Raise your hand if the following describes you: You follow politics closely. If you missed President Trump’s most recent COVID-19 press conference, your Twitter feed gave you the play-by-play. You have the presidential primary calendar just about memorized and can even distinguish candidates’ subtle policy differences in a crowded field. You often take to Twitter or Facebook to commiserate on the government’s latest coronavirus response with your co-partisans, defend your stances, or at least silently judge the few you follow who disagree. You struggle to understand why others don’t think the way you do about the other political party or its leaders. You can’t help but check out the latest polls, especially if they are from battleground states. You vote in every election, even on local candidates or propositions you never thought about before hopping into the booth. But yet, you belong to no political or community organizations.
Congrats—you’re a political hobbyist, and you’re doing politics all wrong. At least so says Eitan Hersh, a political scientist and the author of Politics Is for Power.
Hersh’s book offers an approachable reality check for voters. He forces readers to grapple with the uncomfortable reality that much of how they engage with politics isn’t necessarily helpful. In fact, he argues, the hobbyist forms of engagement are often precisely the reason why many popular causes struggle to be advanced.
For political hobbyists, the time we put into following the news is more akin to a spectator sport than a goal-driven purpose. Any influence we might enjoy comes from behind screens, not from any meaningful human connection. Sure, we may vote, but that’s about it in terms of tangible effort. Hobbyists’ activities are cloaked “in the language of civics,” Hersh notes, but are, at their core, virtue signaling, meant to show that we are in the fight because we post about it. It’s the “I VOTED” sticker of engagement—it lets people know we are involved but doesn’t demand any follow-up. We follow to be entertained.
So, then, what does Hersh say should ground our political involvement? Simple: the pursuit of power. The goal isn’t as contemptible as it sounds. In Hersh’s words, “Getting power means convincing people to take actions they wouldn’t otherwise take.” For example, individual citizens can organize to influence the voting decisions of others—including the decision to vote at all—or groups can interact with lawmakers and lobby for their cause. Even if you live in one of the many places that are dominated by a single political party, power can and should be sought to support your preferred candidate, advance an ignored issue, or persuade non-active citizens to invest their time on worthy causes within your community, like staffing food banks or revitalizing playgrounds. Voting is far from the only activity that can produce real change.
We’ve periodically seen such widespread commitment to activism. After Donald Trump’s election in 2016, citizens—particularly women, many of them not previously political—marched, worked phone banks, canvassed, and ran for office in pursuit of Democratic Party victory with an explicit purpose to get others to do the same. The actions weren’t revolutionary, but in the end, each contributed to large shifts of power at all levels of
government—including the election of the most diverse freshman class in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hersh goes further. He warns that political hobbyists aren’t just doing politics wrong, they may actually be making it more dysfunctional. He writes, “Political hobbyism isn’t just a distinct activity from the pursuit of political power; it hinders the pursuit of political power.” Why? Hobbyists spend their time not seeking power, but talking about it passionately from the comfort of the sidelines. It creates a doom loop: The more engaged in hobbyist politics we become, the less likely we are to spend our time effecting change.
That’s not all. Hobbyists are trapped in their own curated echo chamber of political media that prevents those most plugged in from hearing alternative perspectives. Elected officials respond to this reality because they know full well that those who consume the most political news are most likely to turn out on Election Day. Thus, hobbyism contributes to immovable litmus tests for candidates wherein they become most beholden to the loudest, most active, and often most extreme voices within their base.
An overlooked danger with Hersh’s desire for more activism is that hobbyists turned activists can actually lead to even more dysfunction. After Barack Obama’s election in 2008, Tea Party conservatives, aided by the Koch brothers’ money but operating overwhelmingly at the grass roots, moved the entire Republican Party to the right by convincing fellow conservatives to “primary” insufficiently ideological GOP lawmakers. Unsurprisingly, the freshman Tea Party members held the GOP House caucus hostage to its nihilist views of government, leading to repeated government shutdowns and paving the way for the election of Trump.
The Democrats have also experienced an ideological insurgency with the rise of an activist Bernie/AOC left. But while that movement has helped shift the party’s agenda to the left, it has had minimal impact on electoral outcomes to date. The vast majority of Democrats who flipped congressional races in 2018 were mainstream liberals and moderates, as is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden. Unlike the GOP, the Democratic Party still has a sizable moderate wing of voters who, when they move from political hobbyists to participants, can have a powerful impact. In an era of what political scientists call “asymmetrical polarization,” Hersh’s thesis about the moderating influence of citizen activism may be (like so much else in today’s politics) far more true of one party than the other.
Another limitation is Hersh’s suggestions of what citizens should do instead of engaging in hobbyism. Only the last 20 pages are devoted to action items, and even then, it’s broad strokes: focus on the local; build community; listen; don’t think short term; build power one conversation at a time. The final chapter reads more as a pep talk for interested citizens rather than as a specific playbook of concrete steps for hobbyists to change their ways.
Perhaps Hersh’s biggest, if under-researched, idea is a fundamental rethinking of how political parties might leverage their own power. In essence, Hersh argues that parties would have a much higher return on their campaign capital if they literally invested in direct community services.
It’s no secret that campaigns are flooded with cash. The vast majority—$3 billion in 2016 alone—are, as Hersh puts it, “shallow, one-off” campaign ads that aim to show voters that the party or candidate truly cares about them. They are one-time support requests under the guise of compassion. After Election Day, the parties—particularly local parties—all but disappear until the campaign cycle refreshes and the next ask soon follows.
Instead of this system, Hersh suggests that parties should use a portion of campaign money to provide continual direct services that actually help citizens. He writes, “Imagine if some of those millions of dollars were instead allocated to tie a party’s brand name to actual service such as backup childcare or eldercare.” There is no shortage of community needs that would fit the model: addiction and mental health clinics; job training; financial and tax services; auto repair shops; civic training. Communities would benefit from the services while citizens would see the parties and candidates literally putting their money where their mouths are before asking for anything. They would earn support in service first. Wouldn’t this engender voter good will far more effectively than even the most viral campaign spot?
Of course, providing these services is not simple, nor does it come without risks. Many countries, including the United States, have a long history with clientelism—the trading of services for political support—sometimes with disastrous results. In American politics, the strategy is filled with legal land mines and potential campaign finance violations, and in reporting the book Hersh made only a few calls to lawyers to find the legal line. Even if a service framework can be legally established, charges of vote buying and patronage are inevitable, though such fears can be somewhat alleviated with equal and free service access regardless of political affiliation or voting history. Moreover, the service model could result in a new generation of party machines and bosses who hold outsize political power because of their control over the service apparatus.
The point is that there is room to experiment. If direct services are a bridge too far, parties would be wise to rethink their voter activation models, like the Democratic Party in Texas, which recently unveiled a new platform that streamlines the voter registration process and provides a pre-addressed envelope to the newly registered voter so they can send in their ballot, with the postage bill paid for by the party. Communities, voters, and lasting political organizations could all benefit from new lines of service that focus on training activists rather than turning out voters. The latter would come as a result of the former. But first, we can start by recognizing our likely contribution to political hobbyism. Then it’s up to us to decide to do something different, something lasting, something more connective in pursuit of our preferred political outcomes.
The Navajo Nation has been under lockdown the last two weekends as COVID-19 cases surged to dramatic highs across Arizona and Utah, potentially unraveling weeks of painstaking efforts to keep the virus spread contained.
The pandemic has ravaged Navajo land. More people have died here than in 16 states, and the per capita death rate — a tragic toll of 177 per 100,000 residents — is higher than in any single American state. As outbreaks across Florida, Texas and elsewhere make national headlines, the virus rages here too, far from the national consciousness.
This unfolding crisis, of course, cannot be separated from decade upon decade of neglect, broken promises and, yes, genocide, that has been inflicted on the Navajo and other indigeneous people by the United States of America. Those centuries of abuse have also created massive structural inequities and day-to-day living conditions that make it harder still to counteract the coronavirus in the present moment. This isn’t history. We own this shame.
One-third of the Navajo population lacks running water. There are 13 grocery stores across 27,000 square miles. Housing is overcrowded, and many Navajo live together in communal homes. The hospital and health care system is understaffed and underfunded. There’s unreliable access to electricity and the internet. State and federal governments agreed to meet these costs via treaties and statutes; they have not kept their word. Billions owed have not been paid.
What’s more: Voting rights across states with large Native American populations continue to be rife with suppression efforts, gerrymandering and other egregious attempts to deny Navajo and others fair representation and fair access to resources and government dollars. Once again, this isn’t history. It’s current events. And it has exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic and led to unnecessarily high death rates.
“We’ve been lied to and we’ve been messed with for years and years,” says Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. “On one side, the story is forever changing. On our side, we’re forever baffled.”
Consider San Juan County in southern Utah, a single county nearly the size of New Jersey that stretches across thousands of square miles bordering Arizona and Colorado. Its population — estimated at just 15,000 — majority Navajo, and yet its resources have been monopolized for decades by two small, largely white towns, Blanding and Monticello, via underhanded tactics and dirty dealings. When the Mormons arrived in this region in the 1880s, they forcibly removed the Navajo and other Native tribes, pushing those who weren’t killed into the desert far south. They took the land. Then they claimed all the power.
Utah did not extend the vote to Native Americans until 1957, and then only under court order. It took another three decades for a Navajo to be elected to public office. Until the mid-1980s, white voters in San Juan County maintained complete control by electing the county commission with at-large districts. Because whites voted easily and conveniently, their turnout was always higher, and they maintained every seat. They made it harder for the Navajo: County clerks refused to register them, knocked Native candidates off the ballot for made-up or picayune reasons, and printed ballots only in English.
The Department of Justice finally took notice in 1983 and forced the county to scrap the discriminatory at-large system and replace it with three districts, assuring the Navajo of a voice. The districts the white officials drew, however, were so gerrymandered that they guaranteed themselves the loudest voice. The two largest white towns were placed in separate districts, while more than 90 percent of the Navajo population was packed into the third district.
Now the white towns controlled the commission just two to one, but they made sure they kept all the resources and public dollars. Well into the 1990s, county officials denied any responsibility to educate Navajo children. New schools, libraries, health centers, golf courses and community centers, often with public funding, opened in Blanding and Monticello. Meanwhile, roads across the Navajo land are impassable after a good rain. Horrified Justice Department officials concluded they “hadn’t seen anything so bad since the ’60s in the South.”
And yet: After the 1990, 2000 and 2010 censuses, officials didn’t bother redistricting the county officials at all. After a lengthy legal battle, a federal judge ordered the districts redrawn by a special master ahead of the 2018 election, and under a fair map, the Navajo had a road to victory in two of three districts. County officials went back to their old tricks and conspired to knock the leading Navajo candidate, Willie Grayeyes, from the ballot. This time, they failed. In November 2018, for the first time ever, Navajo members won two of the three seats. It wasn’t easy. San Juan County became a vote-by-mail county in 2018, another advantage for Blanding and Monticello over the Navajo land, where there are three postal stations across all those hundreds of miles, tucked into the back of convenience stores.
When I met Grayeyes for coffee and blue corn cakes at the Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff, Utah, days before his victory, he told me that the county receives federal dollars based on its size and population. But then “water, natural resources, education dollars, they all stop there.” Nothing flows south over what he called “the invisible wall” of the two white towns. “It does not matter how many miles we have, or how many people,” he said. “Where are the roads? Health services? Public safety? Telecommunications infrastructure? We need to break that wall down, one stone at a time.”
That wall was built, in part, and maintained by voter suppression. The deep inequities and structural disparities across San Juan County and the Navajo Nation — the health issues exacerbated by years of neglect, now exacerbated by a pandemic hitting this population harder than any other nationwide — were built and maintained, in part, by rigged elections. Not in 1880 or 1964. Right now. In our own time. And it is leading to the death of Native people not in 1630 or 1830, but right now.
As a pandemic rages across the Navajo Nation, our long overdue national reckoning must grapple with this as well.
As this troubled summer rolls along, and the world begins to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation, and use, of the first atomic bombs, many special, or especially tragic, days will draw special attention. They will include July 16 (first test of the weapon in New Mexico), August 6 (bomb dropped over Hiroshima) and August 9 (over Nagasaki). Surely far fewer in the media and elsewhere will mark another key date: July 3.
On July 3, 1945, the great atomic scientist Leo Szilard finished a letter/petition that would become the strongest (virtually the only) real attempt at halting President Truman’s march to using the atomic bomb–still almost two weeks from its first test at Trinity–against Japanese cities.
We rarely hear that as the Truman White House made plans to use the first atomic bombs against Japan in the summer of 1945, a large group of atomic scientists, many of whom had worked on the bomb project, raised their voices, or at least their names, in protest. They were led by the great physicist Szilard who, among things, is the man who convinced Albert Einstein to write his famous yes-it-can-be-done letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, setting the bomb project in motion.
On July 3, he finished a petition to the new president for his fellow scientists to consider. It called atomic bombs “a means for the ruthless annihilation of cities ” and asked the president “to rule that the United States shall not, in the present phase of the war, resort to the use of atomic bombs.” Dozens of his fellow Manhattan Project scientists signed.
The following day he wrote this cover letter (see below). The same day, Leslie Groves, military chief and overall director of the Manhattan Project, began a campaign to combat Szilard–including strong FBI surveillance–and remove him from the bomb project. Groves also made sure the petition never landed on Truman’s desk. No action was ever taken on it, in any event.
The bomb would be dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, with almost no one close to Truman or in a high military position calling for him to delay or reconsider (General Dwight D. Eisenhower a prime exception). For taking part in creating the bomb, and then failing to halt its use against people, Szilard would later proclaim that he might deserve the label, “war criminal.”
I have become rather fond of the mouthy, principled, Szilard as he came play a key role in my new book, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood–and America–Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It’s the story of how Truman and Groves sabotaged the first movie on the atomic bomb, from MGM, in 1946, transforming it from a warning against building more and bigger bomb into pro-bomb propaganda. The film-makers managed to secure Szilard’s permission to be portrayed in the movie–but failed to mention his petition or opposition to the Truman’s use of the bomb.
Indeed, MGM was forced to make numerous key revisions under pressure from Truman and Groves, who had script approval, to endorse using the weapon against Japanese cities.
Here’s the letter to his colleagues:
Enclosed is the text of a petition which will be submitted to the President of the United States. As you will see, this petition is based on purely moral considerations. It may very well be that the decision of the President whether or not to use atomic bombs in the war against Japan will largely be based on considerations of expediency. On the basis of expediency, many arguments could be put forward both for and against our use of atomic bombs against Japan.
Such arguments could be considered only within the framework of a thorough analysis of the situation which will face the United States after this war and it was felt that no useful purpose would be served by considering arguments of expediency in a short petition.
However small the chance might be that our petition may influence the course of events, I personally feel that it would be a matter of importance if a large number of scientists who have worked in this field went clearly and unmistakably on record as to their opposition on moral grounds to the use of these bombs in the present phase of the war.
Many of us are inclined to say that individual Germans share the guilt for the acts which Germany committed during this war because they did not raise their voices in protest against these acts. Their defense that their protest would have been of no avail hardly seems acceptable even though these Germans could not have protests without running risks to life and liberty. We are in a position to raise our voices without incurring any such risks even though we might incur the displeasure of some of those who are at present in charge of controlling the work on “atomic power”.
The fact that the people of the people of the United States are unaware of the choice which faces us increases our responsibility in this matter since those who have worked on “atomic power” represent a sample of the population and they alone are in a position to form an opinion and declare their stand.
Anyone who might wish to go on record by signing the petition ought to have an opportunity to do so and, therefore, it would be appreciated if you could give every member of your group an opportunity for signing.
Greg Mitchell is the author of a dozen books, the latest The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood–and America–Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (The New Press). link:
I am in deep pain when I look at the accounts of the death of George Floyd. There are many others recently, but George Floyd’s death is especially painful, and vengeful. I thought I was out of tears and then, wicked cops killed Elijah McClain, a nerdy guy who played his violin at the animal shelter for forlorn feral cats. Like Floyd, he begged for his life. He told them cops; he didn’t even fight other young’uns.
But they choked him, then when he was unresponsive, paramedics pumped him with drugs. He was a skinny, little, nerdy kid, not a big buck like Floyd. But it didn’t matter. Were either of them Baptist, or Catholic, or Muslim, Brother Malcolm X might inquire. It doesn’t matter. What matters is they were Black and some Ku Kluxers with a badge thought them to be “suspicious” and took the law into their own hands.
I know how they think. “I’ll teach him a lesson, because some liberal judge will let him off with a plea deal.” “He may not be guilty of this crime, but he’s guilty of something, so I’ll teach him not to walk the streets in the 77th Precinct.”
Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, the list seems endless, and we are rightly outraged. Now, at last, the whole world shares our outrage. It’s good that so many are now outraged. The Watts Uprising in 1965 was over this very same kind of police abuse, and that was 55 years ago.
It hurts me to say this, but far more Black people are killed every week at the hands of out-of-control young hoodlums who answer to no one, and only change their thuggish ways after a long prison bid for one offense or another, or after they grow too old to compete with the young’uns in “The Game.”
The sad part is that no one except the affected family members mourns for the victims of homeboy violence. When a cop (especially a White cop) or a White civilian kills one of us, we scream, “Black Lives Matter.” We march. We protest. When Cousin Juney Boy is the perpetrator, we are mum.
I insist, those Black lives matter too.
Over one recent June weekend in Chicago, 14 Black folks were murdered, 102 were wounded at the hands of our own people. There were no murals, no marches, no celebrities rushing forward with money to pay for those funerals and to get a headline. We don’t even know their names. Fourteen dead, 102 injured in one bloody weekend. Sometimes our little babies are killed by stray bullets, and we remain silent.
So, when I posted a complaint on social media about our myopia when White folks are not to blame, I was called “stupid,” “offensive,” “propagandist,” told I had lost my damn mind. Well, I may be crazy, out of my mind, but I’m not stupid.
The saddest part is that those perpetrators went back to their homes and faced no consequences. Sadly, some of us even know our out-of-control children commit these terrible crimes but are maybe afraid to confront them. It’s understandable, who would want to send our child into the hands of the U.S. criminal injustice system? But wrong is still wrong.
On that weekend in Chicago, two boys were killed and another wounded because they asked some dude in a convenience store how tall he is! Just days later in New York, a high school basketball star was gunned down days after his graduation, but not by a cop or a White vigilante, though, so our voices were silent.
But don’t try to make me out as some kind of Tea Party-collaborating, Uncle Clarence Tom-ass because I’m sick of seeing it, and have the nerve to say something about it. No way! Go down to your basement, there’s an 800-pound gorilla there playing video games, and otherwise up to no good. Show him some tough love. Get him to mend his/her ways. Get him/her to go to school. Take him/her to the community college to enroll. Require him/her to do something productive with his/her life. Be an example.
I’m not wrong for calling us to discipline ourselves. Like when cops do it to us, and when White folks do it to us, us, killing and injuring us is wrong, and we’re the only ones who can correct the wrong!
A scene from the movie “Gangs of New York” puts the current unrest in our cities into perspective. It depicts a battle between rival gangs of poor white people — native-born Americans versus Irish immigrants — in the notorious Manhattan slum of Five Points. Their battle is suddenly interrupted by cannon fire from American warships anchored in the Hudson River that are attempting to quell a larger riot. The gang battle just happened to be in their way.
The larger riot had erupted over the nation’s first wartime draft, which was raising troops for the Union’s extended and deadly efforts to win the Civil War. If a draftee could afford it, he could pay $300 — the equivalent of almost $9,000 today — to buy an exemption and avoid going to war. When lists were posted naming the poor people who had been unable to avoid the draft, the protests turned violent. The “mob,” as the protesters were called in the movie, began looting and killing Black people. Those poor white protesters blamed their misfortunes on the yearning of Black people to be free.
Slowly, the mob moved uptown to wealthy white neighborhoods, looting and killing more people. That’s when a voice was heard saying: “We must put down the mob. Put down the mob at all cost.” The ships then commenced to fire. The army marched in. The “mob” was put down, the draft was implemented, and the war proceeded along its bloody path.
The point is that violence in poor and working-poor communities, whether it’s white-on-white, white-on-Black, or people of color-on-others, is allowed, and in some ways even encouraged, by wealthy whites, as long as that violence doesn’t threaten their privileges. America will summon its army and navy to protect the supremacy of the “rights” those people enjoy.
The scene from “Gangs of New York” focused on the roots of that white supremacy: the power of wealth, the advantages of whiteness, and the oppression of Blacks and other people of color.
Today’s unrest has been cast as a protest against racial injustice, as if injustice can be segmented. Racial injustice is a servant of economic injustice. In America, the latter could not exist without the nation being conditioned to obsess over the former. Scientists tell us that race is not a biological reality, but an illusion. Societies invented so-called racial identities long ago as tools of manipulation and vehicles by which to profit. As such, racial fear and hatred are learned vices.
While many protesters insist Black lives must matter, the only way we can achieve that result is by breaking the cycles of white supremacy. Doing so will be no small task, because white supremacy perpetuates itself in all aspects of America’s social formation. It resists attacks, pretends to decry injustice, and insincerely promises to do better. But in the end, white supremacy has the power to repeatedly “put down the mob” until discontent inevitably boils over again. Too often, it seems unconquerable.
If the experiment we call America is to succeed, the cycles of white supremacy must be broken. White people must stop being surprised by injustices that have been in plain view for over 400 years. Stop saying “something needs to be done.” We have heard that before. Do something!
Start with the truth. Say that white supremacy in all its manifestations is the problem. Say that white supremacy is evil, a sin against the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, and that it is bad for America. It’s not enough to talk about “equity” and “merit,” because they are incapable of coexisting with white supremacy. Finally, stop hiding behind market theory and “capitalism,” and the presumption that both operate independent of race, and call it what it is: greed. Greed concentrates white wealth while limiting opportunities not only for people of color, but for most white people as well. Close the wealth gap by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and the economy will take care of itself.
White supremacy cannot have its cake and eat it too. America’s success requires a better business model, one that allows human potential to flourish whatever its color or class. Such work requires an institution that grows from the seeds you are planting. Therefore, the University of the District of Columbia is establishing the Institute for the Study and Elimination of White Supremacy in America.
All people — scholars, activists, citizens — who believe in the idea of America — that all people are created equal and endowed with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — are invited to join this enterprise.
The days of simply commiserating over the condition of poor, Black and brown Americans is over. It is time to rethink our future. It is finally time for one nation, under God, indivisible, to be born!
Mason is president of the University of the District of Columbia, the nation’s only exclusively urban land-grant university and public HBCU in Washington, D.C.
Some things get easier with time. Some things, no matter how much time goes by, never do. The death of my mother sits at the top of the list. That’s my conclusion as the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death approaches on July 4th. Momma was 91.
In many ways, I realize that I am indeed fortunate — blessed to have had my mother, Edna, in my life for so many years. During her last four years of life, she slowly began slipping away from me and our family as Alzheimer’s disease took its toll on her abilities to remember and to engage. But there were those moments when, suddenly, she was that energetic ball of fire that I remembered and missed so much.
There were things that I took for granted that I now tell my children, my grandsons and others to never allow to happen.
I grew to long for those Sunday dinners: oven-fried chicken, sweet potatoes cooked to perfection, macaroni and cheese — the cheese oozing over the sides of the pan, cornbread (Jiffy’s of course), collard greens mixed with turnips and okra. I grew to long for our fierce Scrabble competitions which as I grew older and my vocabulary developed, I began to beat her with ease — much to her dismay and pride.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. I grew to long for those road trips we took long ago every summer during my youth to Camden and Mobile, Pensacola, Baltimore, Williamsburg, Charles City where we’d visit all of the kinfolks. Like a Black version of the Von Trapp family, Mom, along with my older sister and I, would sing three-part harmony to the Top Ten tunes from her choir back in Detroit. Then, we’d add the Motown hits from the Temps, Tops, Supremes and all the rest.
Meanwhile, my Dad, who also died on another holiday, Father’s Day, in 1985, would hum in the background since he’d never been able to carry a tune. We let him keep the beat.
But most of all, I remember the cards my mother would send to me — always knowing, somehow, that I was a bit overwhelmed with life, despondent over setbacks or failures, or just plain broke and in need of a few dollars. She always knew. And she always sent me a note of encouragement which, as I look back on it, meant a lot more than any amount of money she would include.
One day not long ago, I found a box that my mother had saved which had no label on the outside. In it were all of the clippings of my writings — things I’d written as a child all the way through my professional career as a journalist. There were cards that I had sent to her. There were photos and photos and more photos. The box was a cornucopia of love. It was her collection of memories of me — of us.
Earlier I said I realize how fortunate and blessed I am and have been. I stand by that statement.
You see, as she began to forget how to walk, feed herself, even use the bathroom or wash herself, I found myself forced to accept a new role as the parent of a very young child. Our roles had been reversed — not of my choosing — but out of necessity.
I began to enjoy combing her hair, getting her dressed for a concert or dinner when she was up to it. I looked forward to tucking her in and kissing her goodnight. I relished the chance to cook HER favorites and see her make a mess as she gobbled up my greens, my chicken, my sweet potatoes and my macaroni and cheese.
Then, like all of us, she’d lay back on the couch and begin to snore — loudly.
I remember praying that God would take her in her sleep, peacefully, painlessly, so that she would not have to endure being alone in a hospital room with tubes, and needles and nurses — alone. God granted me that prayer on America’s birthday.
I don’t really care about the fireworks or the singing of national anthems like “My Country, Tis of Thee” or “God, Bless America.” I don’t put out a red, white and blue flag. I don’t stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In fact, I don’t do anything patriotic at all.
Instead I look to the heavens, then open that box of memories that my mother cherished and saved so that one day I would discover it and know that while even in death, she’d never be far away from me.
Actually, when I think about, Momma is just a prayer away.
Black lives may matter more at MSNBC.The No. 2 cable news network is reportedly adding some much-needed color to its prime-time lineup.Weekend morning anchor Joy Ann Reid — sometimes referred to as Joy Reid — will reportedly succeed Chris Matthews in his “Hardball” time slot, which was vacated three months ago when he resigned over sexual harassment accusations.Citing unnamed individuals with knowledge of the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that MSNBC is “close” to announcing Reid as the new host of the network’s 7 p.m. ET slot, establishing her as the lead-in to its block of primetime…
Murder mystery“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” is the latest true-crime series, but much more. While its six episodes document the hunt for the Golden State Killer, responsible for more than 50 rapes and 12 murders in the 1970s-’80s, Oscar-nominated director Liz Garbus (“What Happened, Miss Simone?”) is just as interested in profiling amateur sleuth Michelle McNamara, who helped unmask the criminal before succumbing to an opioid dependency the same day Prince died. There’s a lot to unpack, maybe too much. Hit the pause button every 20 minutes to catch your breath.9 p.m. Sunday, HBOTop of the worldIt…
Washington (AFP) – Facebook said Friday it would ban a “wider category of hateful content” in ads as the embattled social media giant moved to respond to growing protests over its handling of inflammatory posts.Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook also would add tags to posts that are “newsworthy” but violate platform rules — following the lead of Twitter, which has used such labels on tweets from President Donald Trump.The initiative comes with the leading social network facing a growing boycott by advertisers — with soft drink behemoth Coca-Cola and Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever join…
Writing at the Financial Times, Janen Ganesh posits that conservatives have lost the culture war.
In the round, though, “movement conservatism” is most notable for the gap between its political success and actual outcomes, at least in the realm of culture. Its organisational flair, its ecosystem of journals and think tanks, even its elected presidents have stood athwart history, yelling “stop!”, as [William] Buckley suggested. If anything, history sped up. The recent statue-felling is just the outward expression of decades of social change.
When we talk about the culture war, everyone assumes they know what we mean. But just to be clear, it is a reference to the attempt by conservatives to preserve the status quo when it comes to racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious bigotry.
The initial round of the culture war was launched when Republicans embraced the so-called “Southern Strategy” of speaking in racist dog-whistles to woo the support of southern Democrats after passage of the civil rights laws in the 1960s. Clare Malone has written an excellent piece documenting the history of how the Republican Party spent decades making itself white. Doing so meant tapping into the racist fears of their supporters.
As Katherine Stewart outlined in her book, The Power Worshippers, the next stage of what we call the culture war occurred when Paul Weyrich worked to establish a coalition between Goldwater supporters and Christian nationalists, leading to the election of Ronald Reagan. Initially, Weyrich joined with leaders like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Bob Jones to fight against federal attempts to desegregate their schools. But they eventually had to make adjustments.
As Weyrich understood, building a new movement around the burning issue of defending the tax advantages of racist schools wasn’t going to be a viable strategy on the national stage. “Stop the tax on segregation” just wasn’t going to inspire the kind of broad-based conservative counterrevolution that Weyrich envisioned. They needed an issue with a more acceptable appeal.
What they settled on was the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade, which had initially been accepted by white evangelical Christians. But eventually they were able to make anti-abortion the rallying cry of the culture war. That was soon expanded to include things like a fight to maintain (Christian) prayer in schools and efforts to deny equal rights to gay and lesbian Americans. The culture war of today includes everything from claiming there is a war on Christmas to McCarthyite efforts to uncover Muslim plots to implement so-called “sharia law” in this country.
Before we declare the end of the culture war, it is important to know this history because, as Katherine Stewart notes, it has never really been about culture.
It is not a social or cultural movement. It is a political movement, and its ultimate goal is power. It does not seek to add another voice to America’s pluralistic democracy but to replace our foundational democratic principles and institutions with a state grounded on a particular version of Christianity answering to what some adherents call a “biblical worldview” that also happens to serve the interests of its plutocratic funders and allied political leaders…This is not a “culture war.” It is a political war over the future of democracy.
Let me give you a couple of examples for how that works. Back in the early 2000s, gays and lesbians were focused on fighting for equal protections in employment. But in the 2004 election, Karl Rove saw the opportunity to inflame the culture war by working to get defense of marriage on as many ballots as possible, assuming that would help George W. Bush win reelection. Similarly, Steve Bannon’s strategy was to inflame fears about immigration and race to propel Donald Trump into office.
The shift Ganesh recognizes is that we are reaching an inflection point in this country where the wedge issues of the culture war might not be sufficient for Republicans to maintain their power. One way to explain what’s happening is to look at a theory developed by Everett Rogers called the “diffusion of innovation.” It seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. The process is captured by this graph, with the blue line showing the rate at which people adopt new ideas and the yellow indicating market share.
One way to think about the so-called “culture war” is that, on most of these issues, the late majority is in the process of adapting. Watching the bully-in-chief constantly rant about making America great again is simply speeding up the process.
But because the power brokers who manipulate people with the culture war have pretty much given up on governing and embraced grievance politics as their platform, they know that abandoning their current position would rob them of their only base of support. As a result, they are increasingly reliant on the anti-democratic means of voter suppression and gerrymandering. In the long term, that is a losing proposition. But the culture war won’t be over until they come up with a new strategy to gain power.