Thursday, November 10, 2016

Letter to My Sons

Dear Adam and Jake:
     Two days ago, we went to the polls and made yet another horrible mistake. We're Americans. It's what we do.
     As usual, we collectively made a horrible error in judgment in order to avoid another horrible error in judgment. Again, this is what we do. We say we want filet mignon. Yet, when it's offered to us, we shy away from it at the last minute and pick either the Whopper or the Big Mac. Again, we're Americans. This is what we do.
     Yet, to me, the choice we made on Tuesday hits closer to home. Hillary Clinton represented a more abstract threat to our way of life. She would've gone gunning for our Social Security, sent all of our kids to war against Russia or Iran or whoever threatens the Clinton Foundation's way of life, outsourced whatever few jobs we have worth keeping. But Donald Trump is something else entirely.
     Donald Trump represents a threat to people of color everywhere. It is that simple. We saw that at his rallies, we'd had that confirmed in the KKK, white nationalists and assorted racist right wing evolutionary dropouts who'd supported him and whose support Trump accepted with alacrity and was too craven to disavow. Trump is also a threat to women and last month his misogynist supporters actually tried to float the idea of repealing the 19th amendment when Nate Silver discovered that if only men voted, Trump would win. The 19th Amendment, if you don't know, is the one that gave women the right to vote in 1920.
     And regardless of the loathing the establishment GOP feels for him, Donald Trump is like any and every other Republican in that he threatens to catapult us back to the 19th century. He wants to return us to the days when men could sexually harass and abuse women with impunity, to when there were no unions and people worked long hours in dirty, dangerous conditions for low pay, no benefits and no power to strike or collectively bargain.
     A time when white people could openly lynch African Americans and burn crosses on their lawns, again, with impunity.
     It is these vile specters that Donald Trump resurrected with a vengeance through a white America that was never white that sees a threat to its Aryan way of life. They are ghosts that some of us had assumed were a thing of the past with the election of a black president, 20 females in the Senate and three appointed to the Supreme Court. But as with the three ghosts of Christmas and Jacob Marley, ghosts exist to haunt us for our past evils and transgressions.
     And a President Donald Trump and a Republican-dominated Congress may force our young women and people of color to do battle to regain the same rights our grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents fought to secure for the unborn generations, rights going all the way back the 13th Amendment in 1865 that ended slavery.
     Jake, last July you went to Georgia with your grandmother to see the site of the plantation on which a genealogist discovered your ancestors had toiled as slaves. You went to Stone Mountain, the site of an annual racist rally, and you told me on your return someone advised you, "Don't go on the other side of that mountain."
     Past and present reminders that as a nation, we have not come as far as we choose to think we have. We are not a post racial nation, never have been, never will be. As proof of this, when the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that mandated certain states (mostly south of Mason Dixon) check in with Uncle Sam before fiddle fucking with their electoral laws, Chief Justice John Roberts in his majority ruling stated that this was OK to do because we've moved beyond racism.
     Nanoseconds later, those very same states muzzled by Section 5 of the VRA began drafting and ratifying voter suppression laws aimed at people of color which Republican governors such as Pat McCrory broke their necks to sign into law as soon as possible.
     Jim Crow has returned with a vengeance.
     And you, my sons, are about to inherit a United States that Trump's supporters think is not great but can be made so again through the magical elixir of voter suppression, racism and misogyny. This is the United States I and my generation have left for you to live in and I am so sorry. Trump was right. America is not a great country anymore but the bitter irony is that Trump and his supporters have made that so.
     For reasons we all know, I was not there for you for much of your childhood and this was a choice I did not have the luxury to make. Your mother died when you were so young, you essentially grew up without parents yet still you both turned out, for the most part, to be fine young men. But now that I'm back in your lives and have been for several years now, and since I'm not planning on going anywhere, I feel it incumbent on me to pass this sputtering torch to you with words of what middling wisdom I've accrued.
     If you see a woman anywhere being wronged, abused, harassed, you stick up for her. If you see a cop harassing a person of color, especially if it is you, know your rights, stick up for them, stand your ground, advise them of those rights, starting with whatever's left of the Constitution. Do your part to stamp out racial bias and prejudice because real change doesn't start in the glistening, gilded marble halls of legislators but on the grubby streets where real people in the real world live and die.
     As I've just said, you have both turned into fine young men with great compassion and keen, discriminating intellects. But I feel this needs to be stated, overstated, if you will- That no right was ever given to anyone without great battles being fought over it. If nothing else, human history (and we Americans are not exempt) is a running, oft-told tale of one privileged section of humanity trying to deny their rights to another. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright was absolutely correct in 2008 when he said America was founded on racism and slavery.
     And we have proved this, again, by ignoring the plight of Native Americans trying to prevent the theft of land we had given to them 150 years ago that was theirs to begin with. We had proved this when peaceful protests to prevent the needless killings of unarmed African Americans in Baltimore, Ferguson and St. Louis were all met with violent resistance by those who visit that violence. And we proved it five years ago during an Occupy movement that saw the same opposition. And we ignore them. But when white rednecks like the Bundys and their militia supporters attempt to steal land that belongs to we the people, we grace them with news coverage in an endlessly sympathetic 24/7 news cycle.
     Our selective, Caucasian-centric day and age aside, history and posterity does not care to recall the names of those who whispered for compromise or incremental change. The great newsman Edward R. Murrow once wrote, "We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men." And he should know- He toppled a tyrant named Senator Joe McCarthy when newsmen were still worth trusting and listening to. We do not remember the names of conciliatory abolitionists. We do, however, remember John Brown. I wrote a novel about him.
     Despite his conciliatory and carefully humble acceptance speech early Wednesday morning, Donald Trump does not respect people that aren't like him. If he has his way, women will again be reduced to mere sex objects that can be toyed with by rich powerful men such as him. Black people and all people of color will again be shoved to the margins of society, to the muddy wayside of the road to progress. And if his running mate Mike Pence has anything to say about it, he will usher in an age we long thought was even further in the distant past-
     Religious primacy, loyalty oaths, the rule of law based on the Bible and not secular law itself.
     Last Tuesday, we had taken a giant leap backward into a horrid past in order to avoid a horrid Brave New World of the future. This is the world I and my generation have handed down to your generation and I am so sorry I did not play my part better.
     Yet just as our ancestors had fought and secured the rights we tend to take for granted, so I have every confidence that that progressive spirit will again save the day just as we peer into the abyss to which Republicans and bigoted misogynists such as Donald Trump will surely push us.
     And your generation will again save the day and lead us to that Promised Land to which evolution inexorably nudges us.
     Love,
     Dad

2 Comments:

At November 10, 2016 at 10:12 PM, Blogger Stan B. said...

Yes, yes and... yes.

 
At November 11, 2016 at 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anton said...

Eloquence as usual, JP. We are all ashamed today, but remember: true patriots always attempt to protect their countries from their governments.

 

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