September 19, 2016

So, about this pending election.... has started and at the moment I am grateful to share that I have seventeen students for whom I am responsible.     Teaching has proven itself fulfilling in many ways over the past few years:   not only is it wonderful to share information, but I have also found that being the person who is reponsible for sharing the information has shaped my playing in incredibly beneficial ways.

Today, as I found myself on the edge of being late (good old Maryland Transit Authority), I called a taxi to school.   During the cab ride the driver and I started talking about the election.  

Mind you, a few years ago I wrote a post about voting.    Today's conversation made me rethink that post and here I shall share both the details of said conversation and my thoughts which, while they are the same, they are being expressed in a bit less incendiary manner.

This taxi driver, like many Americans, expressed both his frustration with and dislike of both candidates.    He also shared that he might forgeo voting altogether - "After all, our votes don't count anyway," he said.    "It's up to the Electoral College, and I don't even understand that."

My first response.   "Well, we live in an age in which information can easily be found.   I'm sure that you're not the only person, but we can all Google 'Electoral College' and find out for ourselves."  

"The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors who cast votes to decide the President and Vice-President of the United States. When voters go to the polls, they will be choosing which candidate receives their state’s electors. The candidate who receives a majority of electoral votes (270) wins the Presidency. The number 538 is the sum of the nation’s 435 Representatives, 100 Senators, and 3 electors given to the District of Columbia."

As we continued our conversation, the driver shared that he was incredibly disappointed with Hilary because of something that she said recently (and no, it wasn't that "deplorable" thing).    He did also express the fact that he had been most impressed by Bernie Sanders.

Did I mention that this cab driver was African-American?

He and I did get into a somewhat heated discussion during the fifteen-minute ride to school, and I found myself speaking in a manner that surprised me as, well, many of you who know me know that I have the habit of flying off the handle.  This time that didn't happen.  The controlled, clear, and articulate response was this:

"You know, we have seen so much over the past year, that including the frightening reality that Donald Trump secured the Republican party's nomination (despite the warnings of many in the Republican party) and the fact that the DNC basically planned to run over Bernie Sanders.  Yes, we've seen it.  We've also seen the fact that Secretary of State Clinton may not be the most honest person.   However, we're at a choice point, and this choice point is so much bigger than 'personalities' or 'the lesser of two evils'."

There was more, of course, but please allow me to take a sidestep before getting to that "more".

A few days ago, President Obama spoke to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.   In that speech, he shared this:   “I will consider it a personal insult—an insult to my legacy—if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election. You want to give me a good sendoff? Go vote. If you care about our legacy, realize everything we stand for is at stake. All the progress we’ve made is at stake in this election. My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot.”

Now, it would be very easy to say that Mr. Obama was both speaking from his ego and many say that he has done nothing for the African-American community.    Think about this:  considering that sixty years ago the possibility of having a Black president was just a barely-expressed dream, the fact that he not only won but won TWICE is a symbolic advancement for the African-American community.   This is a fact that cannot be ignored.   "This is not about me, this is not about Michelle...we understood the power of the symbol," he said.

While there are people who adamantly fight the fact that every discussion about President Obama leads us into discussions about race, which many people - including the person who lost my friendship on Sunday - are deeply uncomfortable having, think about this:    we cannot ignore that President Obama has faced nothing but obstruction from the Republican party since he stepped into office in 2008.   In case you forgot, Mitch McConnell - the man who has been more than vocal about stopping a Supreme Court justice nomination during President Obama's term - was the man who said that the "single most important" thing to do was to ensure that Barack Obama was a one-term president.   For the record, Mitch McConnell is one of the many Republicans who has NOT taken a stance against Donald Trump.

The obstruction that President Obama has faced is nothing but racism.  Racism is not about dislike:   racism is about power and control.  Should there be any question about the obstructionist stance against Barack Obama and history, take a gander at Chapter Three of C. Vann Woodward's
The Strange Career of Jim Crow:

"Up to the year 1898 South Carolina had resisted the Jim Crow car movement which had swept the western states of the South completely by that time.   In that year, however, after several attempts, the proponents of the Jim Crow law were on the eve of victory.  The Charleston News and Courier, the oldest newspaper in the South and a consistent spokesman of conservatism, fired a final broadside against extremists in behalf of the conservative creed of race policy."

'As we have got on fairly well for a third of a century, including a long period of reconstruction, without such a measure, wrote the editor,  'we can probably get on as well hereafter without it, and certainly so extreme a measure sound not be adopted and enforced without added and urgent cause.'  he then called attention to what he considered the absurd consequences to which such a law might lead one the principle of the thing were conceded.   'If there must be Jim Crow cars on the railroads, there should be Jim Crow cars on the street railways.  Also on all passenger boats...If there are to be Jim Crow cars, moreover, there should be Jim Crow waiting saloons at all stations, and Jim Crow eating houses....There should be Jim Crow sections of the jury box, and a separate Jim Crow dock and witness stand in every court-and a Jim Crow Bible for colored witnesses to kiss.   It would be advisable also to have a Jim Crow section in county auditors' and treasurers' offices for the accommodation of colored taxpayers.   The two races are dreadfully mixed in these offices for weeks every year, especially about Christmas...There should be a Jim Crow department for making returns and paying for the privileges and blessings of citizenship.   Perhaps, the best plan would be, after all, to take the short cut to the general establishing two or three Jim crow counties at once, and turning them over to our colored citizens for their special and exclusive accommodation."

In resorting to the tactics of reductio ad surdium the editor doutbless believed that he had dealt the Jim Crow principle a telling  blow with his heavy irony.   But there is now apparent to us an irony in his argument of which the author was unconscious.   For what he intended as a reductio ad surdium and obviously regarded as an absurdity became in a very short time a reality, and only that but a reality that was regarded as the ONLY SENSIBLE SOLUTION (caps mine) to a vexing problem, a solution having the sanction of tradition and long usage.   Apart from the Jim Crow counties and Jim Crow witness stand, all the improbable applications of the principle suggested by the editor IN DERISION (caps mine) had been put into practice - down to and including the Jim Crow Bible."

This was written in 1955, and was written to chronicle the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century.

Now....regarding President Obama's sentiments:   he is WELL aware of the symbolism surrounding his presidency, and his awareness of the historical context is something to which we should ALL pay attention, especially now.   Never more than now.

"So", you may be asking, "what's Sam's point?"

First (and this is a BIG stretch for me), to the community of American citizens who are of the African diaspora that includes the profound and sickening horrors of slavery and Jim Crow:   WE CANNOT SIT THIS ONE OUT DUE TO PETTY PERSONALITY POLITICS!   We have watched, we have seen, and while Secretary of State Clinton is at best less than squeaky clean, consider the alternative.  

We have ALL fought too much over too many years to let this happen.    PERIOD.

While there is more that I could say, this is hopefully enough.   There's TOO MUCH AT STAKE for us to argue and denigrate the DNC for its shadiness towards Bernie Sanders.    Mr. Sanders himself has recently said that this is NOT the time to cast a protest vote.  The stakes are too high, folks, and as I said in December 2015, "If you don't get it by now, you ain't ever going to..."

DO THE RIGHT THING.  ANYONE who has been paying attention since 1965 has a moral and KARMIC obligation to keep things moving forward, and despite all of the CRAP that we have seen, the choice is now clear - and if I may, the choice ain't the man who will create a serious racist, xenophobic, and antigay police state that will be one hundred times WORSE that what we're experiencing at the present moment.

"That's all I have today..."

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