You Not ‘Bout No Life: The Logical Fallacy of the Anti-Abortion Conservative & The Reason Trump and His Cronies Can Go Choke on a Communion Wafer

Anyone that has been following me for longer than one post knows I am a stickler when it comes to using words. Or maybe you don’t. So let me tell you. It can take me five or six hours to write a post sometimes because I keep trying to capture my ideas perfectly.

I never write unless I can compose on a computer, so I can open up Edge if I’m using Word, or a second tab in Edge if I’m blogging, and have up the Merriam-Webster website in case I need to look up a word.

I even have a whole collection of axioms I use when I’m teaching to stress the importance of being exacting when it comes to using words. I tell my students there is an entire lexicon of words to capture their ideas, so stop using the same 20 or 30. Do not rely on context clues to define a new word – I tell them – look it up. Do not use a word whose meaning you do not know, no matter how “sophisticated” you think it sounds.

I tell them there are no two less descriptive adjectives in the English language than “good” and “bad” – these words can mean anything to anyone. Adverbs are often just crutches for writers that don’t know a wide enough variety of action verbs. Very few words are truly interchangeable, and that is particularly true of the two words I’m going to break down in this post.

One of the defining characteristics of American political conservatives – who are mostly Republicans – is that they are “pro-life.” This term, as it is customarily used, refers to people purported to believe abortion is immoral and should be illegal.

John Hawkins, in an article differentiating conservatives and liberals, writes, “Conservatives believe that abortion ends the life of an innocent child and since we believe that infanticide is wrong, we oppose abortion.” To me – a liberal black Democrat feminist – this explanation captures perfectly the inaccuracy of the term “pro-life.” Conservatives are not really pro-life; they’re just anti-abortion.

They propagate the idea that human life begins at conception, and supposedly root their beliefs about abortion in that idea, but, when it comes to their other political beliefs, they expose an undeniable callousness about the preciousness of human life that ultimately undermines them.

Their “pro-life” language and optics can be pretty compelling, but I still say they are not convincing, and the majority of conservatives that oppose abortion politically and publically are not actually concerned with the immorality of the act of killing but rather the ramifications of a paradigm shift in America’s racial demography.

They don’t care about the poor lost babies; they care about the fact that white women obtained 39% of abortions in America in 2014 while black women obtained 28%, Latinx women obtained 25%, and other races and ethnicities only obtained 9%.

They care about the fact that 75% of women that obtained abortions in America in 2014 were low income or poor, and these abortions placed them in better positions to attend school, work, build, and retain some wealth.

According to Gallup, the majority of Republicans in America are white (89%),  and we know the majority of political conservatives are Republican.

The majority of conservatives in government are also Republican, white, and supposedly “pro-life,” and this now includes Trump – He Who I Shall Not Call President.

I think Trump’s pro-life views are just another guise for his all-consuming opportunism. I won’t say the thing I want to say about how likely it is that as a philandering billionaire, Trump has paid for more than a few hasty secret abortions in his time, but I will say that up until his Presidential campaign last year, he appeared to be – and he was quoted in 1999 referring to himself as – “very pro-choice.”

I think he flip-flopped to help win over the conservative electorate, and that would be fine with me if it didn’t translate into him making efforts at the federal level to strip American women of their abortion rights.

In regards to staunch “pro-lifers” like Vice President Michael Pence, I won’t say that they are lying about being Christians or believing abortion is wrong because there’s no way I can know that.

But I can and do conjecture that their religious beliefs are not the true basis of their official stance against abortion. They oppose abortion for political reasons and lie about it so they don’t seem like ruthless monsters or machines.

I say this because the prevailing sentiment throughout the New Testament is that disciples of Jesus should go out and try to win and save souls, but disciples are characterized as trained teachers and preachers in the Bible, and not laymen, and no Christian’s salvation is hinged by the Word on his or her ability to keep another Christian or another person from committing sins.

In other words, Christianity doesn’t mandate that believers actively block the sinful decisions and actions of others. It doesn’t encourage believers to interfere with other people’s lives that aggressively. The Bible says tell people about the Trinity, pray for people, model Christian behavior for them, but do not judge or seek to punish them because that is God’s job alone.

And anyway, even if these highly vocal conservatives in government do care about the souls of their constituents, their myopic focus on abortion as the main political conduit for conveying morality to the American people – if such a thing can even be done – says that isn’t the only thing they are trying to accomplish with their anti-abortion antics.

Because drug use, alcohol consumption, pornography, and prostitution are all still booming in America today, but you don’t see conservatives pushing for any legislation to more efficiently block Americans’ access to any of them.

And rape, divorce, defrauding people, gambling, persecuting others, and acting against the poor are all sins, according to the Bible, but American laws actually enable all of these things, and conservatives do very little, if anything, to change, improve, or strengthen these laws.

Unborn babies aren’t the only ones dying because of the wide berth our current laws give Americans to exercise their free will. Conservatives could take political umbrage with the way a dozen different issues are legislated at the moment, or make a dozen different strategic moves in this session of Congress, if saving lives is really what they wanted to do, but, as we should all see from the endless fucking stream of government articles on the Internet, they don’t.

Conservatives don’t want increased gun control in a country where there were 372 mass shootings that killed 475 people in 2015; there were 13,286 people killed by firearms (excluding suicides); and 60% of murders were committed with guns.

Conservatives want to repeal Obamacare before creating and implementing a workable replacement when research shows that 45,000 Americans died each year due to lack of health insurance before Obamacare.

Conservatives want to end government programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program a/k/a food stamps), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, yet, again, research shows that 162,000 Americans die annually due to low social support; 133,000 die due to individual-level poverty; and 119,000 die due to income inequality.

Conservatives give blanket support to law enforcement though American police killed an estimated 928 people every year for the last eight years, and there is no way of knowing – because of inefficient tracking procedures – which of these killings were justified and which were avoidable.

And while we’re at it – conservatives believe in a strong military, yet “approximately 165,000 [Iraqi] civilians have died from direct war related violence caused by the US, its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the [US] invasion through April 2015 . . . through aerial bombing, shelling, gunshots, suicide attacks, and fires started by bombing.”

According to their propaganda, human life begins at the moment of conception, but it also seems to end at the instant of birth – the point at which they stop trying to pantomime concern and exploit their preciousness for the sake of political expediency.

Conservatives want to outlaw the 1.2 million abortions that American women have each year, regardless of their reasons, but seem to have no problem with directly or indirectly facilitating the deaths of roughly half that number of full people through the exercise of a malignant passel their other political beliefs.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Where does their supposed Christian concern for life and will to save innocent souls go when they are tussling back-and-forth with Democrats that want to save Obamacare or toughen up gun control or stop the use of military torture on our so-called enemies? I mean, hey, Christians are supposed to love their enemies.

And if anti-abortion laws are really only about getting women to have their babies, then why don’t conservatives focus on getting women to have their babies willingly?

According to the Guttmacher Institute, “The reasons patients gave for having an abortion underscored their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life [emphasis added]. The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.”

So where are the conservatives pushing for the laws that increase and equalize women’s wages, mandate paid maternity leave and maternal job retention, subsidize childcare costs, or grant free family health insurance or childcare to enrolled college students?

You don’t see or hear from these conservatives because conservatives’ issue with abortion isn’t really moral, and their campaign against it isn’t borne out of compassion; it’s borne out of their bottomless cunning.

I think when conservatives insist that infant lives matter, they are prevaricating. They are couching shrewd political strategy in seeming ethicality. They’re not talking about saving souls. They’re trying to shore up political and economic power to comfortably sustain them into the country’s uncertain future.

Conservatives are, again, mostly Republican, and Republicans are mostly white. Whites have hegemonic power over America as a result of being the framers of the republic and authors and economic beneficiaries of slavery and the Industrial Revolution in North America.

A primary factor in their hegemony is their numbers; they are the majority, so, when they vote together, as witnessed in the last Presidential race, they can dictate the leadership of the country and choose such that the leadership acts primarily in their favor.

When conservatives fight to take away women’s right to abortion, they are not fighting the wages of sin. They are fighting to stave off the arrival of the mythological majority-minority tipping point date, on which they will no longer be the majority and so easily able to secure their hegemony. They are fighting, behind that, to saddle poor minorities with children they can’t afford, so they have a harder time educating themselves, working, and building wealth or rather encroaching on the money white people want to horde for themselves, and, behind that, they are fighting to keep a perennial underclass in American society that is made of mostly of minorities – a segment of the population that is persistently poor and mired in pathologies of poverty that keep its members from rising to the working or middle classes, where they could become competition for less affluent whites.

Conservatives understand that unplanned, unaffordable pregnancies are often “part of the vicious cycle of poverty,” in which “kids born into poverty are likely to remain there for their whole lives, despite the promise of the American Dream.”

They also know that “compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes,” and “[p]sychological well-being improved over time so that both groups of women eventually converged.” Women that are denied abortions do not end up “happier” than women that are allowed to have them.

I think this is important for women to realize because we are – across communities – conditioned to care deeply about how we appear under the male gaze – to be “good” girls (see – that projective-ass word)  and – when the men with the loudest voices and weightiest opinions censure our options for our lives – it is difficult for many of us to bear up under that and fight for the resources and choices we need to be autonomous.

Conservatives make a lot of moralistic and misogynistic arguments against abortion (not the least is the sub-textual argument that women’s overall wellbeing in politically expendable), but the truth is the majority of women don’t use abortions as a means of birth control, and they don’t relish having to make the decision or go through with having an abortion. They do it because it’s what they feel they have to do.

The majority of women have abortions out of financial, psychological, and/or physical necessity, and they do not choose adoption because to do so they would still have to take on the financial, psychological, and physical of pregnancy, and those are not incidental in the least – no matter what conservative white male members of Congress that know everything they know about pregnancy and childbirth from watching their affluent wives and side chicks go through it might say.

And, despite the misleading way conservatives talk about cutting funding for institutions like Planned Parenthood, federal money does not pay for abortions in any institutional setting, even if abortions are given in that setting.

Sadly, anti-abortion laws don’t ensure either – in conjunction with blocking abortions – that every American child that is allowed to be born is adequately fed, clothed, housed, educated, or loved.

According to Children’s Rights, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the US right now. Nearly six percent of children in foster care stay in for five or more years. More than half of the children entering foster care are racial minorities. Fourteen percent of children in foster care are not in family settings; they are in institutions or group homes.

In 2015, over 62,000 American children whose parents’ parental rights had been terminated were waiting to be adopted, and more than 20,000 young adults aged out of foster care without permanent families.

Research has shown that those who leave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults.”

Too, 686,000 US children in foster care in 2012 were victims of abuse – 78.3% of these babies were neglected, 18.3% were battered, 9.3% were physically abused, 8.5% were “psychologically maltreated,” and 1,640 died from abuse and neglect.

If conservative Republicans were really ’bout that life – as they say in the streets – where so many unwanted American children end up after everything is said and done on Capitol Hill – they’d be brainstorming ways to keep these young ones out of foster care, not shove more of them in.

If they were about life at all, and not just money and power, they’d focus on making America livable for everyone and stop using poor women’s wombs as metaphoric or spiritual suicide bombs.

 

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America 101: Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda

Like the abusive boyfriend that I called him in my last post, Trump has conditioned me to be suspicious of his smarmy grin. When I see it, I automatically think he’s up to no good. If he’s not wreaking havoc, why would his orange-colored ass be happy? He’s oppositional. He doesn’t get off on doing what other people want him to do.

News stories swiftly confirmed for me that Trump is indeed busy making trouble; he signed two presidential memoranda and is supposedly drafting an executive order that will bear environmentally racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic effects.

The first – the Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline – directs the Secretary of the Army  to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to . . . review and approve in an expedited manner . . . requests for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL, including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas.”

The Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline invites TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. to “promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline” and directs the Secretary of State to expeditiously review the application, if submitted, and the Secretary of the Army, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to review and approve  . . . requests for authorization to utilize Nationwide Permit 12 . . . with respect to crossings of the ‘waters of the United States’ by the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

Of course, both directives essentially ignore the fears of the citizens living in the areas through and around which these pipelines will pass, including large numbers of indigenous people from the Standing Rock Sioux and Oglala Lakota Nation.

Finally, the executive order that is in the works, according to The Huffington Post, would “dramatically restrict” the numbers of refugees admitted to the US and deny visas to people from countries Trump and his administration deem “high risk.”

Sources say the details of the order could block Syrian refugees from entering the US indefinitely; block people from countries with so-called “inadequate” security screening from obtaining visas (i.e. entering the country); and, most significantly, target Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – all Muslim-majority countries – because they are “terror-prone.”

It would not constitute a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” as Trump promised during his campaign, but it would be a betrayal of our democratic philosophy and identity as an immigrant nation, as well as constitute a failure to adhere to the principle of non-refoulement, which is regarded as customary international law, according to the United Nations.

I actually think such an executive order, if issued, would also represent an egregious abuse of presidential power because of its potentially fatal ramifications and bigoted logical and political bases. It would target Muslim refugees of color and exacerbate our seeming blindness to the fact that extremist domestic terrorism is a much realer and more dangerous threat to America than Islamic terrorism.

The nomenclature of these three directives – they are “memos” and “orders” and not “bills” or “amendments “- may make them sound less consequential or binding than customary multilateral legislation, but they are not; they have the full force of the law and dictate the actions of departments and agencies under the executive branch of the federal government.

Thankfully, they are still subject to judicial review if the Supreme Court finds that they are not supported by the Constitution or federal law.

Though reporters sometimes talk about them interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Executive orders have more prestige; they are more comprehensive; and they can take legal precedence over – they can interfere with the execution of – a presidential memorandum.

Thankfully again, neither executive orders nor presidential memoranda allow the President to circumnavigate or work around the approval of Congress when it comes to creating or changing major laws and regulations, however both can skirt the need for bipartisanship or cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, which can be problematic with these instruments can affect some very serious, wide-reaching issues.

In fact, the integration of the armed forces (President Harry S. Truman) and desegregation of public schools (President Dwight D. Eisenhower) – historic changes to American history and culture – were both enacted by executive order.

Tragically, an executive order issued by in February 1942 – No. 9066 – also set the stage for the internment of 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans (70,000 of whom were American citizens) during WWII:

Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities [it read] . . . as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War . . . to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he . . . may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.

In response to Executive Order 9066, General John L. DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 1, which designated all of the states of California, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona as Military Areas 1 and 2.

Then, with the power to “exclude” people from these areas as a matter of safety, DeWitt determined that all people of Japanese descent in Area 1 (the western half of Washington and Oregon, the southern half of Arizona, the western half of California from the Oregon border to Los Angeles, and all of the area south of Los Angeles) would be “evacuated” and “relocated.”

Japanese Americans in Area 1 were encouraged to “voluntarily evacuate” to Area 2 and other inland states, but, when many failed to move because of financial constraints, DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 4, which prohibited Japanese-Americans from leaving Area 1 and began their forced removal.

This effort culminated in Japanese Americans’ eviction from all of California except war camps in Manzanar and Tule Lake, which entailed the irretrievable loss – in the majority of instances – of their businesses, home, and farms.

This abhorrent episode of our nation’s history reveals how directives from the President can actually facilitate egregious abuses of power by facilitating government actions that disfranchise and oppress less privileged and valorized segments of our population.

As a true example and not a hypothetical scenario, the legality and approbation of Japanese American internment in the US, when weighed with the white supremacist tone of Trump’s campaign platform and erratic personal and professional tendencies, make me afraid for the indigenous people fighting against the construction of DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline, quite honestly.

I am afraid that Trump’s memoranda might rob a large number of them of the protection – which is not always a matter of shielding someone from violent attack – Presidents are duty-bound to provide American citizens.

I haven’t written on the blog previously about the DAPL or Keystone XL Pipeline, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t troubled me. Regardless of what their builders of the federal government says, they’re not energy or employment pie in the sky.

Their means will not justify their ends if in the end they poison American citizens by order of the nation’s top executive. And this is exactly what it appears they will do, according to probability and well-known research on the dangers of oil contamination.

The DAPL is described on Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline Facts website as the “safest and most environmentally sensitive way to transport crude oil from [the Dakotas to Illinois] to American consumer.” The site also claims that the pipeline “crosses almost entirely private land” and not the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

“United States Army Corps of Engineers alone held 389 meetings with 55 tribes regarding the Dakota Access project,” the site says, and “reached out to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe nearly a dozen times to discuss archaeological and other surveys conducted before finalizing the Dakota Access route.”

“We have great respect for the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and plan to continue to work with their leaders to address those concerns.”

In a similarly slick and reassuring tone, the Keystone XL Pipeline is described on the TransCanada website as a “critical infrastructure project for the energy security of the United States and for strengthening the American economy” that will “create thousands of well-paying construction jobs” and “generate tens of millions of dollars in annual property taxes” and an estimated $3 billion in gross domestic profit.

All of this copy makes these projects sound amazingly beneficial for the American public, but I will take an educated guess that ETP and TransCanada paid very high-powered, highly skilled consultants to come up with this transparent-seeming language in an attempt to hide the truth that they cannot control every single variable that could play a part in building and maintaining these pipelines.

According to the sales pitch, the DAPL will whisk oil out of the Dakotas on to Iowa and Illinois, and a panoply of perfectly functional, impeccably maintained, and painstakingly inspected safety measures will prevent it from hurting anyone – the same with the Keystone XL Pipeline, transporting oil sands from Alberta, Canada. Yet, numerous credible media reports counter this copy with negative claims about what the DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline will really do once they are completed and operational.

ETP and TransCanada – and now Donald Trump – posit that these projects will resolve major issues with energy development and production, employment, and our economy. The Standing Rock Sioux argue that as it passes underneath their Lake Oahe, the DAPL may poison their main source of drinking water, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) warns that by providing more oil to America, the Keystone XL Pipeline will contribute drastically to global warming by producing high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from the transport of tar sand.

Toxic leakage into ground water from the Keystone XL Pipeline is also a likely possibility with extremely harmful results.

Time Magazine captures the wholly justifiable upset indigenous residents in the Dakotas are experiencing in regards to the construction of these pipelines in an article entitled “What to Know About the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests.” 

“Builders . . . insist that they have taken extraordinary measures to safeguard against disaster,” it says, “but . . . even the safest pipelines can leak.”

As with math, history is not on the side of ETP or TransCanada, either: “The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has reported more than 3,300 incidents of leaks and ruptures at oil and gas pipelines since 2010,” according to Time. “And even the smallest spill could damage the tribe’s water supply.”

Research posted on the Auburn University website elucidates the “damage” referenced in the Time article.

It reads: “Ponca City, Oklahoma is an example of one of the cities that is being affected by the expansion of the Keystone pipeline. Ponca City is now receiving an increased amount of toxic emissions from tar sand transport  . . . Tar sand produces 17% more greenhouse gases than traditional crude oil [here the author cites NPR].

“The air quality [in Ponca City] has become life threatening, and residents are forced to breathe in dangerous emissions. Children in surrounding [areas of] the new pipeline are 56% more likely to develop leukemia versus children that live ten miles away.”

The Tar Sands Blockade website explains in further detail: “Tar sands, a mixture of sand, petroleum, and mineral salts, must be diluted with a highly toxic class of chemical . . . [they] are known to sink in water, making cleanup exorbitantly expensive and practically impossible . . . [and when] exposed to air, its diluents [diluting agents] evaporate like paint thinner forming heavy toxic clouds near at ground level.”

CNN report also confirms that, yes, extracting oil from oil sands does pump approximately 17% more greenhouse gases into the air than standard oil extraction

Toxic exposure from breathing these clouds, the Tar Sands Blockade says again, has happened in every instance when tar sands leaked from the existent Keystone Pipeline near residential areas, and it has given people “painful rashes, breathing complications, chemical sensitivities, nausea, migraines, and exacerbated cancer activity.”

I couldn’t locate exact numbers of people essentially poisoned by leaks and emissions from the existent Keystone Pipeline, but I did find this interesting, and horrifying, anecdote about the effects of oil sand poisoning on a Canadian newspaper website (the pipeline transports oil sands from Canada into the US):

In 2006, Dr. John O’Connor, a traveling physician in Canada’s northern Bush found in Fort Chipewyan, downstream from the tar sands’ processing operations, exceptionally high incidences of cancers in the Mikisew Cree residents: ‘The cancers are sort of one extreme — blood and lymphatic cancer, thyroid cancer, central nervous system cancer and bile duct, biliary tract cancer … I saw a lot of auto-immune diseases, like Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, a lot of skin disorders, gastro-intestinal disorders of various types, just a lot. Taken as a whole in the population that was only 850 — it was just phenomenal. It didn’t make any sense.’

“It didn’t make any sense,” O’Connor says, i.e. its causes weren’t genetic; they were environmental.

Federal policy that fails to protect a specific racial group, even in the case of environmental policy, is illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states, “Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.”

In pushing forward the construction of the DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline, Trump is breaking Constitutional law, shirking his duty to faithfully execute the law, violating human rights, and potentially sacrificing thousands of indigenous lives for billions of dollars, yes, but just 50 permanent jobs, at least in the case of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Whether the indigenous population of America was 1 million, 5 million, or 12 million before colonialism and westward expansion – theories various camps of historians argue among one another – what is fact is there were only 250,000 indigenous peope left in the continguous US that by the end of the 1800s. The indigenous that died were killed – at the highest level – by government policy – a shameful truth for which America can only atone by working as hard as possible to honor the descendants of those lost.

Trump’s memoranda are mere extensions of the US government’s history and perennial policy of taking over indigenous lands, disfranchising indigenous people, and murdering them, even if this time it will happen indirectly and “accidentally.”

These memoranda – along with the executive order on immigration – which is not only ahistorical and isolationist, but also reductive, triangularly biased, and morally disingenuous (it pretends to be fair to Muslim refugees seeking asylum but is really rather simple to misuse) – distort what should be the true purpose for the President to issue a directive. That is to make the executive branch of our government run more smoothly so that it may better serve us – the people.

They distort the true purpose of Presidential office as a whole, but they reveal the true nature of the person this country has elected to be its President.

Trump is a nihilistic capitalist with so little respect for the lives of people of color that he might end up putting Millard Fillmore, Andrew Jackson, or Andrew Johnson to shame when it comes to instituting racist policies with profoundly negative effects on the entire culture.

He said he would make America great again, but he also said he doesn’t read, which might be why he can’t tell the “GR” phoneme from “H.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A hortatory memorandum is issued as a broad policy statement

Trump is Our Bad Boyfriend, and We the People Are Getting Gaslighted

I don’t hate anyone in my real life (versus my political life) except the asshole to which I lost my virginity.

He taught me about gaslighting, and he is probably one of the only people in this world around which I would consistently lose my shit–if I ever allowed his ass around me.

I even skipped my cousin’s last birthday party because I saw on Facebook, in a comment, he planned to come, and I refuse to be closed up in the same room with him. I will do any- and everything I can so I don’t have to speak to him.

He didn’t assault me when we hooked up, but he was a significantly older boy with much more confidence, aggression, emotional dexterity, and sexual experience. He was able to perceive and assess the power differential between us much more quickly and intelligently than I was and exploit it easily and slickly because I was so inexperienced and intimidated by him.

And I hate him for being willing to do that. To ignore all the signs that I wasn’t ready for what was happening or sure I wanted it to happen. To look at my confusion as an advantage of the situation. To be so deeply lacking in empathy or decency.

But I also take responsibility for the fact that I didn’t use my own agency to get out of what I perceived pretty early on as a bad situation.

When I say that this asshole has gaslighted me, I’m not talking about what he did that one afternoon; I’m talking about what he’s done to me ever since that afternoon, every time I have the misfortune of talking to him.

He pretends like I cared for him. Like I invited him into the room and initiated intercourse with him. Like the fact that I didn’t want to be around him in the aftermath is because I am so terribly attracted to him, it makes me afraid and/or embarrassed of myself.

He pretends like we had a relationship. Like I told him that I wanted to be with him. Like I “refuse” to be with him because I am intimidated by his virility and all this other imaginary “good” shit he doesn’t have going for himself.

When he contacts me on Facebook, which he’s done more than a few times, he talks like he knows my desires and understands my preferences and habits. He tells me what I want and what I feel and what I would like to happen between us.

When I tell him to fuck off, he tells me I don’t really mean it. I’m being coy. I need to stop pretending. The reality is, though, of all the wrongheaded shit I’ve done in my entire life–and, mind you, I lived with undiagnosed ADHD for 39 years–having sex with him is what I regret most deeply.

I really do consider him to be the most reprehensible human being I know, namely because he is willing to play such sick games with people’s minds.

In my political or civic life, there is, unfortunately, an equivalent to this asshole, and he is Donald Trump.

(And you might as well resign yourselves–those of you hung up on formality or custom or whatever–because I am not going to call him “President.” Ever.

I’m not going to dignify him because he refuses, much like The Asshole, to acknowledge what he did to the American electorate and deal from a place of accountability.)

Trump is the nation’s bad boyfriend, and he’s gaslighting the shit out of us.

Gaslighting is the deliberate attempt to make a person believe that his or her perceptions of an occurrence are not only incorrect, but that the perceptions are the result of that person’s own mental or emotional instability.

When I say Trump is gaslighting us, I’m not talking about the way he is enacting his electoral agenda. In that area, he’s actually demonstrating some integrity, even though his actions are still damaging as hell.

He said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and he signed an executive order yesterday that most experts view as the first significant step in rolling it back– have mercy.

The order makes it possible for the Secretary of Health and other officials to interpret ACA regulations as loosely as possible–to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay implementation of any provision or requirement . . . to the maximum extent permitted by law” and ostensibly interfere with the administration of healthcare to 20 million needful Americans.

This is horrible, but it may actually be the only transparent thing he’s done since winning the election last November.

It begs the question why so many people that are dependent on the provisions of the ACA voted for Trump, but that’s a question for those people to ponder. I voted for HRC, and my conscience, in that respect, is clear.

When I say Trump is gaslighting the American people–and he is–don’t doubt it–I’m talking about his responses to two situations in particular–Russia’s interference in his election and yesterday’s Women’s March on Washington.

If we look really closely at the things Trump has said and done to control the way we–the American public–perceive and process both of these occurrences–we will see that he is employing numerous toxic diversion tactics to persuade us there is nothing wrong with the way he conducted his campaign, or has proceeded, since his win, to ignore the rising concerns of the electorate–and, if there is any “problem,” it is us.

An article on Thought Catalog lists 20 different diversion tactics that sociopaths and psychopaths use to–and I think it’s particularly germane to this post that the writer uses this term–“silence” the rest of us.

“Toxic people . . .” Shahida Arabi writes, “engage in maladaptive behaviors [and] use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility.”

Apropos of Trump, Arabi writes, “[A]busive narcissists use these [diversionary tactics] to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.”

And in the last few weeks, Trump has not only used gaslighting, but projection, blanket statements, nitpicking, moving the goalpost, changing the subject, threats, name-calling, smear campaigning, shaming, and controlling (so a total of 11 out of 20 tactics) to prevent the American public at large from critiquing his words, condemning his actions, and/or opposing his inauguration.

This is not an exaggeration.

The U.S. intelligence community, which includes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), released a declassified assessment of the Russian “hacking” of the Presidential election on January 6 that stated “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign” with the goals of “undermin[ing] public faith in the US democratic process, denigrat[ing] Secretary Clinton, and harm[ing] her electability . . .

The media by and large used the vague term “cyberattack” to reference Russia’s efforts to sabotage Hillary Clinton, but the intelligence report is much more detailed in its explanation of what Russia did:

We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency. 

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.  

In trying to influence the US election, we assess the Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, the promotion of which Putin and other senior Russian leaders view as a threat to Russia and Putin’s regime.

Putin publicly pointed to the Panama Papers disclosure and the Olympic doping scandal as US-directed efforts to defame Russia, suggesting he sought to use disclosures to discredit the image of the United States and cast it as hypocritical.

Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.

Too, Putin wants–note the shift to the present tense here–to “befriend” America for economic reasons. Of course. Is there anything any of these leaders do that isn’t motivated first and foremost by money? (It’s called imperialism.)

According to a CNBC article on Putin, Russia is a “petrostate”–it makes the bulk of its money from oil and gas exports, so, when oil prices drop, or other countries place sanctions on Russia, its economy suffers terribly.

After taking over part of Ukraine in 2014, and being sanctioned by the US and a number of our Western European allies, Russia’s gross domestic product has dropped over 40 percent, but its massive population hasn’t.

So Putin is seeking to lessen the economic pressure the US is putting on Russia. He wants Trump to lift the old and new sanctions against Russia that were ordered by Obama.

According to former Russian ambassador Stephen Sestanovich, he is also seeking “some sort of get-out-jail free card” that will keep the US and Europe from interfering in Russia’s affairs if and when it makes more aggressive moves against other countries.

The Economist says:

Every week Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, finds new ways to scare the world. Recently he moved nuclear-capable missiles close to Poland and Lithuania. This week he sent an aircraft-carrier group down the North Sea and the English Channel. He has threatened to shoot down any American plane that attacks the forces of Syria’s despot, Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s UN envoy has said that relations with America are at their tensest in 40 years. Russian television news is full of ballistic missiles and bomb shelters.

And Russia will keep making moves like this because the country’s economic problems have created unrest between the government and the middle classes in Russia’s largest cities.

Economist staff writes, “Mr Putin has sought [also] to offset vulnerability at home with aggression abroad.”

They claim:

With their mass protests after election-rigging in 2011-12, Russia’s sophisticated urban middle classes showed that they yearn for a modern state. When the oil price was high, Mr Putin could resist them by buying support. Now he shores up his power by waging foreign wars and using his propaganda tools to whip up nationalism. He is wary of giving any ground to Western ideas because Russia’s political system, though adept at repression, is brittle. Institutions that would underpin a prosperous Russia, such as the rule of law, free media, democracy and open competition, pose an existential threat to Mr Putin’s rotten state.

This explains why Putin worked to sabotage the Presidential election on two fronts; he wanted to win favor with Trump so Trump will lift the sanctions, and he wanted to make democracy look less attractive to his own dissatisfied citizens.

Yet another reason Putin sabotaged the election, according to experts, is he hopes that by helping Trump win, he has convinced Trump to do business in Russia.

Trump has a history of doing business with Russians. When Trump’s professional failures lost him credibility among US investors back in the 1980s, he traveled to Moscow to gain new investors for his real estate ventures.

Consequently, many of his high-end condo buyers in New York and Florida over the past few decades have been Russians; many Russians have developed their own American properties and paid royalties to put the Trump name on these buildings.

In 2008, Trump’s son, Donald Jr., reportedly told investors in Moscow that Trump had trademarked his name in Russia and planned to build real estate in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi, as well as sell more licenses to other Russian developers.

“We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Donald Jr. apparently said at the time.

It’s not implausible that Putin wants to work with Trump to somehow make good on those old, abandoned promises, and perhaps placate the middle class with new opportunities, since Russia’s current economic landscape is so bleak, and they are so angry about it.

It’s even more plausible that Trump knows this, right? It’s likely that he knows all of this.

He knows about Russia’s failing economy; he knows about Putin’s fascist military tactics; he knows that Putin wants to do business with him; and he knows the “cyberattacks” on the election helped him to win.

Yet, what has he said and done in response to these “cyberattacks”?

He called the government effort to get to the bottom of the hacking a “witch hunt.”

He asked, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?” But the White House announced in October that it believed Russia had hacked the DNC and leaked its emails.

He conjectured that “unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”

He tweeted, about the CIA, “They were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction[,] so why trust them?”

He goaded the intelligence community at large: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

And when he was called to task for saying these things, he accused the media of being “dishonest” and spreading “lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”

He blamed the proliferation of computer technology in our everyday lives for the hacking and not Putin and his government: “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.”

Then, after he attended an intelligence briefing on the hacking, in the last week of December, and his inauguration was sparsely attended and deliberately skipped by many members of Congress, he went to the CIA yesterday–during the Women’s March no less–and told the same people he’d spent weeks attacking: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.”

See what I’m saying?

He acted as if he didn’t attack the intelligence community, just like he acted as if the intelligence community had wrongly or unfairly attacked Russia and him.

Gaslighting.

And there’s all the rest of it, too.

Projection: “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.”

Blanket statements: “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”

Nitpicking: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

Changing the subject: “They were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction so why trust them?”

Shaming: “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?”

Love-bombing: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.”

Controlling.

Trump is trying his hardest to control the way that we perceive him. He is setting up to abuse his office and its power but at the same time conditioning us to think negatively about institutions that could help us to stay truthfully informed of his actions.

He is also conditioning us to question our impulse to question him.

You can see this attempt to exert malignant control in his inaugural address, too.

“Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another,” he said, “but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth . . . The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.”

“That all changes — starting right here, and right now,” he vowed, “because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”

In his conclusion, he reiterated that “[we] will never be ignored again.”

“Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams,” he said,  “will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”
Yet, Trump lost the popular vote by 3,000,000. There is, again, evidence that the election was fixed, even if to a minimal extent, by the Russian government. Even his so-called fellow Republicans acknowledge the veracity of the intelligence community investigation.
Since Trump’s election, hundreds of thousands of Americans have expressed misgivings about his promise to repeal and replace the ACA, yet he hasn’t addressed our concerns in any real way.
Trump’s inauguration had the smallest attendance of a Presidential inauguration in 12 years, according to estimates. Dozens of entertainers reportedly refused to perform as part of the celebration, and many members of Congress refused to attend.
And, almost immediately after it, the Women’s March organized in opposition to Trump brought over a million protesters to the main march in DC and “sister” marches all around the US and rest of the world.
To be sure, Reuters confirms that “[t]he demonstrations . . . highlighted strong discontent over Trump’s comments and policy positions toward a wide range of groups, including Mexican immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and environmentalists.”
Trump should’ve had a direct response to this, but, instead, he hid somewhere in the White House and sent his Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, to deal with the issue of the protesters before the media cameras.
This was a very deliberate and clear devaluation of their opposition and yet another of those diversionary tactics that malignant narcissists regularly employ.
Spicer held a televised media briefing yesterday evening, but, instead of addressing the protesters’ grievances, he spent his time and energy lashing out at the media for its coverage of the inauguration on Friday.
He acted as if the march wasn’t still happening, and it hadn’t received staunch support from people in France, England, Australia, and South Africa.

“[Friday’s] was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the globe,” Spicer said. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

“We’re going to hold the press accountable as well,” he also said. “The American people deserve better.”

There it is again. Gaslighting. Lying. Threatening.

Spicer bitched about a reporter that tweeted on Friday that Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from his office even though the reporter had already said he was wrong and apologized.

Changing the subject. Nitpicking.

And Spicer talked about Trump’s meeting with the CIA rather, which really came off then like a diversion from the march. He criticized the Democrats in the Senate for “playing politics” and refusing to let Mike Pompeo lead the CIA.

“It’s a shame that the CIA didn’t have a CIA Director to be with [Trump} today when he visited,” Spicer said.

 

Blanket statement. Moving the goal post. Sarcasm.

All of this–destructive conditioning.

I didn’t write anything about the inauguration on the blog on Friday because I needed to get my thoughts together before I wrote something long from. However, I posted quite a few things on my Facebook, and I read dozens of posts throughout the day.

Most of my friends on Facebook were upset and just as adamant as I was about letting everyone else know they were upset, but a lot of them were urging the rest of us to just “accept” that Trump won the election and get back to living our lives.

My response to that was “If you put your head in the sand, all they have to do then is bury the rest of you.”

If my research about the Cabinet taught me nothing else, it’s that government affects just about every aspect of your life, right down to how much you pay for your tampons (it’s called the Pink Tax).

If you ignore what the government is doing, it doesn’t stop the government from affecting you. You are still subject to every decision made under its auspices, whether you know the decision has been made or understand the ramifications of the decision.

I think it’s better to know, and I think it’s better to fight whatever inequities get passed down.

Despite himself, Trump is now in control of our government. Many people–myself included–believe he is a sociopath. But, even if he isn’t, he is clannish, delusional, opportunistic, indulgent, unstable, dishonest, and greedy.

He is a danger to the American people and system of government, and I don’t care what the fuck he says.

His verbal behaviors speak much louder than his actual words.

And, sadly, we Americans that do not want him or trust him to lead us cannot shut him out of our lives like I have shut The Asshole out of mine.

We are forced to reckon with him for at least the next four years, or until he gets impeached, whichever one comes first (I’m praying for the impeachment).

But, in the meantime, we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent–to be lulled into some “honeymoon” with him that will blow up in our faces.

Anyone that has ever had an Asshole like mine, or a bad boyfriend, knows the routine. You know how hard these men try to get you to surrender to them.

They keep hammering at you, and, even though you know it’s craziness, you weaken. You start believing the things they say and do to you. You do it to reconcile the dissonance between your rose-colored ideas of human decency and compassion and the black-hearted truth of human nature and intentions.

He must be telling the truth–you say to yourself–because it’s easier to believe that you are wrong than to believe someone could target you for victimization at the most intimate level without you deserving it.

That’s our problem, as I see it: We act like kids when it comes to causal reasoning. We want the things that happen to be neat, clean, and accountable, but they’re more than often not.

Yet, no matter how many times life teaches us this lesson, we never assimilate it because it makes life seem harder and uglier when it’s really the same old life, teaching us the same old lesson.

There are reasons Trump got elected–some we know and some we don’t–and even though it’s scary–the thought that invisible powers put him in office–the reality that he is in office–we can’t cave to the impulse to normalize it. It won’t make his time in office any easier on us.

Trump is gaslighting us into believing it will, but we need to stay vigilant against his efforts.

He is not the benevolent or capable leader he is pretending to be; he is the same cloddish fuck he’s always been.

We cannot let him destroy our country, if we can help it, and we cannot allow him to be re-elected in 2020. Nor can we gift him another super majority in 2018.

My husband said, rather flippantly, as we watched the Women’s March on MSNBC earlier, “Marching is more fun than voting.”

Yet, I believe voting is ultimately more meaningful because it allows for policy changes.

So we have to vote Trump out when it’s time. Simple as that. We have to stay motivated to do what’s right, even if that means bumping up against all of Trump’s convoluted bullshit on the long way back to the Presidential polls.

We can’t let his destructive conditioning stick. We can’t let him convince us that we are in the wrong for refusing to accept his so-called presidency. We can’t get accustomed to him, fuck around, and forget how bad he is.

In all the years since The Asshole, I am proud to say I have never let him pressure me. I have never changed my story about what happened to make it “prettier” or “sexier” and my decision seem less toxic than it was.

Holding to the truth of that experience has helped me to never replicate it. It has made me smarter, stronger, and more strategic about what I do with my body and with whom I share it.

I think the same principle can hold with Trump’s election.

We can learn the lessons of this experience, and let them make us–Americans, Democrats, liberals, women, whoever, whatever–more strategic when it comes to picking our President.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fathers, Fairy Tales, and Lies: Why We Can & Should Hold Black Male Celebrities Accountable for Their Crimes

I wrote this back in May of last year, but all the Bishop Eddie Long apologists I’m reading on Facebook brought it back to my mind and renewed its relevancy, at least to my thinking.

I will say the same thing here that I said on Facebook about some people’s refusal to be silent about the sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Long in the event of his death:

You recount the mistakes to distill the lesson.

The black community should’ve held Eddie Long accountable for the wrongs he committed while he was still alive if so many of its members find it distasteful to indict a dead man.

But what the black community shouldn’t do–through its parochial responses to Long’s accusers–is continue to make the black community unlivable for sexual abuse victims or make it a safe space for sexual predators.

That–if you ask me–is a sin.

MRS

Even though I grew up in a household that was an approximation of the black middle class ideal, I still wanted to be a Huxtable.

I wanted more siblings than my one baby sister, who, at eight years younger, could do nothing but annoy the hell out of me; I wanted to live in a brownstone in the biggest and busiest city in the world; I wanted to have all four of my grandparents within walking distance and visit with them regularly; I wanted a mother who allowed my friends to come and visit our home every day after school; and I wanted a father just like Heathcliff.

When I was young, my father was a workaholic with ambitions of becoming the next Johnny Cochrane; he was gone most of the time, and, when he was home, he was still busy with work. He had his own father’s heirloom sarcasm. He wanted his daughters to be ladies even though our mother was raising us to be women. His expectations could loom higher than a Detroit skyscraper at times, but his temper could be as ugly as the Detroit River. He never spanked me once in my life, but he did smack me up a time or two with doctrine—the proxy hand of God—when he thought I was getting too out-of-control with my damned independent thinking and insistence on eking out my own identity.

He was a lot more complicated than Heathcliff Huxtable–less fun and way more demanding–and, since I had that TV image with which to compare him, I often found myself wishing my dad was less himself and more like a sitcom character.

I would fantasize about him reacting to me in the warm, goofy way that Heathcliff reacted to his kids, and I would feel a bit cheated because it was work being his daughter, and no one applauded for me as I did it.

Now, at 39, I realize that work was some of the most valuable that I’ve ever don–that he–my father–and I were building me into a decent, hard-working, and responsible person (with a wicked sense of humor, enviable taste in music, an elegant sense of style, and a deeply-rooted notion of fairness).

I understand now that navigating one’s relationship with one’s parent(s) is one of the most influential parts of growing up, and I wouldn’t be anyone close to the thinker, writer, teacher, mother, sister, or friend I am if I hadn’t been my father’s daughter–and mother’s daughter–first.

I also see–in thinking through why Heathcliff Huxtable was such an appealing character to me–what a juvenile concept of the “father” most of black people retain throughout our lives.

This is important to point out because I think it has a lot to do with why so many us, who love(d) Heathcliff Huxtable, are having such a difficult time accepting that Bill Cosby is a rapist that deserves to be punished for his crimes.

Rather than an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, whispering to black people about what fathers are and are not, we have a fairy tale weighing on one shoulder and a pack of racist lies weighing on the other.

These two false images make it difficult for us to be realistic or real about our fathers and father figures.

The fairy tale is of the white father–a romanticized figure that is an amalgam of the Judeo-Christian God and Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. This man–because of his social privilege and inherent moral superiority and intelligence–conferred by his whiteness–is the perfect father. He is always there for his kids; he always has to proper solution for their problems; he can provide for his children’s every need; and he never fails them. He is the polar opposite, conceptually, of the paradigmatic black father.

The lies on the other end of the binary are that black men are inherently bad fathers. That slavery stole the ability to parent permanently from them. That institutional racism bars them–across the board–financially, emotionally, and spiritually–from adequately supporting their children. That being the victims of oppression, suppression, deprivation, and violence makes them ineffective and even damaging.

Charles Blow of The New York Times does an excellent job of describing this manifold misconception: “[We believe],” he writes, ” . . . there is something fundamental, and intrinsic about black men that is flawed, that black fathers are pathologically prone to desertion of their offspring and therefore largely responsible for black community ‘dysfunction.’”

Both of these mythoi–of the good white father and bad black father–conveniently–or inconveniently for black men–ignore the facts–which must be considered in order for black people to gain a more realistic–and serviceable–concept of the “father.”

The first is that, historically, many white men have failed spectacularly at parenting. See Joseph Kennedy, who had his daughter Rosemary lobotomized at age 23 without his wife’s knowledge or agreement, or Woody Allen, who had an affair with the adopted daughter—Soon-Yi Previn—of his long-time girlfriend Mia Farrow. They have proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that white men in general are not automatically “better equipped” for parenting.

On the other hand, black men are more than just the “serial impregnators” portrayed in the racist mainstream media.

Though 72% of black women having babies are single mothers, this doesn’t mean that they don’t live with the fathers of their children. It actually means they aren’t married to them. Many still live with the fathers of their children. Only 55% of black children live in single mother households.

And even though a lot of black fathers don’t live with their children, about 2.5 million black fathers do live with at least one of their children.

Too, according to the CDC, black fathers–in and out of the home–provide more actual child care than white or Hispanic fathers. Yes–black men regularly feed their children their meals (78.2% black>73.9% white>63.9% Hispanic), dress their children (70.4% black>60% white>45% Hispanic), and read to their children every day (34.9% black>30.2% white>21.9% Hispanic). They are not all flailing or failing to fulfill their parental duties, despite what even a large segment of the black community maintains.

It is fair to acknowledge, too, that many of the black fathers that are missing from their children’s lives are missing because of factors related to institutionalization.

As reported in The Washington Post, “Incarceration [is an]  overwhelming [driver] of the gap [in the number of black women and men in the free population].

“Of the 1.5 million missing black men [out of 8 million] from 25 to 54 [the prime age span for fatherhood]–higher imprisonment rates account for almost 600,000. Almost one in 12 black men . . . is behind bars, compared with one in 60 nonblack men . . .”

These numbers prove that black men are not pathologically neglectful of their children.

Black fathers are still more absent from black homes than white fathers, but their patterns of abandonment can be linked to the historical legacy of slavery–how it has shaped today’s law enforcement and justice system, created genetic pitfalls for black people in terms of their health (which result in earlier deaths), and facilitated the demonization of black men in order to justify its reprehensibility.

Often, it is their internalized self-hatred–their own belief in their badness–that impels black men to leave their children alone–in the wrongheaded attempt to protect them.

Because black men struggle on a lot of levels to be present for their children at the same rates as nonblack men, and black people as a whole have a lot of misconceptions about how structural racism impedes parenting, the absences of black fathers lead many black people to cling to idealized father figures like Heathcliff Huxtable.

They set these father figures, usually found in entertainment, on pedestals because these men seem to have overcome whatever obstacles they needed to overcome in order to “get it right” for their children and co-parents (which are more often than not their wives).

Those that actually are or that just feel fatherless worship these figures in a sense, and this may be because one of the predominant figures in this improvised pantheon of imaginary surrogates is, in fact, the Judeo-Christian God.

Just listen to the way that many black religious leaders speak about God. They very liberally and munificently humanize Him. They do this because they know that so many black people suffer from an acute psychological sense of fatherlessness. They want to fix it, so they offer their congregants a God that is an eternal, omnipotent father.

They take that Biblical address, that ancient, enduring metaphor—“Our Father”—and literalize it–to effect some sort of spiritual healing from parental abandonment. They create a model of fatherhood that–while it may not shape the way that real black fathers do their jobs–shapes the way that the fatherless envision the role of the father. Then, celebrities, cultural icons, and imaginary characters like Heathcliff Huxtable do the same thing, but on a lesser level.

These famous “fathers” provide the fatherless with an unrealistic ideal that they attach to as “theirs” to fill the absence of an actual father. These “fathers” give the fatherless ridiculously high standards for what a father is, but, since they appear to meet these standards, they also inspire immense amounts of love and loyalty. It is this love and loyalty–and the painful prospect of losing yet another “parent”–that make it so difficult for people to accept it when father (or maybe it’s more apt to say “fatherly”) figures like Bill Cosby commit terrible acts.

Since so many black people do suffer from fatherlessness–or even from the idea that their “regular” black fathers are inferior–they do not want to give up their adoptive fatherly figures.

They do not want to face the fact that a character like Heathcliff Huxtable is a personage and not a person.

They want their fatherly figure to be innocent, or, if he cannot be innocent, they want him to be exempt.

So when their fatherly figure is put on public trial, these “children” argue that his positive contributions to society or culture or the black community must outweigh his crimes. They vilify his victims in order to lessen his culpability and depravity. They deny that his behavior is actually harmful, or, worse, they say that his victims are the ones doing the harm, by ruining the fatherly figure’s so-called legacy.

They make that same tired argument every time–that if Guilty Black Fatherly Figure were white, he wouldn’t be held nearly as accountable for his transgressions, as if that somehow justifies his transgressions. But the truth remains.

Despite how prevalent fatherlessness is in the black community, or how painful it is, we—the collective—cannot use it as an excuse to dismiss the crimes of our famous black men. Our imaginary “fathers” are no less responsible for their actions than our actual fathers. Fame, wealth, and talent–while they are rare–impressive–enchanting–still do not cancel out brutality, cruelty, perversity, or decidedly unchecked psychopathy.

The ugly truth is, then, that Bill Cosby is somnophiliac that–because he prefers to secretly drug women rather than gain their consent to have unconscious sex–has allowed the pursuit of his paraphilia to make him a rapist.

He has admitted on the record to drugging women and raping them. He has paid these women–by order of the court and on his own—as his atonement for raping them.

He has exploited his image as a fatherly figure, his power, and sexist stereotypes like that of the female groupie or gold digger to ruthlessly cover for his crimes.

He has been allowed and–yes–encouraged–by his wife, entourage, the Hollywood establishment, the legal system, the patriarchy, and, yes, the black community–that deifies him–to violate a group of 50 women–that we know of–between 1965 and 2008–without suffering any losses to his fame, wealth, reputation, or freedom.

And before any of you reading can make the reflexive argument that erroneously links the veracity of their accusations to how long it took certain of his victims to come forward on the record, let me let you know–

American culture and the nation’s justice system are criminally inhospitable to female rape victims, and this has a profound effect on their willingness to report their attacks.

In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that only 15.8 to 35 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to police.

This is because when women are assaulted by a friend or acquaintance (neighbor, classmate, coworker, boss), they fear they will not be believed.

They fear retaliation from the accused, other people finding out they’ve been assaulted, being branded as a rape victim, and/or being disrespected and/or mistreated during the trial process.

They believe that the police will not do anything to help them.

They believe that they have a lack of adequate proof or evidence.

They have their own misconceptions about what actually constitutes rape and do not actually know or believe that they have been raped.

Men may not be able to relate to these reasons–or they might refute them in order to abstain from inverting and being implicated by them–but women–if we’re being honest–know that they are very real.

Too many of us have either been raped or molested and experienced these paralyzing fears or doubts firsthand, or we have imagined being raped or molested and projected these fears and doubts onto our imaginary selves and into our possible futures.

Another reason not listed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that women don’t report sexual assaults is the terrible lack of credibility attributed to them by certain principles of rape culture.

Patriarchal notions that men hold–about how desperately women want to please them, how deserving “promiscuous” women are of punishment, and how important maintaining a “good girl” image is to women–make it easy for men to believe that women are lying when women say they’ve been raped.

Men like this think women are so universally “afraid” of being typed as sluts that any and all of them would lie about having consensual sex–call it rape–to avoid retribution or requital for exercising their sexual freedom.

And these men hold to the unfortunate truth that some women have lied about being assaulted—they have falsely accused men to avoid shame, exact revenge, or hide infidelity.

In the case of Cosby’s accusers, we must also concede they were up against the unlikelihood that a woman that is a “nobody” would be believed over a cultural icon.

Look baldly at how his accusers have been treated, and it’s easy to see why so many of Cosby’s victims felt for so long that reporting him to the authorities would be pointless.

People conflate Cosby with Heathcliff Huxtable. They think Bill Cosby is Heathcliff Huxtable. And, as devotees of the character, it is impossible for them to imagine Heathcliff raping a woman. So they struggle with believing that Cosby is a rapist. Still, the numbers of victims—as well as Cosby’s own accounts of his encounters with them and court settlements to which he has agreed—make it impossible to ignore that Cosby is guilty of a pattern of illegal behavior for which he deserves to be punished.

It looks as if the same thing, unfortunately, can be said about legendary hip hop culturalist Afrika Bambaataa, who has been accused in the last couple of months by four men of sexually abusing them during the 1980s.

Allegedly, he showed them—as boys—pornographic materials then performed oral sex on them.

Along with assaulting them, he gave them shelter, food, and money when they needed it, and he maintained a “father-son” relationship with at least one of them into adulthood. That is—in fact—what the boys called him: “Poppy.”

It’s reasonable to assume that fatherlessness, shame, machismo, and a distorted sense of loyalty are what kept them from reporting their abuse until now.

Again, before those of you that are inclined start doing that victim-blaming “thing” we so often do when we hear that victims of sexual assault have waited to name their accusers, I want to go back to one really significant concept I brought up previously, and that’s loyalty.

I honestly believe that malformed and misdirected loyalty are what keep a lot of black people silent about the terrible things that other black people do to them or in their presence.

We have such a profound mistrust of law enforcement and the courts that we do not want to turn a supposed “brother” or “sister” over to them if we can help it.

So many of we black people refuse to report crimes committed against us by other black people—and we uphold our own abusers in a lot of instances—in order to show our racial awareness and solidarity.

We romanticize our victimization as a sacrifice of sorts, and we shame those that don’t adhere to this dysfunctional “code” of honor and silence. But this behavior is a throwback to the plantation and the inhumane treatment our ancestors often suffered when they didn’t cover and/or lie for each other.

As a people, we have to start moving past our past, in this sense. We either have to abandon this anti-“snitching” ethic and turn the offenders in our community over to the law, or we have to figure out our own ways to hold them accountable for their choices to damage others and refuse to seek help for their sicknesses.

I said it before—navigating one’s relationship with one’s parent(s) is one of the most influential parts of growing up. James Baldwin even said that loving someone—that act in itself—is a growing up.

It’s a process of shedding the pretty, pretend ideas we get from fairy tales, and the hyperbolic or fantastical ideas we get from lies, and embracing new ideas about ourselves—bolder concepts of ourselves—that protect and empower us, female and male.

And here are a few—

We can love Heathcliff Huxtable—what he represents—the will to father black children lovingly and joyfully—without reifying him.

We can admire Bill Cosby as an entertainer, philanthropist, actor, and producer without deifying him.

We can condemn Bill Cosby for raping those women without killing the image of Healthcliff Huxtable.

We can support a conviction of Bill Cosby’s guilt and maintain a sense of our highest and not our basest form of integrity.

We can condemn Afrika Bambaataa without indicting hip hop culture or erasing his contributions to the culture from its history.

We can support a conviction of his guilt.

We must.

Nothing can justifiably counterbalance wrongs like the ones Cosby or Eddie Long committed except confession, contrition, reparation, and rehabilitation.

So we cannot keep perpetuating this cult of fragile black manhood—this concept that black men cannot answer for their actions—if we want black men that ultimately inspire more than pity, mistrust, resentment, or fear in us. Or that can only truly be great when they are standing framed in our blind spots.

We cannot keep perpetuating this cult of fragile black manhood if we want to evolve into a culture that is characterized by more than its pathologies.

In order to grow out of the desperation of fatherlessness and demand what is actually attainable from our famous men–decency–we have to leave the childish notion that fathers are faultless behind us, once and for all.

We have to process the ugly truths about our fatherly figures. Topple them from their pedestals. Let them shatter and clean up the messes they’ve made.

This will help us to not only heal from their abuses, but it will help us to better appreciate our real fathers.

It will open us up to accepting that many of them are bending over backward, being their best for us.

 

America 101: The Cabinet

All the big-name news sources are talking back-and-forth this week about Trump’s cabinet picks as he prepares to take office in a little more than ten days.

In what has become typical Trump fashion, he has done completely away with the customary practices of all his Presidential predecessors and waited until the absolute last minute to get his nominees for the top posts confirmed by the Senate.

Yet, even as writers and reporters from the majorly credible publications and broadcasts across the country acknowledge that Trump’s cabinet nominees themselves and the timetable for their confirmations are “controversial,” they are starting to take on this tone in their observations that is resigned to the chaos of the President-elect’s nascent leadership.

It’s a big deal, though, that he has chosen the people he has chosen to do the jobs that they will ostensibly do. A President’s cabinet plats a crucial role in his administration.

This is what I learned from my research over the last couple of days.

The cabinet is a Constitutionally established body of officials that advise the President about any subject that relates to the duties of their specific office.

They are the heads of 15 different executive departments–the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs–plus the Attorney General and Vice President.

According to the Brookington Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, DC, “Presidents fill their cabinets with experienced leaders from around the country. These leaders must have some combination of executive experience, policy expertise, partisan credentials, or personal loyalty to the president. They symbolize presidential priorities, represent demographic groups and marshal the support of the clientele of the department they will be leading.”

In 2009, Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu described the importance of the Cabinet on the White House blog, saying, “Every day, the President calls on the Cabinet . . . He . . . values their work in running the federal departments and agencies, ensuring that the government always works on behalf of the American people.”

This is why Cabinet secretaries–along with the Attorney General, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador to the UN, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Administrator of the Small Business Administration–must be confirmed by the Senate.

Nominees for these Cabinet-level positions must be fully vetted, which means they must disclose all financial documents to whichever Senate committee conducts their confirmation hearing so the members of that committee can determine whether they have conflicts of interest that could unduly influence the way they advise the President.

According to ABC News, the confirmation process for Cabinet secretaries goes like this: Nominations, generally made by the President and/or his transition staff, are given to the relevant Senate committee; that committee opts to either hold a confirmation hearing, move the nomination straight to the Senate for a vote, or not do anything with the nomination, which “kills” it; if the committee holds a hearing, they may either vote whether to report the nomination favorably, unfavorably, or without any recommendation or “sit” on the nomination, which seems like another way to “kill” it; nominations that clear a committee–one way or the other–are moved to the Senate floor where a simple majority vote is held; if the nominees winds the majority vote, he or she becomes a member of the Cabinet.

Since the nominees must get voted in by the Senate, this process of getting his first-round nominees confirmed may not go as smoothly for Trump as he may want because the Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate.

Take the Attorney General confirmation. There are 100 seats (two senators for each state); the Republicans have 51 seats; but Jeff Sessions–the Republican Senator from Alabama–is the nominee for Attorney General and may not vote for himself as a show of good faith.

Too, Republicans that take issue with Trump’s nominees can and may “defect” and vote against them, and it would only take one or two of these kinds of votes to block a nominee. In 228 years, according to The Business Insider, nine Cabinet nominations have been outright rejected by the Senate, and eleven have either been withdrawn or the Senate has refused to act on them.

The other potentially “sticky” issue surrounding the confirmation of Trump’s nominees, according to a really interesting and informative article by NPR, is the fact they may not all have the same political philosophies or ideas for their leadership that he does.

In fact, Jessica Taylor for NPR, says, ” . . . [S]ome of the president-elect’s top would-be advisers revealed [during their hearings] . . . major policy breaks with the future president on issues Trump championed and views he expressed on the campaign trail — from Russian hacking, torture, a Muslim ban and registry, mosque surveillance, NATO, the Iran nuclear deal [to] infrastructure, deportations and that border wall.”

If these nominees are confirmed, it could mean that Trump will experience a lot of friction as he attempts to move forward on those more grandiose promises he made to his electorate.

The potential, though, for conflict between Trump and the members of his Cabinet can be construed as a positive for those of us that distrust Trump and are worried that he will be wielding his Presidential power essentially unchecked for the next four years (based on how readily he has broken with dozens of behavioral standards, customs, and norms throughout his campaign and transition into the White House and how willingly and easily the media, his supporters, and Congress have let him off the seeming hook), as long as that conflict stems from the members of his Cabinet pushing Trump to make smarter, more beneficial decisions.

Taylor says basically the same thing: “[The breaks in thinking between Trump and his cabinet nominees demonstrate] the potential constraints the president-elect could run into if he seeks to implement some of the more provocative aspects of what he campaigned on.” But she also acknowledges, “[A] lack of cohesion [at the Presidential level of government] could lead to . . . potential difficulty . . .”

Again, the Brookings Institute gives some insight into how differences in philosophy, belief, and opinion between the President and his Cabinet can be not just prophylactic but problematic.

In writing the institute, James Pfiffner locates the potential for “difficulty,” as Taylor terms it, very specifically in the relationship between Cabinet members and the White House Staff:

[B]y the late 20th century, major policy functions that used to be performed outside the White House were now integrated into the White House [it reads] . . . Additionally, political functions that had previously been performed by the political parties and in Congress were now located in the White House . . . [Yet] cabinet secretaries understandably resent “interference” from White House staffers . . . Once in office, cabinet secretaries are seen as advocates for their policy domain, champions for the workers in their departments, and aggressive seekers of budget resources . . . [Their] duties and inclinations often put them on a collision course with White House staffers, who are trying to rein them in and harness them to presidential priorities. 

In “Cabinet secretaries versus the White House staff,” Pfiffner illustates this principle using an example from the Obama administration:

[W]hen President Obama came to office, he initially intended to delegate legal policy on detainees at Guantanamo to his attorney general and friend, Eric Holder. Holder accepted the position with the understanding that he would make legal decisions independently of the White House, though of course the president would have the final say. In delegating some of the key legal decisions regarding detainee policy to Attorney General Holder, President Obama wanted to be seen as not letting politics interfere with legal principles. Obama told Holder to make legal decisions on the merits of the law rather than on political grounds.

Exercising his delegated authority, Holder decided to try some 9/11 terrorist suspects in criminal court rather than by military tribunals, and he chose New York City as the venue. The decision caused a political uproar, with congressional leaders threatening legislation to mandate military commissions at Guantanamo and not in the continental United States. Holder’s decisions reinforced White House staffers’ suspicion that he was not sufficiently sensitive to the president’s political interests. Ultimately, the White House staff, particularly chief of staff [Rahm] Emanuel, convinced Obama that the political repercussions of Holder’s decisions were more important than Holder’s legal judgments and his independence from the White House.

Because of the White House’s desire to maintain a certain image of political expediency, with the thought it would help get Obama re-elected in 2012, it urged Obama to undermine Holder’s authority during his first term, making it “difficult”–again–for Holder to keep the promises he made when he became Attorney General.

Holder promised the American people he would “end the policy of indefinite detention at Guantanamo by prosecuting some of its most notorious detainees; to investigate torture by the CIA; and to revitalize the department’s most neglected offices, like the long-suffering Civil Rights Division.” Although his agenda fell under the auspices of President Obama’s own agenda–to make the Department of Justice more of an independent agent, exercising first and foremost by the “rule of law”–when Holder’s actions conflicted with Obama’s efforts to make popular (read: right-leaning) decisions about unpopular issues like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, Holder found himself struggling back and forth with the White House to do what he deemed as Constitutional.

The Obama-Holder situation illustrates what Pfiffner identifies as the “challenge” a President faces, when working with his Cabinet, “to maintain a healthy balance between too much centralization (executive decisions being made primarily by the White House) and the opposite problem of lack of coordination of policy making and implementation in [outside] departments and agencies.”

Trump is a very different man than Barack Obama. He comes from the world of business, but he has the sensibilities of an entertainer, and he is odd combination of a One Percent insider and Washington outsider. Still, he doesn’t seem any more willing to be led by his Cabinet than Obama was.

In fact, it will be fascinating–and very probably disturbing–to see how Trump–who has been labeled everything from “sociopathic” to “remarkably narcissistic” to superlatively “opportunistic“–and the members of his Cabinet will operate–jointly and separately.

Trump–for all his delusional Twitter claims–has an extensively documented track record of “playing” poorly with others, even just from his last few weeks in Washington.

But so, too, do many of his Cabinet nominees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Prompt: Cling

via Daily Prompt: Cling

So my favorite Internet provocateur, Jill Is Black, has this really smart video about “the revolution” in which she skewers those black people that imagine themselves in be in the cultural vanguard for using respectability politics–which are really just a set of behavioral expectations black people have compiled based on how they want white people to see us–to determine who can and cannot “fight” alongside the “true” race warriors when the shit goes down

For those of you that may have gotten lost in that last paragraph, let me clarify a few terms and key concepts for you. So we’re all on the same page. (Unlike the critical mass of “woke” black people and all the rest of us, as Jill suggests).

The revolution is the mythical unified effort that black people will exert against the white majority in some perennially futuristic time that will somehow–despite the fact that white people make up over 70% of the population, run the Fed, run the military, run law enforcement, run the infrastructure, and run the gun trade–ultimately free us from institutional racism and historic oppression in America.

Respectability politics are, as I said, the narrow-minded, self-abnegating, largely sexist, and extraordinarily divisive set of concepts of what is “proper” for black people to do in order to be considered a “credit” to the race.

Examples include having married parents; speaking Standard English and having impeccable written grammar; finishing high school with a diploma, not a GED; obtaining a degree, but in something prestigious and lucrative like engineering or medicine; being a Christian or Muslim; never needing an abortion; never needing a psychologist; wearing your pants up on your ass, if you’re a man, with a belt; only wearing silky weaves in “naturally occurring” colors, if you’re a woman, or wearing your natural hair or braids or dreadlocks that are meticulously groomed, preferably by a professional at a salon; refraining from shit like twerking, drinking alcohol, smoking weed, using profanity, and having unmarried sex–all sins–while dismissing, vilifying, hating, ostracizing, harassing, and even abusing “flamboyant” members of the black LGBTQIA+ community, “ratchet” members of the black working and middle class, black feminists, black members of the mentally ill community, and black weirdos (the mass of black people whose habits cannot be easily or comfortably classified) in repeated supposed efforts to “help” or “save” them–somehow not wrong.

(Take it from one of those black feminist mentally ill weirdos. I’m painting in broad strokes, but there is truth in what I’m putting up. Black people know it, even if they don’t want to admit it.)

The subset of “respectable” black people most frequently associated with the idea of the revolution–the “ones” expected to galvanize black people when it somehow finally pops off–are the “woke.”

Their version of respectability politics revolves around this absurd concept of effecting a sort of “purity” or total freedom from European (not really a thing) or white indoctrination and becoming a sort of African (also not really a thing) anew through Afrocentrism (natch), veganism, nationalism, militantism, historicism, anachronism, sexism . . .

Just think of a millennial version of, say, Speech from Arrested Development at the height of that group’s fame or Erykah Badu without the radical sexual freedom, slight thuggish air, gift for self-reflection and disclosure, or complete and utter lack of fucks about what society has to say about her–the Badu we all thought she was back in the day, with the three-foot gele and mudcloth wrap-dress–as frames of aesthetic reference.

The “woke” claim to love all black people and want all of us to unify and fight together as one against white supremacy and hegemony, but only after the “rest of us” get our lives together, whatever the-hell that means in a race like ours and a place like America.

I say that to say this: colorism did not get left back on the proverbial plantation after Emancipation; misogyny is no less destructive to black women when it comes from black men; fear is a hell of a drug; rage is even more powerful than that; poverty is the supreme form of disempowerment in a capitalist society; self-hatred is even more endemic in the black community than poverty; and “crabs in a barrel” is not the name of some cute children’s board game nor is it a mere or meaningless cliche when you use the phrase to describe the black community.

Homophobia is a cultural stumbling block for black people; transphobia is a cultural stumbling block for black people; complacency is a cultural stumbling block for black people; nihilism ain’t a river in Egypt but it does flow through the veins of a lot of black youth; Africa doesn’t have any more answers to our problems than Sway did to Kanye’s (Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, Congo, Mali, Algeria, Libya, Somalia, and South Africa are all plagued by violent conflicts and/or widespread racial tension); and strength comes from more than ideology and rhetoric; people need clean water and adequate food in order to do anything, but especially to grow.

Individual togetherness for black people might be even more elusive than collective togetherness for black people, and collective togetherness for black people is elusive as fuck because we only seem to be able to trust each other when our levels of hope are excessively high (see: 2008).

It’s 2017, and America has just had eight years of a black President. Yet, black people haven’t made much progress in economic or political terms. Integration and assimilation may get us a figurative seat at the table, but we only get to drink water or eat appetizers while we’re sitting there.

The One Percent are still hogging all the main courses and ordering more on our dime. And, if we don’t want to watch them while they feast, too bad, because, even if we take out of cell phones to peruse our social media, every platform is full of distressing news story about their doggish demagogue, both true and false.

The KKK isn’t closeted anymore; Jeff Sessions is drawing comparisons to George Wallace; Meryl Streep sounds more Presidential speaking at the Golden Globes than our President-elect; the inauguration is only eight days away; and the only actual politician that seems excited about it is Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin.

Nevertheless, the “woke” contingency of the black community maintains that they are good (and “good”), and all the rest of us need to do is get like them, then we’ll be ready when the revolution comes.

(The battlefield for them is apparently a “Field of Dreams”–“if you build it (the army of pseudo African warriors)–he–or rather it (the revolution)–will come.”)

And while waiting for us to catch up in the spectrum of authentic/transcendent blackness, they bide their time by policing us, despite all of the very real issues and obstacles we all face in eking out our various black existences.

In her video, Jill is speaking to these “woke” black people. “Why do you get off on your revolution being exclusive?” she asks them.

“How am I the right kind of black to be invited to your revolution?” she wants to know.

This is an excellent question whose exploration will get me to my discussion of the daily prompt (I hope): clinging.

If Trump’s election should have taught black people anything it’s this: white people don’t need to be the same kind of white to come together and get done the things they need to get done to secure their position in American society.

Trump won because rich and poor whites, educated and uneducated whites, urban and rural whites, white men and women, conservative and moderate whites, LGBTQIA+ and cis-hetero whites,”elite” and “trashy” whites united with each other on the basis of their whiteness and voted for him–in record numbers.

Blackness is not a monolith; we are not all the same, but we don’t need to be. In times of crisis, all we need to be to and for each other is black and certain of the best course of action for us.

In the same way we banded together to elect Obama twice, we should’ve banded together to keep Trump out of office.

No, Hillary Clinton wasn’t an ideal candidate, but I still think we understood–we could safely say–that she would make a better President for Black America.

As it stands, one of the only major pieces of legislation that President Obama passed that improved black people’s lives on a large scale–the Affordable Care Act–is the first piece of legislation Trump has promised to attack.

If, last November, we had paused in our squabbling back and forth with each other all over the Internet about who is a king and who is a queen and who is a thug and who is a thot, gotten off our collective black ass, and voted for Hillary, we wouldn’t be biting our nails right now, waiting to see whether this asshole Trump will somehow figure out a way to repeal the 13th-15th Amendments as well.

But we didn’t mobilize ourselves because we cling to this childish, clannish notion that we should only vote for other black people. We cling to the notion that putting black people in formal leadership positions is the only way we can gain or harness any real power in this country.

Too, we thought we could make it all right if or when Trump won. We thought we’d survive just fine because we’ve survived ostensible worse. We also thought, secretly, like many poor whites that cast votes for Trump against their own best interests, that we could get him to view us more favorably somehow if we needed to.

Because we cling to this idea that by being the “right” kind of black, in large enough numbers, we can gain white people’s respect and acceptance and secure equality without having to fight for it.

Yes, we do.

We cling to the idea that our freedom from oppression can be “earned” by our compliance with punitive, racist “mainstream” cultural standards.

As the renowned black poet Yusef Komunyakaa says, “Second-class citizens can be awfully puritanical, and this is especially true when they’re striving for acceptance by the dominant culture.”

So we cling to the idea that if we can be morally or ethically superior to each other, and white people, we can “deserve” fair and equal treatment.

We cling to the idea that if we jettison the so-called worst of us, the so-called best of us can do better; we secretly buy into the white binary of the “good” and “bad” sorts of blackness.

Too, we cling to the fear–subconsciously–that we are the inferior beings that white racist stereotypes portray us to be–the constancy and conviction with which we are oppressed impels us to bridge the dissonance between what we see in ourselves and what Others pretend to see in us with the false, compensatory belief that we, not they, are wrong or delusional since we have such a profound distrust of ourselves–seeing as we are descended from the captured and not the captors–and this necessitates that we prove, continually, that we are not the niggers that would perhaps deserve to the sort of oppression we suffer at the hands of White America if they actually existed.

We cling to the idea that Africa was a utopia before slavery, and  we cling to the idea that antiquated, ahistorical traditions and practices from its various clans (tribes)–which many of us adopt really rather haphazardly–that we did not retain in an organic fashion and that have not been allowed to evolve organically along the same timelines as our culture and collective identity–can “fix” us.

We cling to the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with being the descendants of slaves, even though slaves are largely responsible for making America into a global superpower, and the descendants of slaves have participated in the building and betterment of this country, from its inception, in some of the most innovative and important ways that any one people can be said to have participated.

And because we cling to the idea that we are deficient because of our slave past, we cling to the idea that we need to look outside of ourselves to determine how we should “be.”

We debase, degrade, refute, and exploit black culture, even though it is comprised of a perfectly decent and hugely impressive body of knowledge, beliefs, customs, and habits that are rightfully ours and have sustained us here–in America–for centuries.

We cling to the idea that because we have been victimized by white supremacy, we should pay more attention to stopping and healing that trauma than to stopping and healing the trauma we inflict on each other, which is much more urgent and plausible because we live in families, homes, and neighborhoods with each other, and we are infinitely more invested in each other. Not to mention that if we were more whole individuals, we would be less codependent on white approval, acceptance, and affection and more able and willing to take up for ourselves.

We’re not doing such a good job of that right through here, though. Regardless of the claims we use to admonish each other across intraracial lines. We could be standing shoulder to shoulder, facing down this incoming administration, but we’re not. We’re clinging to select groups of each other and continuing to miss the bigger picture.

We’re clinging to the belief that we need one true heroic male leader to get us up and over the mountain of our history and into our destiny.

It seems to be the only thing we can do in consistently large numbers–cling.

Black men cling to the idea that if they can dominate black women, they can gain “legitimacy” and some semblance of that approval, acceptance, and affection from white men.

Black women–even some feminists, even some lesbians–cling to the idea that if they can placate black men, they can gain “legitimacy” and some semblance of that approval, acceptance, and affection from black men and white people as a whole.

Black people as a whole cling to the idea that the revolution will “come”; it will arrive, like a day on a calendar, and strike an instinct in us like we are human lemmings, and we will suddenly, magically know how and be able to fight off our oppression.

But I think the revolution–if we remain in America–as long as we are a 12% minority–can realistically be nothing more than the collective realization and acceptance that black people will need to remain in a state of perpetual readiness to respond to crises like the Trump election and a state of functional togetherness so our responses are impactful.

The revolution cannot be exclusive. It cannot play out in a militaristic fashion; we’ll be exterminated.

The revolution will issue from us. It will have to be strategic. It will have to be encompassing–take the kings and queens and thugs and thots.

Jill says it in the caption beneath her video:

Too weird. Not weird enough [she writes]. Too intersectional, but[,] look, we really just need to focus on one thing right now, okay? Too capitalist, but we’re looking for donations. I don’t fuck with the government [,] but I just applied for a grant. Hey, how about this: just let me know right from the start that when you say you love blackness, you love YOUR blackness. You love people who agree with you. You love people who meet your requirements for blackness. But know that your exclusivity isn’t a revolution. It’s a club.

Blackness is not a monolith; whiteness is not a monolith. But white people have learned to–on a wide scale–come together to function as a needful unit. Black people need to learn to do that, too.

A club can’t go up against three-quarters of an entire country. We are going to need all hands on deck if we’re going to, say, regain the Democratic majority in Congress in 2018 or elect a more qualified and dignified President in 2020.

“The change that we need is the change that we create,” Jill writes in another post on her Instagram page. “But you knew that already.”

Black people–we have to let go of this stubborn, counterproductive notion that there is a “right kind of black.”

We need to stop clinging to the fairy tale of a revolution that will somehow happen in spite of our backward battling with each other.

You can say what you want in response with as much righteousnesss as you can muster, but you cannot deny; the proof is in the poll tallies.

And they show that the people that vote together, when it’s all said and done, get to gloat together.

America 101: Democracy

 

I’m starting my first special series of posts on this blog–dedicated to the inauguration of Donald Trump (what a surreal phrase to have to type)–with the supposed foundational concept of our government, and that it is a democracy.

Isn’t that the primary civics lesson we all receive in grade school? That America is the Great Democracy? (As if it’s the only democracy, which it isn’t).

The reason I’m questioning the truth of the nation’s democratic nature is because the claim comes with certain expectations–the main one being that we get to choose the people that govern us.

The other expectation is that we–the people–can change the tone of our leadership, the direction in which the government is leading the nation, and even the content of the laws that are used to govern us with our votes.

I know I’m not alone in feeling that the Presidential election of 2016 has thrown this contention into serious fucking doubt.

Merriam-Webster defines democracy as “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”

And American government fits this definition, as far as I can see, until we get to the end–the “free election” part.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the international organization established in 1889 in part for the “firm establishment of representative democracy,” there are seven criteria that qualify an election as free and fair.

Conveniently, the United States is not a part of the IPU, even though 171 member parliaments and 11 associate parliamentary organizations across the globe are.

Anyhow, according to the IPU:

(1) Every adult citizen has the right to vote in elections, on a non-discriminatory basis.

(2) Every adult citizen has the right to access to an effective, impartial and non-discriminatory procedure for the registration of voters.

(3) No eligible citizen shall be denied the right to vote or disqualified from registration as a voter, otherwise than in accordance with objectively verifiable criteria prescribed by law, and provided that such measures are consistent with the State’s obligations under international law.

(4) Every individual who is denied the right to vote or to be registered as a voter shall be entitled to appeal to a jurisdiction competent to review such decisions and to correct errors promptly and effectively.

(5) Every voter has the right to equal and effective access to a polling station in order to exercise his or her right to vote.

(6) Every voter is entitled to exercise his or her right equally with others and to have his or her vote accorded equivalent weight to that of others.

(7) The right to vote in secret is absolute and shall not be restricted in any manner whatsoever.

In America, felons and aliens (I really do hate that term) cannot vote, by law.

While one can argue that aliens are not citizens, and so they shouldn’t be allowed to vote for the leadership in a country that isn’t “theirs,” the disfranchisement of felons is a trickier thing to justify in a so-called democracy.

There are actually 21 countries in the world where felons can vote while in prison; 14 countries where only certain felons can vote while in prison; 10 countries where felons cannot vote while in prison; and only four countries where felons cannot vote even after they have been released from prison.

Yes, America–with all its talk of freedom, equality, inalienable rights, and rehabilitative prison policy–is one of those four countries where felons can be permanently disfranchised after they are released from prison.

The policy varies from state to state, but, as of now, in Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming, felons can lose their right to vote for perpetuity, which throws into question whether US elections can be regarded as “free and fair.”

Also, state laws often make it exceedingly difficult for Americans in certain regions to register to vote.

Then, there are the continual problems with voter fraud in federal elections, including underage people casting votes, dead people casting votes, people casting multiple votes, and aliens casting votes.

These things would be bad enough if in the Presidential election the popular vote determined the winner, but we also have the electoral college in the US, which pretty much negates the hell out of precept #6–“Every voter is entitled to exercise his or her right equally with others and to have his or her vote accorded equivalent weight to that of others.”

As we saw with W and again with Trump, the popular electorate can choose one candidate, but, because popular votes select electors, electors decide the Presidents, and the districts of the college are divided as illustrated below, that candidate can still lose the election.

Which makes one question, again, whether an election run by such a convoluted process can be regarded as “free and fair.”

And then there is the logical premise of the electoral college.

“[The framers of the Constitution] decided to delegate the decision [of who should be President] to wise elites. The framers thought they would be a check on demagogues and the popular passions,” says Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

The “people” is everyone, not a group of “elites.” So is America a democracy or something decidedly less, well, democratic?

Let’s look at it through another lens. Political sociologist Larry Diamond claims a democracy has four qualifications, if you will–

(1) A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.

(2) The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.

(3) Protection of the human rights of all citizens.

(4) A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

I’ve already contested the idea that America has free and fair elections; only about 60% of Americans vote in Presidential elections and even less–40%–vote in midterm elections; there are a plethora of issues occurring in our country right now–Flint, the DAPL–that could be viewed as federally sanctioned human rights violations; and the application of laws and procedures in this nation are mitigated by everything from citizenship status to race to gender.

So America doesn’t qualify as a direct democracy, no. I think that’s a reasonable, if troubling, conclusion.

Political sociologists tend to label America as a presidential democracy. The signification of the modifier is this: we, the people, get compensated for not being able to change constitutional laws, put forth referendums, and give orders to elective officials (as we would in a direct democracy) by getting to elect House representatives and senators directly.  And, in turn, these members of Congress “funnel” our interests into legislation and protect us from tyrannical rule by “checking” and “balancing” the President that we don’t actually elect.

While direct democracy might be preferable, as might a Presidential electoral process determined by the popular vote, we aren’t afforded these things because American democracy is all about constitutionalism.

Constitutionalism is belief in “the superiority of constitutional government and the necessity of a written constitution as the foundation of constitutional government.”

And the Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, says the President shall be elected by the electoral college. It establishes a permanent, oligarchical element in our “democracy” that keeps us–the people–from being able to truly choose our leader.

So what does this mean?

For me, it means that Americans have to do one of two things–either alter our concept of how much control we have over our government or fight to gain more control and make the nation a purer form of democracy.

And I opt for B because the fact that Trump is getting to be President even though he didn’t win the popular vote does more than just stick in my craw; the idea of him running the country terrifies me, quite honestly.

Everything that I believed about the danger he presents to blacks, women, the poor before he was elected, I still believe.

His bullshit talk of “togetherness” means nothing when his Cabinet appointments reek of white supremacy and his Tweets give off subliminal vibes of mental instability.

So I think that we should do a few things–Americans that still give a fuck about this country and want it to be the exulted democracy is already pretends to be.

We need to vote in every federal election–midterm and Presidential.

We need to do some lobbying of our own and broker our votes–only give them to the candidates that are talking about the issues that matter to us, saying the things we need to hear, and providing plans to fix the things that we view as broken.

Or we can lobby the lobby by spending our consumer dollars much more strategically, as in with businesses and industries that propose or back legislation that benefits us and not just them.

One of the first measures for which we should push, come the midterm elections, is the eradication of the electoral college.

No House or Senate candidate should get our vote unless he or she is willing to form a coalition with other candidates and propose an amendment to the Constitution that says the popular or general vote will elect the President and Vice President.

Too, we should push for newer, stronger laws that protect us against voter fraud and discriminatory registration practices and make it more difficult for poll workers and others to obstruct people from voting.

We may even need to push for the establishment of a screening process for poll workers similar to the process used in jury selection.

I can’t remember where I heard this line that I’m about to quote, but I remember it clearly, and I quote it to myself all the time: “America is work.”

I think one of our jobs as American citizens is to keep America as honest as we can, and one of the only tools we have to do that is the vote.

The other is our money.

We were promised an American republic by the founders, but we should’ve also learned from them that instituting the sort of government you want takes a drawn-out series of battles.

Trump’s inauguration will necessitate a new fight for our democracy.