Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fifty Years After the Civil Rights Era, Evil Prevails Again

Civil rights demonstrator attacked by a police dog on May 3, 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama

Stephanie McCurry, Professor of History at Columbia University, taught History of the Slave South on Coursera a few years ago. In her conclusion she said: 
"The Confederate States of America was transformed by war, and the Confederate political project was undone … when the 4 million African Americans born enslaved in the United States seized the opening history offered.

When they rose on the plantations. When they grabbed up their children and poured into Union lines. When they insisted that the Union reformulate policy to account for their historic mission of emancipation. When men, women, and children alike, risked all to turn the war in the right direction. When they made slaveholders ask for the first time, what do the slaves want? …
And given the pro slavery, white supremacist and anti democratic aspirations of that nation, there was a certain justice, I think, in that."   
A certain justice, but not enough to exorcise the racism ingrained in so many that less than 50 years after the Civil Rights era, white supremacists are on the ascendancy again and the alt-right has dictated the next American president, who is now choosing racists, bigots and warmongers for his crew. Salon.com has an excellent piece on Senator Sessions, Trump's choice for AG. And as Rep. Luis V. GutiĆ©rrez (D-IL) said of him:
"If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man. No Senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color than Sen. Sessions... He ran for the Senate because he was deemed by the Senate Judiciary Committee as too racist to serve as a federal judge. He is the kind of person who will set back law enforcement, civil rights, the courts, and increase America’s mass incarceration industry and erase 50 years of progress."
Divisions in American society run terribly deep, and hard as people have tried to believe that America, with all its diversity is at heart homogeneous in spirit, it's wishful thinking, and usually on the part of liberals.

Abusers, in politics and even in relationships, get away with a lot as their generous-spirited victims give them chance after chance after chance, desperately holding onto the belief that everybody is intrinsically good if you just give them understanding. Finally there comes a point when the victims face reality. Understanding sometimes does nothing more than enable more abuse.

And so abusive spouses face divorce, abusive friends find themselves friendless, revolutions get rid of dictators. But still, even as history teaches us at a personal and societal level that early warning signals, if ignored, always lead to dangerous eruptions, liberals try to make peace with bigots and racists in the name of democracy and inclusiveness. But liberalism is intrinsically about ensuring that everybody has equal rights. When those who oppose that idea act out their beliefs and in doing so strip others of their rights, they give up some of their own. Basic human rights come with moral accountability. 

It's how society operates and stays moderately functional. So when millions of people vote in a deeply racist demagogue who has whipped up hatred and fomented intolerance until manifestations of it start returning America to pre-Civil Rights days, the last thing liberals need is to try and make peace with those voters.

The alt-right rationale is that their anger has its roots in being excluded. Have they been excluded? No they haven't. They got a superlative president who, more than any Republican president before him, truly believed in his heart of hearts that his presidential responsibility was to everybody, not just those who voted for him. But he wasn't white and those conservatives voted in a GOP Congress who made it impossible for the president to help them in the way that he wanted to.

So no, I don't buy the idea that middle America has been excluded. Middle America has excluded itself. If you want to be part of the human race dialogue and you want to benefit from others' desire for equality, you have to want it yourself and fight against that which thwarts it, not vote it into office.

When good people do nothing, evil prevails. Trying to make friends with supporters of Donald Trump is the equivalent of doing nothing. And we need to face it; evil is prevailing right now. It's not something that might happen next month or next week. It's happening now. And anybody who does anything other than help to strengthen Democrats in this time of crisis is adding to the problem.