems argue against these tactics and the GOP just laughs.

Although the GOP lost the House in 2018 they do not consider this will end their plans. This is a war and they only lost a battle. There is always another election and they are still tinkering, tinkering away. And if rigged elections don’t get them what they want the takeover of the states which they have been conducting will eventually succeed in turning enough states Red to trigger a Constitutional Convention and allow them to put the GOP stamp on our Constitution.

Trump is using the coup accusations flying around the internet these days to turn him into a victim (“poor president Trump”) of a ruthless political takeover by a party that is supposedly wielding the Constitution like a club. Ironically Democrats have learned that there are almost no tools available to fight a President or a political party willing to ignore the rules set down in our documents. The Democrats have never called what the Republicans are up to a coup, but I have. Now the Democrats are being accused of perpetrating a coup against Trump (and by association the Republicans). But he has simply taken the truth and twisted it to his advantage. Don’t believe him. If you use your head it’s pretty easy to tell who’s coup-ing who/m.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – The NYT, Twitter

You can also find me on Tremr

https://www.tremr.com/nancy-l-brisson-new-website-thearmchairobserver-/whos-coup-ing-who

 

Trump and Racism: Guilt by Association?

I would like to think that Donald Trump is a racist and a white supremacist/white nationalist because he has been turned into a pod person á la Invasion of the Body Snatchers (movie) by watching too much Fox News, but after my researches I can see that this that is not the case. All sources seem to agree that Trump’s penchant for making derogatory remarks that arise from the ethnic identities of people (who are classified racially as anything other than white) is a trait that he has displayed quite publicly for decades.

I don’t know why we pussyfoot (do you like the way I worked in the word pussy because Donald Trump is also a misogynist) around labeling Trump as a racist and a white supremacist, but we do. We say that Donald Trump likes to surround himself with alt-right types who are avowed white nationalists which really means white supremacists. But we are loathe to assume that he is one of their company.

White nationalists claim that they do not feel superior to people of color, they simply feel that the United States was founded as a white, Christian nation and they want it to stay that way. White supremacists, of course, do contend that white folks of European descent are superior in every way to all others. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/08/14/donald_trump_s_ties_to_alt_right_white_supremacists_are_extensive.html

I say that the white nationalists are simply not as honest about their true feelings, but that they truly do believe that whites are superior. They may, however, in their heart of hearts (if they have them) see that white supremacists got a bad name in Nazi Germany and they want to disassociate themselves from the horror people connect with the deeds that white supremacy justified.

Donald, of course, says he does not have a racist bone in his body and I recently remember hearing one of his old acquaintances repeat this claim. It is a specious claim considering that racism is stored in the brain and there are no bones in the brain. And like many things that Mr. Trump says it is a lie, although he has possibly convinced himself through repetition that it is true.

Donald Trump is a 50’s guy who uses inappropriate terms to describe minority people, terms others have discarded because they are offensive. He is proud that he does not bow to the changing norms of what is culturally appropriate and his followers like this about him. But using racist language shows a real lack of respect for the feelings of the people these terms were intended to denigrate. Refusing to adjust his language reflects his refusal to adjust his mindset. Conjugate the verbs; he was a racist, he is a racist, he will be a racist. And he does think white folks are superior.

If my logic is not enough to convince, even though others agree with it, then look at the people he brought into the White House with him. We are not supposed to make someone guilty by association, but I do not know anyone who would be willing to consort with this band of haters. We have Steve Bannon, Steven Miller, Sebastian Gorka and their cohorts outside of the White House, Alex Jones and Richard Spencer, et al.

Steve Bannon

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/15-gross-things-steve-bannon-has-said_us_596e174de4b0e983c059116b

Steve Miller:

https://www.alternet.org/right-wing/21-facts-explain-exactly-who-stephen-miller

Sebastian Gorka

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/08/14/donald_trump_s_ties_to_alt_right_white_supremacists_are_extensive.html

Others that are connected through Breitbart.com and the media to Donald Trump:

Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn, Jr.

Alex Jones

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/08/14/donald_trump_s_ties_to_alt_right_white_supremacists_are_extensive.html

Richard Spencer

 https://www.adl.org/news/article/richard-spencer-five-things-to-know

Milo Yiannopoulos

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/08/14/donald_trump_s_ties_to_alt_right_white_supremacists_are_extensive.html

Things Trump says and does:

Trump on Obama: ‘Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate?’

Trump on Mexican immigrants: ‘Criminals and rapists’

… “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said in 2015. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

“And some,” he added, “I assume, are good people.”

Trump on dead Muslim soldier’s mother: ‘Allowed to speak?’

United States Army Captain Humayun Khan was killed in Iraq in 2004. His parents, Americans with Pakistani roots, spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, criticizing Trump’s candidacy and its inherent racism. The father, Khizr Khan, spoke; his wife, Ghazala, stood by him.

Trump’s interpretation of the scene: “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably – maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.”

Trump on right-wing extremism: ‘Racism is evil,’ or is it?

Trump was at first quiet following last weekend’s violence between left and right-wing protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then the president blamed “violence on both sides,” without explicitly calling out neo-Nazis and other racists. Following fierce criticism at home and abroad, Trump finally made a clear statement: “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs.”

However, at a press conference just a few days later, Trump changed course: “You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he said.

Trump’s critics charge that he has not done enough to credibly distance himself from white-supremacist and other right-wing movements. His aide, Steve Bannon, was editor-in-chief of Breitbart News, a mouthpiece of the far-right movement known as alt-right.

Many right-wing activists and groups feel emboldened by Trump’s comments. Critics say he does not do enough to distance himself from white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan or the alt-right movement.

http://www.dw.com/en/the-racist-comments-of-donald-trump/a-40127122

Conclusions:

We certainly have had racists in our government before, and even white supremacists who did not perhaps use that label but clearly expressed such views. We have never elected a blatantly racist/white nationalist/white supremacist as our President before, however.

Perhaps this is a backlash-President elected by people who were stunned by having a black man in the oval office as our President. Perhaps it is a reaction to the oft-repeated message that white people will soon make up a minority of the American population.

The roots of racism have always been deep in this nation and hard to extract. We have watched for a recovery from our Civil War which has never really happened. The murmurings sometimes become shouts as they seem to be now during the Trump administration. Perhaps this is because we see an unholy alliance between those who still fight the Civil War and those who resent seeing immigrants of color and immigrants from non-Christian nations, especially those here without proper documents, seemingly “changing the face” of our (supposed) (white) American “exceptualism.”

We need to remember that whenever Trump makes a decision or backs a policy this supremacist strain comes into play, consciously or unconsciously, and he may even have consulted some of these alt-right (racist) cronies to help him set his priorities.

We can see this in his travel ban, his deportation plans, his waffling over DACA, the importance he places on the wall, his reluctance to stick to agreements with non-European nations or contribute to programs that assist non-European nations (with the exception of Israel and, in fact, many Israelis have European roots).

We see this in his unwillingness to give credence to the violent acts, intimidations, and acts of hate that are in the DNA of groups like the KKK that join forces with the newer white supremacy groups; and in his failure to see the difference between Antifa and these alt-right groups.

There is nothing in our Constitution that prevents a racist from holding office, even the office of Presidency. In fact many will argue that since some of the authors of the Constitution and the early leaders in our government owned slaves that this President fits right in with our origins. Public cultural values have evolved since the days of our forefathers and racism is considered ignorant and wrong because our thinking has progressed.

And yet here we are with a racist President who would be happy to have all his jackbooted friends resting with their dogs and guns, feet on the fender of the fireplace, which we can easily picture taking up space in the oval office. And this President refuses to admit that this harmful aberration is a real part of his nature at all.

Do we remain constantly vigilant and resist, even while it all seems so distant and harmless, or do we let the worst be done and then try to clean it up afterwards? I know history swings around, that it is perhaps more like a spiral than a straight line, but knowing what we know now how can we not call out this racism each time it rears its ugly head. How do we accept any future that is not globalist in scope and inclusive of all living things on the planet? This is another one of the facets of Trump that causes us to worry and keeps us feeling that we must be always ready to resist.

Ta-NeHisi Coates

We Were Eight Years in Power

“It is not so much that I logically reasoned out that Obama’s election

would author a post-racist age. But it now seemed possible

that white supremacy, the scourge of American history, might be banished in my lifetime.”

 

 

Racism and Hillary Clinton

If it wasn’t
for seven years of the blatant resurgence of racism in America then we might
not need Hillary Clinton. Sadly Obama’s presence in the Oval Office allowed
racial meanness to rise to the surface in Washington, DC and outside our nation’s
capital. When we should have felt proud of America on the 50th
Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, when we should have been celebrating, we
were instead seeing the festering remains of racism being exposed in far too many
areas of American society.
The Supreme
Court struck a huge blow when it said that certain southern states were no
longer subject to clearance before they could change their voting laws. The GOP
shamelessly began passing restrictions on voting in those same southern states
where clearance had been used to guarantee racial fairness in voting. They
justified their actions as necessary to circumvent voter fraud, which turned out
to be almost nonexistent. They said they were not being anti-Black, they were just
making it harder for Democrats to vote, but they knew, all the time, how
important the Black vote was to Democrats. They got two licks in for the price
of one.
We have seen
all too many unarmed Black folks shot under suspicious circumstances by policemen.
It begins to seem as if certain individuals join the police force to
deliberately wipe out Black people, a sort of vigilante routine. I don’t know
if there is a group that has planned this or if this is just lone racists
acting on their own and I admit I may be seeing a trend where there is really
only a series of terrible accidents, but we should not have racists on our
police forces and if there is any way to root them out we should do it.
We have
allowed Black folks to languish in poverty in our inner cities – and I don’t
mean languish in a nice way – I mean it in a hopeless way. We have not found
strategies to entice all young African-Americans into the schools and that is
what we need to do. We also need to learn how to make school relevant enough
that they will stay and go “all the way” through. We need to stop concentrating
poor black, brown, and Asian people in our center cities and find ways, perhaps
through real estate options, to intersperse poor Americans in more affluent
neighborhoods where people can afford to help lift them up.
Yes, we have
finally been made aware of how over-zealously and unequally the War on Drugs
was conducted. We have been shocked by the staggering numbers of Americans of
African Descent incarcerated for minor drug offenses and the role unaffordable
cash bails have played in this. This was one of those cases where a program
that folks thought would help solve a problem, exacerbated the problem and
created new ones. I’m not sure it was intended as a “racist” policy, it was
supposed to “scare people straight” in dangerous inner city neighborhoods, but,
in retrospect, we can see that the enforcement of this program affected
Africans-Americans far more than white Americans and either the program and/or
the enforcement of the program was racist in the way it was implemented in the
lives of real people. In this case a flawed answer intended to solve a social
problem has produced terrible consequences and most of these consequences were
visited upon Black people. If may take decades to turn around the effects of
over-incarceration and inappropriately harsh sentencing.
We have also
seen how we have allowed the South to revere the defeated Confederacy and to turn
the white folks in Southern states into martyrs and heroes in a Civil War we
should never have had to fight. We see how this has become another way to keep
racial hatred alive – to remind Black folks of their “shameful” roots in our
nation and to insure they don’t get “uppity”. How any of this shame accrues to
Black folks is impossible to even imagine, unless you grew up in the South I
guess.
Americans of
African Descent have been here longer than most Americans, although not by
choice. If they did not have black or brown skin they would have blended in
long ago. Why can’t we get over this idea that the more pigment one has the
less human one is? We have to all get past this. What will happen if we are
confronted with a truly alien species?
Because the
GOP has shown itself to be especially prone to letting “racial” traits and
their own fears inform their behavior (or misinform it) we cannot elect a
President from among the Republicans. If you consider all of the candidates for
the 2016 election Hillary has shown the best understanding of what America needs
to do to address fairness, equality, and opportunity for Americans of African
Descent. I don’t think Bernie is any more racist than any of us, but I do think
he believes his policies will lift all boats and perhaps doesn’t understand the
unique obstacles Black Americans face.
I think it
might be true that we are nicer when we feel more affluent, when our economy is
humming along; but how long must these Americans, who have been here since our
beginnings, be kept from the freedoms that should be theirs as well as ours.
Clearly this particularly stubborn issue of “racism” did not disappear in more
prosperous times, but there was a more generous spirit and it looked, for a
while, like things might have turned a corner.
If the existence
of all this hate and inequality and separation had not bubbled up from the
depths it had been stuffed into, up into the light of day – that would be a bad
thing. Let’s not try to contain it away from view of white eyes once again. Let’s
try to solve this and heal America once and for all. At the risk of sounding
corny perhaps that is what Hillary means when she talks about making America “whole”.
By Nancy
Brisson

More On Poverty in Our Cities

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I sent an
email to the editor of the local paper, The
Post-Standard
, telling them about the study by The Century Foundation
entitled “Architecture of Segregation
which I had read on The Daily Beast
website.  http://apps.tcf.org/architecture-of-segregation

The study
points out, the article in The
Post-Standard
states, that

“Syracuse has the highest rate of extreme poverty concentrated
among blacks and Hispanics out of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas,
according to a new study of poverty in America.

The study is the latest to examine a decades-long trend in
Syracuse, where the city has consistently ranked as having one of the highest
poverty rates in the nation.

The analysis of census data by a Rutgers University professor
shows that extreme poverty continues to spread unabated out of Syracuse’s core
to the city’s Near South, Near Southwest and North Side.

In 2000, Syracuse had nine “extreme poverty”
neighborhoods, defined as census tracts where more than 40 percent of residents
live in poverty.

By 2010, Syracuse had 19 such neighborhoods, according to a 2011
study by the Brookings Institution.

Now the number of high-poverty tracts in Syracuse totals 30,
according to Paul Jargowsky
the Rutgers University-Camden professor who published the study with The Century Foundation.

“The
general trend is that there is a spreading out of poverty,” Jargowsky said
in an interview. “That is happening all over the place. But I didn’t know
Syracuse was going to stand out the way it did.” “

You can read
the entire article here:

The original
article and The Post-Standard
article both talk about the fact that when neighborhoods became diverse, white
people moved further away and suburban sprawl got further and further from the
city center. People in these increasingly distant suburbs wanted the
convenience of public infrastructure like city water and being connected to the
same sewage grid used by city dwellers (although the infrastructure was clearly
much newer). These folks had good salaries and could pay enough taxes to make
government responsive to their needs. As more and more tax dollars were spent
further from the city center and as the city center emptied out infrastructure
in the center of the city was neglected and deteriorated from age and use. When
folks left behind in the center city tried to follow white people to the
suburbs they found themselves locked out (or locked in). Partly this was
because they were poorer than those who left for the suburbs, and partly it was
due to actual exclusionary practices.

For these
and similar reasons, The Century Foundation study under the direction of Paul
Jargowsky (Rutgers) is pointing out this information so that we can find ways
to change this paralysis in our center cities. Syracuse is not alone in this
situation, although we may be No. 1, perhaps because we are not a rich city, but I
believe that we also share in all of the other ways that white people have
found to pretend that they are not racist. If you want to see what I mean
register on Syracuse.com so you can read the comments of my fellow Syracuse
residents who appear to have been brainwashed by Fox News et al and who are
Exhibit A in what passes for extreme right wing logic which says that the
liberals and the victims are to blame and that this city poverty trap is the
result of liberal programs that support the poor and allow them to survive
without working. I apologize in advance for their ignorance and their inability
to hold an original thought.

The problems
with writing off this study as delineating a condition that is ‘someone
else’s problem’, is that there are and will be repercussions if this situation
continues. It is wrong and we need to tackle the beast and find a way to make
America better. Here’s what one of our city officials had to say:

Paul Driscoll, Syracuse’s commissioner of neighborhood and
business development, said city officials are disturbed by the study’s
findings. But he said officials cannot explain why the city seems to be lagging
the rest of the nation in reducing its poverty.

“We are all struggling to understand why Syracuse is
getting hit worse than other cities,” Driscoll said in an interview.
“We’re just looking to address what cities can do to address poverty.
We’re finding we’re pretty limited in what we can do. We deal with the
consequences at the local level, but a lot of these problems have to be dealt
with at the state and federal level.”

I hope this
will not be our only response to the information in this study. We live in a
city that is home to an important private university. We are a city full of
architects (award-winning) and engineers. Certainly a committee could be formed
to look for some creative ways to address this stubborn inequality in our
community. If it was caused mainly by housing issues and unwillingness to live
in mixed race communities then people who deal with housing issues might be
exactly the people who can find a way out of this. Once some professional
approaches have been discussed and designs produced, perhaps community people
(those stuck in poverty) could be invited into the group to go over the plans
and offer input. I hope this study does not just plop down with a big thud on
our doorsteps and then disappear.

We have all
been getting glimpses of what will happen if we do not tackle this now. I do
not think that our stranded, poor, neighbors are about to accept much more of
being overlooked and over-prosecuted and being deprived of opportunities to
succeed. This issues falls into the category of “pay now or pay later” and if
we wait until later the price will only get higher. Pretend you are so
intimidated by poor minority people that you will do almost anything to defuse
the situation. Perhaps that is the only way these folks will get their due.

The New York
Times
also had an article about this topic. Here’s the link:

Think,
everyone, think!
By Nancy Brisson

Divide and Conquer

What was so stunning about the 2014 midterm was not
so much the result in Congress. Pundits explained why the Democrats would lose
control of the Senate but people like me did not want to accept their analysis.
It seemed that we could buck tradition and pull out an upset. But the pundits
proved to be right; after all they have studied elections for decades. They
knew who would turn out to vote and who would not.

  

Last week I had the TV on MSNBC while I went about
my daily activities and I heard someone predict that the Democrats might not
regain control of Congress until 2022. (Yikes!) Before the bloodbath of 2014 I
might have thought “hogwash” but now I have to give this prediction credence.
Democrats are in a bind. They have credibility as
the party of diversity, a party that includes minorities, but, because the
fears of white Americans have been activated (fears of loss of power, loss of
privilege) the Democrats may end up as a party that only represents minorities
– minorities who often do not vote, who lack financial resources to provide
monetary support to Democratic candidates at the time when, more than ever,
money “talks” in elections.
If we stop focusing on the ethnic origins that are
dividing us Democrats lose their claim to that “diverse” constituency which has
been their strength in the past. However, unless we understand that the divisions we experience as racial are actually only cultural, unless we accept that we are all formed from the same genetic materials
(did you see Toni Morrison on The Daily Show last week when she stressed this
point); unless we understand that we are all Americans, then opposing power
groups and those white males holding sway in America right now will dig in
deeper and fight with all the desperation they have exhibited so far, and
perhaps more, against changes to the status quo which benefits them.
How can the disappointingly quiet and unexciting Democratic Party
rephrase its agenda in order to be more inclusive? How can the Democrats who
seem so unemotional and who express no clear agenda hope to win back the middle
class who have been wooed away by Republican fear-mongering? Stressing and
offering strategies to fix the current gap between average Americans and the
wealthy is the real winning strategy for Democrats, I believe.
I don’t mean to argue that there are no ethnically
specific issues that need to be addressed. Sadly there are. Americans with
African origins are imprisoned too often and are too often trapped in poverty.
Because schools in poor neighborhoods have more problems and financial
challenges, educational opportunities across American ethnic groups are not
equal. Americans with Spanish origins often have all the obstacles of the
former group with, frequently, the additional rather serious “hiccup” of being
in America without documents and, perhaps, not speaking English.
But in many ways the solutions Democrats could offer
would work equally well for all of the 99% and these solutions could stress our
similarities instead of our differences. The way out of poverty for all is
through training and education. The way out of racism where it exists is to end
poverty and insure opportunity.
It is possible that the GOP statements which
threaten to re-institute the divisions of the Civil War (those suggestions like
hanging the Confederate flag in government settings or seceding from the United States) are just
reactions to imagined minority threats to the current power elite, but it is
equally possible that these remarks are part of a strategy to divide America
and conquer, keeping it under control of those Americans who are white, male,
wealthy, conservative and fundamentalist Christian. This would also help
explain why women are one of the groups being cut from the herd and excoriated.
Why would any of us want to be manipulated in these ways? We are all the middle
class; we are all the poor; what improves life for one of us should improve
life for all of us.

Whether this is strategy or whether it stems from a genuine fear
of losing a grip on the reins of power is unimportant; either way we can only
undermine it by presenting a united front as the American middle class, that
old rainbow coalition which differs only in skin tone, and not in patriotism –
that beating heart of America. (The short form of United States reads US. – how
hokey is that – a great symbolic coincidence though).
By Nancy Brisson

A View From the Cheap (White) Seats (for what it’s worth)

If you are alive and paying even modest attention to
the news in America right now then you must have started to have some kind of
dialogue (however conflicted) with yourself about the fatal interactions
between the police and black men and boys in America. A man named Eric Garner
died while being taken into police custody because he was selling loose
cigarettes (without paying taxes). Surely this offense doesn’t strike any of us
as being punishable by death. He did resist arrest. He did say “don’t touch me”.
But, considering his size, he did not make any aggressive moves as he tried to
avoid arrest. We all wish he hadn’t resisted because he would probably have
been released from jail quickly and be back with his family. Even given his
rather puny resistance it seems that he could have been subdued and cuffed with
far less force once reinforcements appeared to help the first arresting
officer. The fact that watching the video of this interaction makes us cringe
is probably a sure sign that officers used excessive force.
The situation with Trayvon Martin should have been
easy. Trayvon did nothing wrong. He did something we did often in our own teen
years. He walked to a convenient store to get sugar and probably because he was
bored. George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon, was not a policeman. This one should
have been simple, but we didn’t even get this one right. The police closed in
around George Zimmerman as if he were one of their own even though he was a
psuedocop. He was studying Criminal Justice in school. Does that count? I don’t
think so. The police told him to stand down. He didn’t even follow this very
clear order. The policemen who knew George Zimmerman should have realized that
he was not a stable individual. American justice could not even convict a
psuedocop. That’s pretty damning.
There are things that should bother us about the
Michael Brown killing too. Michael Brown may not have been a sweet kid. He was
still pretty young but he looked like a man. But Darren Wilson stopped him for
jaywalking. Really? And he shot him twelve times. This must seem a bit
excessive to even the most jaundiced observer. My first thought was that Darren
Wilson did some drug business with Michael Brown and Michael Brown was
threatening to expose him so he executed him. Of course, there are no facts to
suggest that this is in any way true, but it was my first thought because the
number of holes in Michael Brown’s body just seemed so outrageous. Listening to
Darren Wilson describe his Hulk Hogan- monster scenario convinces me that he
just never should have been allowed to put on a uniform.
A twelve-year-old boy in Cleveland with a toy rifle –
really? Doesn’t this strike everyone as just wrong? Tamir Rice was killed by a
rookie cop with a terrible record on his handgun tests. How is the police
department screening recruits these days? Screening should be tougher than ever
given that police are trusted to operate war surplus gear and armored vehicles
that can squash Americans like flies.
Police in American have long been a brotherhood. If
you watch Blue Bloods or any of the
shows about the police force, the writers explore the disadvantages of a system
that protects cops whether they are good ones or bad ones. People resent this
brotherhood in the same way that they resent tenure among teachers which can
also make it almost impossible to fire bad teachers. But here we have a
systemic problem that is affecting one portion of the American population more
than any other. And the proliferation of arms in the general population and in
the targeted population is not helping the situation. Obviously police are
nervous when they arrest citizens in general, but black men in particular, that
their suspected “perp” will have a weapon and this makes the police react as if
their life is in the balance (which it sometimes is).
I am not really clear why the police are so nervous
when arresting black men for really minor offenses like selling loose
cigarettes or jaywalking. Why bother to arrest them at all when these offenses
are unlikely to undermine American society. One would think that there must be
more to these arrests, perhaps a history of animosity, an escalation of
disrespect felt by both parties. This certainly does not explain the
twelve-year-old boy, Tamir Rice. Are there bigoted police officers on police
forces throughout America? We already believe that this is most likely true.
Can we find a way to make sure that all police officers are without prejudice?
We may not know how to solve the biases that are
apparently present among America’s policemen or how to change a system that has
to protect inept cops, or crooked cops, or cops who are frightened of
criminals, or unstable cops, but we may be closer to accepting that the system
requires some fixes and these need to come sooner rather than later. In today’s
Daily Beast Michael Tomasky wrote The Only Way to End Police Violence in
which he suggested that things need to change at the front end of the process
out in the community and in recruit screening as opposed to the back end of the
process after tragedy has already happened. He says,
“This
is not going to change in America, at least for many, many years. Ask yourself:
What would it take, really, for your average white cop not to see your average
black male young adult as a potential threat? Because we can pass all the
ex-post facto laws we want, and we can even convict the occasional police
officer, which does happen from time to time. But that’s not where the problem
starts. The problem starts in that instant of electric mistrust when the cop
reaches for his gun, or employs a homicidal chokehold. That moment is beyond
the reach of legislation, or of any punishment that arrives after the fact.”

He speaks to nothing less than changing our
entire cultural reaction to black men, reacting in a way that values them,
creating opportunities for them that give them value as people who contribute to
American society. He speaks to a system that does not categorize people based
on something as superficial as skin color. His solutions are not quick fixes;
they involve an almost tectonic shift in American culture.
But tectonic shifts do happen, some are slow and some are fast, some are easily
accommodated, others are terribly disruptive. We need something fast but not
terribly disruptive and that probably is a difficult get. Racism seems to
be a persistent strain in American life and we have not found very successful
ways to wipe it out.

So we’ll try. At least we’ll try and
demonstrations will perhaps force us to really try hard to end the senseless
killing of unarmed black men and boys and to put aside our age-old prejudices.
These killings are pitiful and sad and embarrassing, especially for a nation
that was supposed to be a world leader in protecting civil rights.

By Nancy Brisson

Midstream Hindsight

Obama still has about 2 ½ years to mess up, but I
have to take a moment to say that he was the perfect President for this
particular point in time. First of all there is his character, which has proven
to be thoughtful, kind, steady, and intelligent. I had a gut feeling from the
very beginning that Obama was a good man. And although I was all primed for
Hillary and we might have found her at the nexus of the women’s rights issues
we have been dealing with, I believe it has been more important to have a
person of color as President right now. I further believe that it was especially
important to elect such a man as Obama, who should not be the polarizing figure
he is at all, because he is, at base, a man who comprehends the power of being
fair and even-handed. I don’t care what the Republicans have to say about this,
because fairness and even-handedness are two qualities that could not be
ascribed to them in these post-Bush years.
So we have been able to see, displayed across the
media screen of our nation, America’s great national racial divide. It has all
been regurgitating forth, ugly, but honest, showing us that we are nowhere near
done with this issue that we have so much difficulty talking about.
Once white people were informed that their
hegemony was about to be toppled by the sheer numbers of minority people who
now reside in America and who consider themselves Americans, the cry went up –
the giant “no”, the big denial among all the denials right down to the desire
to deny the power of the federal government. Out came all the desire to back
up, perhaps all the way back to the civil war. Out came the present attempts
and cries for a “do-over”, for “whoa, how did this happen”, for “we don’t want
to be here so we are going to figure out a strategy to reverse the arc of
American History. (And the whole situation has been a twofer because all the
women’s rights stuff has been vomited up too.)
In answer to that giant “no”, we have had minority
communities answering back and speaking up for the obvious inequalities that
they have been living with even with civil rights laws in place. We are looking
at the data and it is data we knew about in our hearts. We knew that economic
equality often stopped at the edges of minority communities. We knew about the
inordinately high arrest rates. We knew about the educational challenges faced
in minority neighborhoods and we knew that the financial formulas we use for
state aid to education place poorer neighborhoods at a distinct disadvantage
for future success. We knew that there are still such things as “minority”
neighborhoods.
We have not been as informed about illegal
immigrants and most Americans still suspect that illegal immigrants receive
money from government programs which they believe should only prop up legal
citizens. What we haven’t heard until now is what minority people have to say
about these and other injustices. It’s not that it isn’t being studied. It’s
not that it isn’t being written about. It is about the lack of a public forum
that was ready to listen. The Obama Presidency has given all of this a chance
to be exposed, to be statistically examined, and to be debated.
We have been moved by the election of a man of
color to the crux of the dialectic (and no, dialectic does not have to be a
strictly Marxist term) and the battle is joined by those at the extremes. Will
there be a synthesis (will the fever break) to relieve the social stresses we
have been going through? Will we slip back to the past or broker a future that
is the antithesis to the theses of the past?
So Obama’s skin color is the second potent factor
of his Presidency, although he had been hoping that would not be so. He had been
hoping to be accepted as a statesman, not obstructed as a black man. The only
thing some Americans do not have in common with Obama is his skin color. In
every other way he is as American as any of us. We should all be dreaming a
strong, free, fair, and prosperous America together, but we have come down with
a case of Caucasian Flu, a giant hiccup standing in the way of solving the
problems the planet must solve quickly.

It is embarrassing to have the whole world see how
we have failed, but it has been so productive to be here and to have these
conversations, finally. Once these conversations have begun let us hope that
there will be, at some point, an enlightened resolution, and not a retreat to
the ignorance, a retreat to the unearned and undeserved domination of one group
over another based on something as superficial as skin color. I believe Obama’s
legacy will loom large in America and in the world for centuries (should we
live so long) and he will be considered among our greatest Presidents (if he
can just get through 2 ½ more years without falling prey to that second term
curse so many in the political media talk about).  
This is the view from the cheap seats.
This blog post is also available at http://brissioni.com/
By Nancy Brisson

Cliches and Analogies/Hope and Change

 
 
 

Late last
week Stuart Stevens, a Conservative, wrote an article criticizing Obama for
failing to fulfill the promises of “hope” that he made before his election.
Republicans seems to enjoy doing this every once in a while because they
apparently “hope” that we will fall for this twisted line of reasoning. They
like to blame others for the things they do and their special “whipping boy” is
Barack Obama (how racist is that?). We have heard Sarah Palin mock Obama for
his inability to fulfill his promise of “hope and change” and Michelle Bachmann
has, beyond all sense, made this a key item in her limited repertoire of
political tidbits. Now we have this Stevens guy in the Daily Beast going over, once again, in case we missed it the first
one hundred and fifty times, his supreme disappointment with Obama’s
ineffectiveness .

Of course we
know that extreme Republicans killed the “Hope” that Obama promised and now
they want to use this argument, which has almost become a cliché, this
insistence that Obama has not been able to “change” anything as their message
to elect Republicans in 2014 and 2016.  I
just don’t think that you get to kick our first African American President to
the curb, to force him to try borderline Constitutional strategies in order to
get anything done – to basically act like a bunch of white thugs – and then
turn the obstructionism on its head and blame the “big empty” that is
Washington politics on the person you have hog-tied. The South rises? It’s
embarrassing to America and Americans. Notice that Obama did not offer hope and
change in his second term. He just grimly raised a flag that insisted Forward
(period). So we slog forward, but we would rather be going by high speed rail.

There is an
astonishing similarity between what the GOP has done to Obama and what George
Zimmerman did to Trayvon. In their hearts, I’m sure, the GOP feels they are
just acting in self-defense. I think we can be pretty sure that Obama is
defending himself too, but he is also defending the American people.

Don’t vote
for bullies – vote for Democrats in 2014 and in 2016.

Here’s the
link for that article that sums up Obama’s “failures” in case you want to read
about this old, tired subject once again.

 

 

Why We Need a Do-Over

I want to talk a bit more about racism, because I know many people scoff at this accusation and want to totally discount it as an active factor in Washington. However, I don’t think we’re there yet, in that place where we’re completely color-blind. African-Americans and Caucasian Americans do not all grow up in the same America, even in the 21st century, and, racism in America cuts both ways, if we are completely honest. We even have terms created to describe the phenomenon: racism and reverse racism. These terms are not equal but opposite terms. African-American resentment against white Americans is justified by years of inequality. White “hate” is justified by years of imagined domination and culturally nurtured feelings of superiority. Slack must be cut at least in the case of the former.
I do believe that both racism and reverse racism have lessened and will someday disappear (perhaps I should call that hope). But for now that situation does not pertain. So we have to do that exercise of standing in someone else’s shoes. We have to imagine an American government where African-Americans hold a majority and there are only a few elected Caucasians. Imagine that our President has always been “black” and now a “white” man is elected. Would this President be accepted with open arms and find it possible to “fit right in”; maybe or maybe not? Add to that the huge partisan divide that we have had in America for the past 5 years and you double the chance for shutting out this “new man” who comes hoping to be able to “change” a government, which is perhaps the very thing those who have been in the majority for so long have been most afraid of experiencing. Will this person, whose people have been oppressed for so long, want revenge? Will this person deliberately sabotage the government? Or between the racial divide and the ideological divide is rapprochement just too difficult? A lot of this can be quite subtle or even unconscious, although the ideological divide has been anything but subtle.
It’s quite sad to me that we wasted our opportunity to welcome our first African-American President, who is a very decent and erudite man, and that we made his lovely family uncomfortable in this house of the people. So I say shame on us all. I understand these were hard times but with a bit of trying and a bit of cooperation we might all be in a better place right now. I hope we reelect Barack Obama because I would like to think that we all deserve a “do-over”.

Racism?

I am saddened by the way Congress has treated our 44th President. Is it possible that what is happening here is intentional or unintentional racism? This stonewalling that is going on in Congress I blame mostly on the Republicans. They have produced a lot of bills in the House, but they plant a little Democrat “bomb” in each bill which makes it impossible to pass it. This then allows them to accuse the Democrats of being the obstacles to progress, the “do-nothings” and they believe they waltz (never hip hop) away unscathed. We are not stupid though and the rubber-glue trick is getting really old. Still the trick you can see through is better than the one you haven’t figured out yet.
Of course things did not get off to a good start and we will not be allowed to forget this even though I wish you would put yourself in Obama’s place for a bit. He was just elected, he had made promises to the American people and we were quite enthusiastic about the promises he made. Then woosh the economy deflates like a bad soufflé; people are in foreclosure left and right; the economy which has been bleeding jobs looks like it will bleed out (OK, it’s a mixed metaphor, get over it); and he is faced with an angry and mean Republican minority. What would you have done if you were in his shoes? Would you have tried to solve the problems coming at you (like the guy with the tennis racket batting away the bat), would you have tried to get some of the agenda you promised the America people accomplished? Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh were out there and their attacks were dialed up, the Tea Party was out there, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann were everywhere. All anyone seemed to want was to get rid of Obama.
I sort of thought of Obama as our first “nerd” president, and I mean that in the kindest, nerds-are-very-successful-people sort of way. Sometimes, however, nerds don’t put their people skills first. Maybe Obama, tucked into the middle of his cronies, didn’t schmooz enough. But I do also believe that there were some people who were not happy that America had an African-American President. White men have had a lock on the presidency forever.
Whatever the reasons, Obama seems so lonely at the top. He has some great advisors and Leon Panetta seems to like him, but he seems to feel more comfortable out of Washington than in it and I don’t blame him. I am constantly embarrassed by the way he has been treated. If he was a bit inexperienced he could have been schooled instead of derided. I believe some people in Congress have acted very badly and they should be held accountable rather than rewarded for their behavior and I’m not talking about the Democrats, although some of them probably were less than helpful also. I further believe that under scrutiny we will admit that these “men” have been acting like playground bullies and that some of their motives stink (with a faint whiff of racism). These guys have been so nasty to Obama that I cannot imagine why he would agree to be our President for four more years. If he is elected, which I hope he will be, it would be interesting if people would make an effort to work with our first African-American President to solve some of the problems we have in our nation through a spirit of compromise and capability. Be your better selves!