We continue a great tradition of voices speaking out

Today I’m A Virginian

—-An honorary one.

It is a bright August 24th summer morning, 8:25 o’clock, in the year of our Lord 2015 here in Ohio. Yes, you read right: Ohio. The sun is shining over the housetops across the suburban street where I live and into my home-office window. It is 60 degrees right now — don’t be jealous. The humidity is 93 percent.

I’m here at the gracious invitation of Sandi to whom, you know, this blog belongs. Like-minded thinking and feeling about human rights and a fascination with the American Civil War brought us together. We met on the blog called Crossroads operated by Civil War scholar Brooks Simpson. We also post sometimes on Civil War Memory, Civil War scholar Kevin Levin’s blog. But I’d have to say we bonded on the Lincoln Discussion Symposium where we ran afoul of Civil War pro-heritage’sh folks. We are outta there. Sandi left. I got booted.

Apart from Internet acquaintances, I do not personally know any Virginians face-to-face. I’ve been to Virginia. Obviously, it is for lovers. Nice people in Virginia.

My favorite Virginian is Ed Ayers, president emeritus of the University of Richmond. (Sorry, Sandi.) How come? We grow people with brains and good hearts in Ohio, too! We don’t have an Ed Ayers, of course. Still. It is okay that Virginia has him. In the Civil War anniversary years just completed and the Reconstruction anniversary years just underway, Dr. Ayers is where Americans need him to be.

Why do I say that? Here’s an example. Linked below is a 1:19-long talk Dr. Ayers presented titled Monuments and Memorials: The South in American History. It was sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

The unCivil War drags on

Racist 1Here in Virginia the battle over the Confederate Battle Flag, the Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates and events rages on. I find myself compelled to join the threads and refute the revisionist history being used to justify them and it feels so eerily similar to right-wingers when they get a meme in their parrot teeth that they must all be the same people. How many can this nation handle before we implode? Looks like we may find out.

From the posts mentioning Sharpton, Farrakan, EBT, and blacks (but they’re not racists!), liberals, PC, and Democrats, it is clear who their enemy is…anyone who dares not to think as they do. There is no nuance, no attempt to consider any point but their own and no consideration for the actual events of the Civil War.

People like me, politically active and aware, as well as truly inquisitive, have studied and researched the Civil War. I have read books, follow historian blogs, and having Confederate ancestors, wrestled with the overarching issues of the greatest American tragedy that is now 150 years old.

How did my ancestors feel? Did they choose to fight to keep and perpetuate slavery? I know that white supremacy was a given, slavery was centuries old and the entire Southern economy was dependent on slave labor remaining available but did they feel it was wrong? Did they feel it was right? Did they fight for that or did they believe the North was somehow going to take their piece of land? I know many soldiers deserted, some folks refused to fight at all and all were scarred by the war and hopefully by fighting their own nation but I do not know how my ancestors felt.

I do have some sympathy for the soldier on the fields at Gettysburg and Antietam of the 50 major, and the “10,500 battles, engagements, and other military actions” in all. I can see honoring them, wanting to recognize their bravery at a time when battle was so close, vicious and bloody and again, with your fellow Americans. With casualties over 620 thousand how do you do it?

How do you “celebrate” what for most sane people is a true and horrific American tragedy? With solemnity, dignity, reverence and decorum? Or with party like rallies, miles long flag parades whooping it up on stops and re-enactments with “wanted” posters of Lincoln? With sites naming the soldiers and telling about their families and history, videos of the battlefields and discussions of their letters, or with “in your face” confrontation and dismissal of any view except “the South gonna rise again”?

And how, for the sake of decency and integrity do you just dismiss the racist use of that battle flag almost from the moment the war ended? How do you discard why the white supremacy groups to this day use that flag as their symbol too? When did it go from the banner of the fallen soldier to the banner of redneck bullies churning up the grass in a field or screeching in a parking lot? How does it go from a Civil War cemetery to the side of the road with a gun on one hip and the flag on the other? How do we ever reconcile the uses? How do you tell a racist with the flag from a “good-ole boy” with the flag and does it matter?

Clearly and beyond any doubt, these folks are their own worst enemies. They cannot go long without proving the ugly southern stereotypes we have long been plagued with. They cannot go long without their innate racism and bigotry showing even as they declare they are neither. And they are quick to anger and speak of fighting “them”.

I am willing to agree there is a context and a reason to see that flag displayed, I just have yet to see a flagger use it with reverence, solemnity, dignity and decorum. I think I will be waiting a long time and so will the soldiers.

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Heaven Help Us!

We are the same!

We are the same!

It is December and Christmas is in the air.  It is supposed to be the happy, family oriented holiday time. For Christians it is also the journey to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and the promise of our eternal salvation through our belief in God and living the teachings of Christ.  But this year, my heart is too heavy to feel anything more than sadness, shame and fear.

While the news and social media never lack a human interest story to stir the heart, challenge the humility or reinforce the activist instinct in me, I have been more sensitive to the racial animus in this nation since the election of President Obama and the kicks to my conscience just keep coming.  To say that even being a Virginian who grew up with racism and the “South’s gonna rise again” mentality should have prepared me for what ‘came out of the woodwork’ might be accurate, but it did not.  I was one of those foolish, foolish people who thought we were getting “past all that”.  I have been wounded on a level a 56 year old woman should not feel over the racism inherent in so much of the complaint, lies and distortions of the Obama presidency that is just hard to reconcile and still believe people are decent.

And then comes Ferguson.  The case of Officer Darren Wilson and the death of an unarmed suspect in a robbery was news but also and sadly, par for the course.   Next comes the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year old with a toy gun in a deserted park gunned down by police responding.  And just this week, no indictment for the choke-hold, crushing death of Eric Garner in NYC over a misdemeanor non-violent alleged crime.

With this and ALL of the cases that are making the news, the common theme is police overreaction with disproportional response and as decent human beings we recoil. Yes, all of these events involved people breaking the law or behaving in a suspicious or easily misinterpreted manner, no need to deny that.  But there are similar situations with white perpetrators that are handled very differently and with very different outcomes.  As Leonard Pitts suggests, “two clicks” can help clarify the problem. Yes, the police see some of the worst mankind has to offer and yes, they are in a relatively hazardous profession but the key here is that it is supposed to be a profession.

A profession has standards, procedures, protocols and judgment. Is such a take-down warranted when a summons would have sufficed? Was tackling him necessary when a drawn taser might have changed the dynamic? Did they try to calm the situation? Did they even attempt to consider the consequences of so many tackling such an obese man (common sense says don’t…)? When you are tackled, it is also human nature to fight back.

The cops who literally rolled up on Tamir and shot him within less than 2 seconds, Darren Wilson’s dehumanizing, self-serving and frankly ludicrous version of events in Ferguson, and this case of death by cop are all examples of a profession that is not in control, not in compliance with humanity and not “serving” or “protecting”. The racial element cannot be ignored and the comments from their defenders only reinforce the racism and institutional deafness to it. Police are NOT to be judge, jury and executioner. That is not who we are.

It is not possible to read the comments of people who refuse to see the racist element, who defend the police no matter how outrageous, unprofessional and dangerous their behavior is, without realizing that we are still a nation determined to label “the other” and diminish their legitimacy and rights in every realm it is possible in.  Even in sports, you are only as good as keeping your mouth shut and entertaining,  show support for the “wrong” side and you are too dumb to be allowed to protest anything.  The continued sharing of photo-shopped or mislabeled pictures that malign the black community, the white people who share the ‘black videos’ to bolster their clownish, ignorant and most important self-caricatures of themselves to prove they are ‘less than’ and then the black people who have turned on their own race by adding fuel to the fire of supporting the racism by agreeing with them as if that will make it better…it won’t.  They need to realize the severity of this divide and I think maybe they have given up even trying to speak to something that is so prevalent and yet so denied that they have to feel like they are in a “Twilight Zone” episode.

I feel we have failed as a people, there is no superior race, there is no superior religion, there is no superior person and perhaps that inner knowledge, though denied, explains the visceral need some people have to label, blame and belittle rather than try to understand, empathize or bridge the divide.  I know I get weary trying to help people see our role in the division.

flag of racism

Sandi Saunders:

I just found this awesome blog and this courageous man who finally has put it all together. He Rocks! Go give him a follow and enjoy!

Originally posted on The Weekly Sift:

Tea Partiers say you don’t understand them because you don’t understand American history. That’s probably true, but not in the way they want you to think.

Late in 2012, I came out of the Lincoln movie with two historical mysteries to solve:

  • How did the two parties switch places regarding the South, white supremacy, and civil rights? In Lincoln’s day, a radical Republican was an abolitionist, and when blacks did get the vote, they almost unanimously voted Republican. Today, the archetypal Republican is a Southern white, and blacks are almost all Democrats. How did American politics get from there to here?
  • One of the movie’s themes was how heavily the war’s continuing carnage weighed on Lincoln. (It particularly came through during Grant’s guided tour of the Richmond battlefield.) Could any cause, however lofty, justify this incredible slaughter? And yet, I realized, Lincoln was winning. What must the Confederate leaders…

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I keep hearing this phrase, “We can’t take care of all the world’s unwanted kids,” in response to George Will’s commentary on Fox. In fact, America can take care of “all the world’s unwanted kids” (nice strawman, by the way. Will is talking about border kids, not the entire planet. Regardless, they’re still wrong). We have an insane amount of wealth, a lion’s share of the world’s food production and more empty houses than we have homeless people. Their assertion is made from a position of forced ignorance. The powers that be (and they adhere to no particular political ideology, either) have a vested interest in keeping us from realizing precisely how ludicrously wealthy they really are.

The problem is that they can’t actually keep you from knowing if you choose to seek the information. In 2012, the world’s richest 100 people earned $240 billion dollars. For the sake of easy to follow math, we’re going to average the income between all 100 people. That’s one year. The average cost to raise a child from birth to 18 is $241,080. That works out to $13,393.33 per child per year. There are approximately 60,000 children at our border right now. To take care of them all would cost $803,600,000 per year, leaving those 100 people with a per year bill of $8,036,000. Keep in mind that their yearly income is still $2.4 billion each, leaving them with a paltry $2,391,964,000. That is just over 1/3 of 1% of their income!

Oh, it shouldn’t just be on the rich, you say? Let’s do the math on actual “notes and coins” US currency alone. There is approximately $1.3 trillion in circulation. If everyone donated 1% of their US money (that’s a penny from every dollar*) for the welfare of these border kids, there would be $13 billion available to feed, house, educate and assimilate these kids. One percent of our money. [* – we throw away $1.2 million in pennies every year. Many end up in our landfills.]

So, tell me again where/how we just can’t afford it? We certainly shouldn’t expect the world’s most insanely rich people to give up 0.4% of their wealth to help a hungry, scared and homeless child, right? Get out of here with that nonsense! Open your eyes and look at the numbers, people. Fixing this is easy, but we have to be willing to look beyond the curtain. If we can’t put aside our differences and unite for the sake of suffering children, we don’t deserve the many gifts that life on this planet has provided us.

Oh, and if you really feel like some fun math, the M2 figures for global currency in US dollars is $60 trillion. You don’t have to trust me, the people who like you divided and ignorant, or anyone else, for that matter. But you can trust the numbers. Math not only doesn’t lie, it can’t.



Chicago Bears Organized Team Activity Practice

In a comment today, someone claimed that “The natural right of freedom necessitates that one take responsibility for his or her individual life and decisions. Our present societal mindset is one in which we frequently allow, or even request, that our federal government eliminate freedoms we once cherished”. I argue that nothing in what our government does precludes that right to this day. 

“Our present societal mindset” has been formed by the ever encroaching freedom someone has expressed that ended in the oppression or some problem for someone else; ergo a law is written for all because of the abuse of some. That is what societies of people do. It is what societies of people have always done. True freedom is closer to anarchy than any of those bemoaning the loss of “freedoms we once cherished” want to admit. 

Nothing that the federal government “dictates” is without an impetus from citizens. Either a direct petition from the people or through their representative elected to do so. This pretense that things have been “taken” from anyone just to empower government is ridiculous. The quickest way to lose a right is to abuse it.

Why would the government care how you use your own property? Well if it is for a dump, for an animal sanctuary, a farm in the City, a hostel, a motel, a brothel, a business, band practice… 

Our economic system has always left us with the indigent who could not earn enough to support themselves and save for their retirement so again, the need was met with a program citizens supported. The federal government did not just decide to usurp. You are still free to save what you can for yourself. Why do you deny help to those who need it? Why do you pretend low wage jobs that need doing, can support workers existence and retirement? They cannot.

We have looked to the federal government to provide for the common good for a very long time for a very good reason. Society needs that equilibrium, whether you like it or not.

Modern Americans speak of wanting “to be free” but few mean it and fewer could afford it. Sure a “freedom-loving person dutifully accepts responsibility for his or her own life and the lives of their family” but that does not preclude a poor, disabled, orphaned, widowed, or low wage worker from also having a life and a family or desiring that freedom. 

In truth, we are all “afraid of real freedom” because of the multitude of laws we ask for. This notion you are free without having to abide by laws or pay taxes to help this nation be strong in all places (not just the well off) is just not honest or realistic. 

I see it as “tragic and disturbing that we live in a time when so many Americans view” helping the less able and fortunate as a “means of extracting assets from achievers with singular purpose of giving them to non-achievers” because that is virtually untrue. The real “two Americas” are the one where people think only their own hard work got them where they are and that they should not have to contribute and the one where those who are unable to achieve that level of success are still allowed a living and even a vote. America has always been a nation of producers and a nation of takers. Some just describe each through a different prism, Jesus, for example.

Our government gets as much “correct” as private business and industry does and for less than it would cost us otherwise, without the discrimination of judging. Government is a necessity to any society and so is charity and forbearance. We need reform in many programs, we certainly need better leaders and to get the influence of money and power out of our Republic, but the notion of less government is a fantasy 300 million people cannot indulge in.


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