Exports and Imports

While the economy is still struggling, the United States is successfully exporting democratic ideals, and motivating citizens in oppressed countries to stand up to their oppressive governments and secure a measure of liberty and stability they have not yet known.  Unfortunately, via our capitalist and conservative political spheres, the United States is also importing authoritarian oppression at a fast pace, too.

In Tunisia, a republican movement of citizens and disenfranchised people voted with their feet and their hearts, toppling a dictator.  In Egypt, kindergarteners, children, adolescents, young adults, older adults and mature citizens gathered in peaceful protest, filling Tahrir Square in Cairo and in other cities, and pushed “President” Hosni Mubarak off their necks.  In Libya, Iran, Bahrain and Yemen, government of the people is becoming a popular refrain, where citizens fatigued with oppressive and corrupt regimes choose to lay down their lives by standing up for their rights to receive their due.  Democracy, it seems, is being exported.

Here in the United States, however, Republicans with a capital R seem to believe that the rights and responsibilities that citizens across the globe are exercising are “UnAmerican”.  In Wisconsin, public employees are being denied by the elected Republican governor and legislature their right to assemble (collective bargaining) and their right to petition for the redress of grievances.  Governor Walker has exaggerated a budget deficit in order to nullify their contract, and at the same time attempted to quell the voices of the workers by stripping them of the right to bargain collectively.

Much like the thugs hired by the Egyptian president, who stole US State Department vehicles in order to attack the peaceful revolutionaries in Tahrir Square, Governor Walker’s associates have bussed in thousands of actors, disguised as concerned citizens of the Tea Party Movement, to berate, confuse and antagonize the protestors (read: teachers, nurses, etc.) in Wisconsin.

The parallels – large numbers of economically challenged lower and middle class workers struggling peacefully to receive their just due from economically advantaged politicians and political actors – between the exported democratic ideals and the imported authoritarian oppression are clear and striking.

It’s important to realize, then, that in order to continue espousing our democratic ideals and speaking about the rights of the people, we must fight here in the United States to insure that they are not usurped by people whose priorities are money before people.

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” – Thomas Paine, 1777

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Outlawing Chicanos: An Alien Education

This post originally appeared on LATISM’s blog for Edu-Wednesday on 2/9/11.

“Yo soy Joaquín,
perdido en un mundo de confusión:
I am Joaquín, lost in a world of confusion,
caught up in the whirl of a gringo society,
confused by the rules, scorned by attitudes,
suppressed by manipulation, and destroyed by modern society.”

I Am Joaquín, Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

Tom Horne and John Huppenthal are afraid of a poem.
This fear has led them, the Arizona legislature, and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to target the Chicano (Mexican American) and population of their state with laws whose purpose is to marginalize, demonize, and ultimately erase the historical contributions of Chicanos; to remove both the legal and illegal persons of Mexican and Chicano descent; and to insure the subservience of people of color in Arizona in perpetuity.
HB2281, the ethnic studies ban in Arizona which went into effect in January of this year, was written to eliminate Chicano Studies in Tucson, according to Mr. Huppenthal. No other ethnic studies programs – African American, Native American, Jewish American – are impacted by the law. In fact, only the Mexican American Studies program has even been mentioned in connection with it. Like SB1070, which allowed “peace officers” to stop and interrogate people who “looked illegal,” the neutral language of the legislation lubricates the racist paradigm which frames, enacts and enforces the law.
It is not coincidence that the Tucson Chicano Studies Program has reversed recent trends of high dropout rates among Latino and African American male students. Students in the program are also scoring significantly higher on standardized tests and the percentage of students continuing into post-secondary educational settings has increased. This is the program which threatens and frightens the political leadership in Arizona. A program which successfully educates and matriculates Mexican American and other students.
Through racially directed censorship, HB2281 sets a tone that Mexican Americans are bad, illegal, alien, traitorous and a threat. Latinos are being held as the scapegoats for a struggling economy, and other ills currently befalling the United States. In the wake of SB1070, more than ten other states enacted or submitted for consideration anti-immigrant laws which demonize undocumented peoples. HB2281, should it be successfully enacted (a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality has been filed), may well engender the same copycat legislation in other states as well.
Teaching that Mexican Americans have a history, that they’ve contributed to building the southwest, from Texas to California (which includes Arizona) directly contradicts the stereotypical picture opponents of the program premise their argument upon. The marginalization of Latinos in the curriculum, then, is a calculated step to casting us as “other” in order to deprive Latino and non-Latino students of knowledge and skills, and to present Latinos as unworthy of the rights and responsibilities bestowed on American citizens. Mr. Huppenthal’s move to eviscerate funding more quickly than the legislation allows demonstrates the coordinated and planned execution of Latino marginalization in Arizona.
The threat of educating students of color to think, to question, to argue as citizens of the United States is being eradicated by legislating the socratic pedagogy (which uses the colonial history of the American southwest as a basis for identity) out of existence.
It is also important to note that while this legislation is specifically directed at K-8 educational programs, this isn’t an accident. HB2281 is simply where the legislators and officials had authority at the present time. Pending in the Arizona legislature are at least two bills specifically designed to marginalize Latinos in Arizona:
HB2561 – Arizona Citizenship seeks to change the federal citizenship granted to anyone born in the United States under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Under this law people born in the United States would have to have one parent who was a citizen to receive citizenship.
SCR1035 – English as the Official Language of Arizona mandates any and all government services must be provided ONLY in English in order to be legally binding. Whether this will apply to public school instruction remains to be seen.
Like Poseidon’s trident, each of these prongs wreaks its own damage amongst the Latino and non-Latino population of Arizona. They also, as is demonstrated by the fifteen pending laws copying SB1070 in other states, create a template by which this marginalization becomes a national trend of exclusion and vilification.
In attacking children by legislating their history and identity out of the classroom, and removing educators whose pedagogy is successful, Horne and Huppenthal are attempting to create their utopian world where Latinos remain subservient through lack of knowledge, detriment of skills, failure of identity or recognition of deserving our piece of the American pie.

“I am Joaquín.

I must fight

and win this struggle

for my sons, and they

must know from me

who I am.”
I Am Joaquín, Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

“States seek to copy Arizona immigration law”
Alex Johnson and Vanessa Hauc (msnbc.com and Telemundo), 2/3/2011

“We need to defend ethnic studies”
Yolanda Chávez Leyva, 1/6/2011

“Huppenthal Forbids Mexican-American Studies in Tucson, Meeting Scheduled”
Tim Paynter, 2/5/2011

“Speaking/Running against Hate, Censorship and Forbidden Curriculums”
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, 12/18/2010

Arizona Legislature HB2561

Arizona Legislature SCR1035

“I Am Joaquín”
Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

Arizona lawmakers don’t vote on citizenship bill
Jacques Billeaud, 2/7/2011 (Associated Press)

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Our life is better

[text] Our Life Is Better When We Work Together

I like marching bands.  How many of you like marching bands?  They make great music, and they are fun to watch.  Anyway, Rev. Barberia asked me to speak to you today because this week we celebrated a very important birthday.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ordinary man.  He brushed his teeth.  He put on his pants one leg at a time.  He went to school.  He used a pen and paper to write down his ideas.  He believed in God.  He looked at the world with two eyes, smelled the world with his nose.  He loved his wife and he loved his children.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ordinary man.

In other ways, Martin Luther King, Jr. was extraordinary.  He went to college when he was fifteen years old.  The ideas that he wrote down with his pen and paper helped the government of the United States live up to its promises to its all of its citizens.  The words he spoke inspired people when he was alive, and continue to inspire people today, over forty years after his death.  He was the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  He was made a saint in the Episcopal Church.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was also extraordinary.

Both in his ordinary and extraordinary senses, though, Martin Luther King, Jr. was just one person.  He had one brain, one mouth, two eyes, two hands, two feet.  He couldn’t be in Washington, D.C. and Selma, Alabama at the same time.  He couldn’t give a speech at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church while he was giving a speech at a synagogue.  He couldn’t be in jail, arrested for civil disobedience, and speaking to the President of the United States at the same time, though he did all of these things in his lifetime.  He couldn’t teach people to be non-violent protesters, lead protests, write speeches, go to college, preach at his church, go on television, fight for civil rights, speak out against war, sleep, eat and be a good father all by himself.

He needed help.  Just as we all do, he needed to work with other people in order to accomplish all of the great things that he accomplished.  He needed parents to show him how to brush his teeth, and how to put on his pants, and to introduce him to God.  He needed teachers to instruct him how to use the paper and pen, and how to string his words together to express his ideas.  He needed other people who believed that the laws in the United States were wrong in order to get those laws changed.  He needed others who understood that each person is a child of God, deserving of love and respect and support, in order to battle for change in a non-violent and peaceful way.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” Who knows what a drum major is?  What is their job? Yes, they are the leaders of a marching band.  A drum major is the person out in front, usually in a crazy costume, keeping time for the band while entertaining the crowd.  Why would this ordinary, this extraordinary, man call himself a drum major?  Because he understood one simple thing:

Life is better when we work together.

As talented as he was, as talented as we all are, we can do much, much more when we work with (and for) other people.

This is a truth that allowed the founding fathers and other English colonists to form a new country called the United States of America; this is a truth that supported abolitionists who fought to end slavery in these United States; this is a truth that helped women gain full citizenship, and people working in hard jobs get fair pay to feed their families.  Working together is how people in the Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the laws to make black people, brown people, yellow people, red people, Christian people and Jewish people equal in the United States.

And here at school, that truth holds, too.  From the soccer field to the basketball court; from class retreats to physics projects; from everyone throwing away their own trash and unplugging their chargers in order to help the planet; from putting on medieval town plays to performing the school musical;  Our life is easier when we work with (and for) each other.  And we can make a difference in the world when we find people to help us, or find people we can help, who share our goals.

And though we take this week to learn from Martin Luther King, Jr., his lesson is one that we can learn everyday from the ordinary, from the extraordinary, people around us.  People like Les Frost, who sets an example of love, respect and EKG for parents, teachers, staff and students each day; people like Howard Anderson who demonstrates by the smile on his face and the bounce in his step the blessing we have to be alive; people like Kristin Barberia, who reaches out each and every day to help us open our eyes, open our hearts and open our minds to the grace we can find in each other.

Dr. King said that he was a drum major, because he knew that the drum major needed help, too.  The drum major is nothing without the band.  Our life is better when we work together.

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I See Ghosts

A few weeks ago, Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed into law SB1070, which originally required peace officers in Arizona to stop and question people “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien” about their citizenship status. No definition of reasonable suspicion was given, and the day after the law was signed, an American Citizen of Mexican descent was arrested for failing to have his papers birth certificate on his person.  “The legislation would require … force public service employees to report suspected illegal immigrants.” This meant that the police could be sued by citizens who felt they weren’t enforcing the new law to their satisfaction.  Subsequently, she signed a second law that withholds funds from schools which offer classes that “… promote resentment of a particular race or class of people, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” “The bill was written to target the Chicano, or Mexican American, studies program in the Tucson school system,” said state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Horne.

A few days ago, Republican (Tea Party) candidate for the United States Senate from Kentucky, Rand Paul stated that while he is against and “abhors anything racist”, there are parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that he finds overreaching because they infringe on the “individual liberties” of racists who own restaurants to discriminate the race of their clientele.  This is the same man who shouted to his supporters on the eve of his primary victory that he is on his way to Washington to “take our government back!”

In Texas, where Thomas Jefferson has been replaced by Newt Gingrich in high school history textbooks by an avowedly vocal and active conservative Christian block of Republican school-board members, they are now attempting to change the language of the books so that the next generation of students doesn’t learn about the slave trade which was the economic foundation of the United States, but rather they learn about the Atlantic Triangular Trade of which slaves were simply one component.  Add to this the Alabama math teacher who tried teaching his geometry class angles by hypothetically assassinating the (first black) current President of the United States, Barack Obama, and these isolated incidents of racism, violence and oppression begin to define an ugly pattern in American civic life.

The problem with being a history teacher is that I see ghosts. Watching Senator John McCain say the “economy is still strong” in 2008 echoed to me President Hoover’s response to the Great Depression; watching Senator Obama be chastised for youth and inexperience during that same campaign reflected Governor Clinton and Senator Kennedy’s treatment during their campaigns for the presidency; and watching Governor Brewer sign racial profiling into law and codifying ethnic erasure in schools sounds to me like the breaking glass on Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”). The Night of Broken Glass was an anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany and Austria from the 9th until the 10th November 1938. (Kristallnacht was part of a broader racial policy of Nazi Germany, including antisemitism and persecution of the Jews and it is viewed by many historians as the beginning of the Final Solution, leading towards the genocide of the Holocaust.)

This comparison, though, was greeted with trepidation by friends of mine.  I had invoked “Godwin’s Law“, one argued.  I was giving in to “leftwing holocaust hyperbole”, said another.  Neither grasped the larger frame of my comparison.  Adolf Hitler is the modern boogeyman for the United States, probably because as a nation we were complicit in his atrocities through our actions and inactions, from sending the US Olympic Team to Berlin for the Summer Games in 1936 fleeing Nazi Germany.  Be that as it may, the steps taken by Hitler and the Nazi Party that moved them and their nation from defeated and downtrodden to The Third Reicht are being echoed today in the United States.

Let us examine these facts:

    • The Nazis began their grip on government with a two-pronged strategy: 1-the Jews are bad, and 2-elect Hitler to lead us back to glory.  Today in Arizona “illegals” are bad, though they don’t know what they look like (except they look illegal, i.e. brown and not from “here”), and Rand Paul is going from Kentucky to “take [his] government back!” from the “un-American” President Obama.
    • The Nazis began as a third political party, running candidates with staunch conservative, anti-Jewish, pro-Germany propaganda riding a wave of national dissatisfaction. Today in the United States, from the healthcare debate to clean energy to the lies about the tax code and the false tales of cancelled National Days of Prayer, the Tea Party is running candidates (and defeating Republicans) whose full-throated persecution of illegal immigrants takes place in states with Southern borders and more dark immigrants than not, legal and illegal. In Arizona, and California, and Kentucky, persecution of “the Other” is coupled with Sarah Palin‘s uber-nationalist “feel good about us and never apologize” national tour, endorsing candidates (Governor Jan Brewer) who share her views or at least bark at her command (Carly Fiorina).  And politicians hoping to ride the wave are going further faster in hopes of grabbing power for themselves (Steve Poizner).
    • Finally, the Nazi’s began their Final Solution to “the Jewish problem” with legislation that targeted German Jews specifically.  They passed laws against the Jews for years before the death trains rolled, and the non-Jews in Germany complied.  Each law, or bundle of legal segregation and oppression, appeared a reasonable reaction to a real or imagined woe of the people.  Arizona’s laws, targeting phantom illegal criminals and demonizing inclusive education, are following the Nazi’s goose-steps in perfect time.

Obviously Jan Brewer and Rand Paul and Sarah Palin and the Texas School-board and the Alabama math teacher are not rounding up darkies and shipping them off to Manzanar.  However, they are laying tracks toward that racially segregated, oppressive Us v. Them state of constant emergency with their calculated words and deeds just as surely as the Chinese and the Irish did when building the Trans-Continental Railroad.  With each law passed, they are reaching out from beyond the grave to drag the United States back in time.  And all that stands between the sad history of segregation and oppression, of marginalization and genocide, is the full-throated rebuke of evil from people of conscience, whether that is writing blogs and letters, being informed and informing others, getting out in the streets to organize, or running for the local and national offices which have the power and authority to squelch the hate that fear produces.  Pastor Martin Niehmoller, writing in the midst of the Holocaust, put it more simply, “when they came for [someone else]/ I did not speak . . . [and] when they came for me/ there was no one left to speak.”

The problem with being a history teacher is that I see ghosts.  In the last several weeks, the backlash against progress and inclusion, against the embodiment of the American Ideals of Liberty, Equality,  and Opportunity has been staggering and shocking.  But beyond being shocked, the need for Americans of Conscience to speak up and to act, to fight back in the name of the country we cherish and the humanity we struggle to embody is pressing and immediate.  Marcus Garvey put into words my thoughts, the firing of my synapses which drove me to speak of Arizona’s laws in Nazi terminology when he too was attempting to rally his people, and so I leave you with his words.  They are as pertinent in 2010 as they were when he spoke then in the 1920s, in the same country, fighting the same battle with a different face.

“Up You Mighty [Human] Race!  Accomplish What You Will!”

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Black Code, Arizona

In the late 19th century, after President Andrew Johnson ended congressional reconstruction, Southern former-confederates like Bob McDonnell passed laws in the southern United States which limited the rights of newly emancipated and enfranchised black men and women “legally”.  They included literacy tests in order to vote, fees to attend public schools, and poll taxes.  Poor whites were allowed to circumvent these laws which applied to them, too, allowing them to feel like they were part of the wealthy majority culture by “grandfather clauses”:  if the person applying had a grandfather who’d voted, they were exempted from the tax or tests.  These laws were called Black Codes, because they were designed to stop black people from participating in the citizenship of the United States.

Welcome to Arizona.

The Arizona state legislature last week passed a law which makes it illegal to be undocumented.  That means that I as a black mexican american citizen of the United States couldn’t run to the car wash or the grocery store without my birth certificate, because I look “illegal”.  The Brown Code is a celebration of a whiter nation because it also requires government agencies to enforce racial profiling.  Michael J. Fox could walk through Arizona without a second glance, but he was once an illegal immigrant to the United States.  The difference between the two of us?  Melanin.  The law that is sitting on the governor’s desk today is the codification of racism, as were the Black Codes after the civil war.  Like the Confederates of old (then called Democrats) who sought legal redress for their military and ideological and moral losses, the neo-conservatives in Arizona (now called Republicans) are seeking legal security that the United States will continue to be a nation of European-descended and controlled dominance after what they perceive to be a racial loss to President Barack Obama.

The Black Codes danced in time with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which limited the number of immigrants that could come to the United States for employment from China.  They were the precursors of legalized segregation immortalized by the famous “separate but equal” Plessy v. Ferguson SCOTUS decision in 1896.  Legalized segregation gave birth to numerous avenues of discrimination and codified racism, none the least of which was the Bracero program which shipped immigrant labor from Mexico north when it was convenient and south when it was not.  And here we sit today with modern racists trying to sweep up and sweep out all the brown people under the guise of “immigration reform”.  This current legislation requires police to ascertain documents of citizenship from people without any reasonable suspicion except that they are darker skinned.  It is reminiscent of the pass laws which died with South African apartheid sixteen years ago, where black and brown citizens of that nation were required to carry papers but white ones were not.

It will be of some note whether Arizona Governor Jan Brewer decides to once again codify racism by signing the legislation into law, thereby putting her name down with Governor Wallace, or simply refuses to act and lets it “pass into law”, thereby washing her hands like Pontius Pilate.  Either way, much like the Black Codes and legalized segregation, this law will be struck down by those who have read the Constitution of the United States, and who believe that the ideals expressed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence are the providence of all citizens of this nation.

As President Obama recently stated, “the blessings of this country belong to every single American,” regardless of skin color.

Even in Black Code, Arizona.

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Organizing A Community of One

Dear Governor Palin,

For a couple of years now, you’ve been mocking community organizers.  From your introductory speech at the Republican National Convention to your recent comments about nuclear materials, you’ve taken to task those people who’ve dedicated their lives to rallying disenfranchised and disaffected populations, and helping them achieve ends that they otherwise wouldn’t achieve.  It strikes me, though, and please show me the error of my thoughts here, that you have become your own declared enemy – you are a community organizer (since you quit governing, that is).

Today you spoke to a Tea Party rally opposing President Barack Obama, exhorting the crowd to “vote them out in November” and mocking the HOPE and CHANGE that propelled him to the presidency, and relegated you to headlining rallies or co-opting interviews on Fox and claiming them for your own.  In your speech, though, you neglected to acknowledge your role as a community organizer.  Your reference to “the Alinsky method” failed to pay the debt you owe to him.  You are working very diligently to “create [a] mass organization to seize power” in the United States government.  Much as you accuse others of doing, you are organizing a community to be an force for CHANGE … or are you?

I know that this may be lost on you, which is unfortunate.  It would behoove you to understand and organize your community to be effective and not simply effusive.  It would also be good that they know you need private jets and don’t like to give autographs.  Perhaps you quit governing because it was actual work, where charging six figures to stand in front of screaming hordes of anxious, frightened, un- and underemployed, slightly xenophobic and constitutionally ignorant people is much easier.  It simply requires you to pick some good ideas from the President’s speeches (he is a much better writer than you, after all), and twist them around; or take some of the successful Democratic policies like the stimulus package (which has created jobs) or the health care reform legislation (any death panels yet?) and lie to the very people they are intended to help.

I’ve also heard much lately about your political iq, though I am not personally impressed.  But since it’s obvious to most that you are a failure in politics, I’d say that your career iq is pretty high.  You’ve managed to parlay a mixed-bag of family situations and lipstick jokes into a ghost-written career as an author and a failed campaign as a maverick into a psuedopolitical twilight as a faux community organizer.  I guess my question is, what will happen when the community you’re organizing realizes that you have your best interests, not theirs, at heart?

You’ve tried to give community organizers a bad name in your written and spoken word over the last two years.  Unfortunately, your actions will speak much louder.

Sincerely,

Reynaldo Macias

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I hate THEM, Vote for me

All politics are local, which means that there are two contests right now being contested that I have to take an interest in.  The battle for the executive office in California is being framed as the good white folk against those dirty illegal Mexicans (much like the Senate race in Missouri). With a snide smile hiding his fangs, Candidate Steve Poizner is running ads against Candidate Meg Whitman for the Republican nomination which focus solely on “services for illegals” and “just like Obama” and Governor Schwartzenegger, swinging at immigrants, women, brown and black people all in one fell swoop.  There are no positives in the ad except for the question, “Don’t we deserve a Republican?”

The Face of Hate

These politics of division were most recently on display in Virginia, when Governor Bob McDonnell officially forgot there were black people in that state during the Civil War.  And in his desperation to pick up the Orange County vote, Poizner is hating loudly and often, hoping that he will gin up enough anger to get those white hands to the voting booth.  Our state, though, cannot afford his divide and conquer attacks.  Like Carly Fiorina, who is trying to lie her way into the Senate seat for California currently held by Barbara Boxer, Poizner is doing his best to change his political dress by following John McCain into the Tea Party right wing.

Poizner hates THEM.  Unfortunately for him, there are more of us THEM than there are of him.  While I’m not crazy about Meg Whitman buying the Governor’s mansion, I’m staunchly opposed to the “subtly” racist, hyper-xenophobic and oppressive campaign that Steve Poizner is running.  It doesn’t bode well for how he’d govern.

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The South Fails Again

And What He Didn’t Say . . .

The North Won the Civil War.  Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election.  Democrats in Congress won the Health Care Reform battle, and are poised to do the same on energy.  Duke won the NCAA Championship this year, as did UConn.  While these are all facts, there are literally thousands of people who are not happy about them.  Stanford fans are frustrated that their team held UConn to 12 points in the first have but couldn’t win the game.  Butler fans are gluing their hair back in from that last desperate half-court miss.  Congressional Republicans are planning to “Repeal and Replace” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  John McCain and Sarah Palin are still out on the campaign trail.  And Governor Robert McDonnell of Virginia has proclaimed April to be Confederate History Month in his state.

While it is not for me to dismiss the history and family pride of those who’s forebears believed that this was a nation for white people to own and black people to work, I heartily disagree.  And while it is not for me to say that the ideas of states’ rights which were tied to the battle of grey-suited warriors to free themselves from Republican tyranny and federal oppression is wrong, I agree much more with John Jay’s assessment that “Nothing is more certain than the indispensible [sic] necessity of government; and it is equally undeniable that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers.”  I must, as a mature student of history, acquiesce to the fact that the story of the Confederacy is someone’s grandfather’s or grandmother’s story, and while they disagree (or don’t) with those views, they have a right to represent their history the same way I have the right to represent mine; to find those pieces with which they agree and find pride and cherish and celebrate them.

However, Gov. McDonnell is a one-sided celebrant, and herein lies the problem.  He makes no mention of the enslaved victims of the Confederacy, those on whom the burden of states’ rights onerously fell like a crushing weight.  He neglects, then, my grandparents in a way which has historically sought to invalidate their humanity by rendering them, as Ralph Ellison so eloquently denounced, invisible.  It is this racism of blindness which continues to trouble us in 2010.

Telling only part of the story is a lie of omission which perpetuates and exacerbates many of the current political and social ills of our day.  We saw this with the health care debate; we see it with Sarah Palin’s continued uttering; we see this with the Tea Party movement, both in its displays and its coverage; we see it with the stimulus package; on a daily basis, telling only the part of the story that helps us is the accepted norm.  Governor McDonnell, though, has just said something very different to the black people in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  He has just said that they don’t exist, by not including their participation in the Confederacy.  Though most of that participation was bad, and should serve as a reminder of the democratic ideals on which this nation was founded, there were black men, enslaved men, who fought in the Confederate army.  Are they not worthy of recognition?  There were black men and women who greeted the defeat of the Confederacy as liberation, as an entrance into full citizenship and the beginning of their acquisition of the natural rights they’d been denied.  McDonnell has said by his omission that the Confederate ideology of chattel slavery of African Americans wasn’t “significant for Virginia.”

Flying the Confederate flag for many southerners is an honoring of their ancestors, a reading of their historical maps as they make their own journeys. But just as Congressional Republicans won’t be able to repeal health care reform, Palin and McCain are going to lose again; Butler can’t take one more shot; Stanford can’t make one more block; and cheering the Confederacy while denying black folks won’t help the South rise again.

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I’m Tired, Too

For two years of the presidential campaign, from 2007-2008, I lived and breathed politics.  Though I didn’t begin Spreading the Word until early 2008, I was reading and talking about the candidates long before then (think 2004 Democratic National Convention’s keynote speech).  With the election of Barack Obama, it seemed that I’d be able to go back to my day job, teaching, and be able to leave the day-to-day political awareness and direction of the nation to my elected representatives.

I was wrong.

The election of Barack Obama angered many Republicans, scared some people who are “bitter, clinging to their guns and religion”, gave birth to the Tea Party movement, and generally ginned up even more opposition than I believed possible.  I’m not sure why I thought his opponents would understand they LOST THE ELECTION and be a little quieter.  But John Boehner and Eric Cantor continue to lie and scream about the president; Lindsey Graham is sitting on Meet The Press complimenting the President on his parenting style while blasting a series of untruths that the President is “governing as an American liberal in a center-right nation” and that the President hasn’t done any “heavy lifting” on legislation; Mitch McConnell is saying that Republicans are going to run in November on “Repeal and Replace”; and Sarah Palin is helping John McCain run further and further into the weeds on the right side of the political spectrum.

While I know politics isn’t flag football, I don’t expect it to be Celebrity Death Match, either.  It seems, though, that implementing an agenda which speaks to the best in the American ideals and meets the goals stated in the Constitution is going to be a continuous engagement, because the opponents are galvanized.

We have to continue to participate – to write, to speak, to think, to act, to vote.

I know.  I’m tired, too.  But if not us, then who?

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