Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A return to the good ole days

 

I begin my days by turning on the television and watching the news.  Slowly, I am trying to start my day another way.  Maybe I can get up a little bit earlier and go for my daily walk before it gets too hot and muggy to do so.  Or I could have coffee and a light breakfast while having a chat with my husband.

What I realize is that watching the news may not be the best way to begin my workday, especially given the current news cycle where just about everything seems to be bleak and foreboding.

For the middle class, the fight for our very survival has never been greater.  We are living in an era where our two-party system of governance is broken…possibly beyond repair.  The system that has worked for decades has been shattered because one of the parties in our government refuses to participate fairly in the system that has worked for most of us in the past.  I say most of us because we know that the very system that I speak of was not designed for everyone to live, love, and prosper under the constitution.  The system was designed for the prosperity of a few at the expense of many.

In the era of the fifties, people could go to drives-ins, go to drive up restaurants and order a burger and a malt by a teen-waitress on wheels, enjoy a high school soph hop and get awarded pins of merits by the cub, boy, or girl scouts.  Unfortunately, this era did not include everyone, and it wasn’t meant to.  This was how the system was intended.  This time of innocence did not include people of color.  We were bitterly omitted; forced unwillingly to sit on the sidelines of an America that did not want us, nor did they lend value to our communities.

 In the era of the sixties, people of color fought for civil rights and won, even if it was in name only.  We fought for the right to be seen and heard.  Gone were the days of black and brown singers having to have someone else pose for the covers of their albums because the sight of our faces offended a few.  Gone were the days of segregated schools.  We could participate in the democratic process by exercising our right to vote thus allowing our voices to be heard.

The seventies era gave way to the rights for women.  They were no longer considered to be the property of men.  Their places were no longer in the home where they would have to be barefoot and pregnant.  They could do more than tend to the children, fix dinner, and serve their husbands a cocktail all while wearing an apron, high heels, and a string of pearls.

The seventies also gave way to the LGBTQ rights in the form of the first riot in Greenwich Village, NY where the police would habitually raid gay establishments, shutting them down until June 28th, 1969, when the gay community fought back…and won.

And for a while, all seemed right with the world.

But reality has a funny way of sneaking in and backhanding you with the truth and you wake up realizing that your experience was a thinly veiled lie because like it or not, we are being slowly pushed back into the era of the fifties.  And like it or not, there may be little we can do about it.

With the Supreme Court’s nullification of Roe v Wade, women no longer have the right to choose to have an abortion should the circumstances present itself in certain states.  In some states, it doesn’t matter if the woman was the victim of incest or rape.

And the Supreme Court is now mulling over whether to come after LGBTQ rights which includes the right to marry.  It is highly possible that it may be illegal to be in a same sex or interracial relationship.  What’s worse is that the decision is being made in the vacuum of the perceived religious values of a few.

They have already made the decision to take away a woman’s right to choose regardless of the blowback that they are receiving.

Right now, former disgraced president Trump is backing candidates that believe in the big lie,  that the 2020 election was stolen from him.  He is systematically installing candidates that will make it easier for him to overturn the outcome of a presidential election should he lose in 2024.

This should not surprise anyone since it is painfully obvious that he attempted to remain in power at all costs and it appears as if there was an extremely detailed plot to assist the former president in this regard.

America may not be able to survive another Trump presidency.  Images of his constantly playing golf have been seared into the memory of many Americans.  We also realize that there are many people who support the twice impeached, disgraced former president; and with that knowledge comes the fact that Trumpism is alive and well in this country.

Hatred has become the norm.  Candidates that support the big lie will behave much like the disgraced former president and this has also become the new landscape of the Republican party.  We are currently living in an era where democracy hangs on by a mere thread.  If we are not careful, autocracy will take the place of our democratic norms.

And what is frightening about all of this is that the majority seems to be held hostage by the reasoning of a few.  And the few seem to believe in conspiracy theories and misinformation as opposed to the rule of law, the will of the American people and the guidelines of the Constitution.

It appears as if we are doomed unless…

We all get out and vote.  We must act as if our very lives depend not just on this election but for every single election moving forward.  We cannot trust that the Republicans (and for that fact, the Democrats) to do the right thing that is good for the American people.  We cannot trust that our two-party system will do the right thing by all of us.  We already know that the Republicans plan on stealing the election.  They have been taught by Donald Trump, using his behavior as a blueprint to reflect what has worked and what hasn’t by saying ahead of time that an election has been rigged or that the election was stolen to cast doubt on the electoral process.

With the deck stacked against us, we can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines because we did not get everything we wanted.  All of us: old, young, male, female, gay and straight, Democratic, or Progressive, need to get out the vote because our very way of life depends on it.

~ J.L. Whitehead

 

 

 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Now that we are in the post Roe era - what's next?

 

On Friday, June 24th, the Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade making it the first time in history that they took away rights as opposed to adding them.  What bothers me most about this is that we have the will of a few imposing their will on most of Americans.  There are people (women included) that cheered for the victory of the overturning of Roe v Wade. But there are massive protests as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision to nullify a right that should rest between a woman and her doctor.  The conservative judges are making decisions based on their religious convictions as well as their personal beliefs. The decisions made does not reflect the will of most of the American people.

This is a fact.

What I am realizing is that, like it or not, we are in for a rude awakening as to what we thought our inalienable rights are. Women thought that they would always have access to quality care if they should require an abortion. It does not matter the reason because that has nothing to do with you, me, or the Supreme Court.  The only people that should be involved in that type of decision making should be the patient and the doctor.  Or so we thought.

And now that the Supreme Court has made the decision (for whatever reason) to take away a woman’s right to choose, I wondered aloud what would come next on the chopping block.

And sure enough, I was correct. Justice Clarence Thomas mused that perhaps they (the Supreme Court) should come after contraception, same sex marriage and same sex relations (what goes on between two consenting adults behind closed doors.)

My husband and I have built a life together where we are happy, content, comfortable and completely under the illusion of safety. Clarence Thomas does not have the right to take away who I love and choose to build a life with.

I am angry for the millions of women that went to bed on Friday night (June 24th) with one set of rules and woke up the next day under another set. I understand the need to protest…but at the end of the day, protests only get you so far.

Protesters eventually go away.

The authorities know that most Americans oppose this new legislation.  They simply do not care.

And why don’t they care?

Because we have mid-terms coming up and several Trump loyalists have campaigned and been placed in positions that could assist the former president in overturning an election should he lose.  This is not democracy and if you don’t believe in democracy, why would your campaign operate within the realms of our constitution if you have no intentions of upholding those same constitutions?

We will have to live with the outcome until the presidential election in 2024. When that date arrives, we will see just how far the Republicans will go to steal/win an election. It seems like nothing is beneath them. What motivates them is to win at all costs and to be damned with honesty, integrity or even what the American people want; all the attributes that someone elected as a public servant should hold near and dear to their hearts.

Instead, we have a smaller minority trying to impose their will for whatever reason on the larger majority. This is coming in the guise of what they believe their religious affiliation affirms and that this is the appropriate action to take regardless of the protests.

After all, protesters will eventually fall away until the Supreme Court does something else to take away another right that you hold personal.  Perhaps you (like me) are in a same sex relationship/marriage.  Do you think that it’s fair that a small group of people can decide to take that right away from you simply because their faith and personal beliefs tell them that it is okay for them to do that very thing?

I think that we are standing on the precipice of our once great nation turning into something that we will not be able to recognize in the near foreseeable future.  I get the feeling that the Supreme Court will nullify certain rights that most Americans enjoy regardless of how we feel about it.

The other piece to the equation is that the Democratic Party does not appear to be fighting for our democracy as hard as we would like.  I’m waiting for the message – one that would combat the clear message that the Republicans are presenting.

The gloves are off and the Republicans do not care about governing; they do not care about appearing to be on the right or wrong side of history; they do not care if the decisions that they render will improve the lives of the American people and now apparently, they do not care about what rights they decide to take away from us.

This is an issue of control.

We are living in an uncharted era where the minority has figured out a way to weaponize our very institutions under the guise of doing the right thing based on their personal beliefs.  We are living in an era where we are deeply polarized; where we simply forget that before we are anything, we are Americans.

The problem with that is that we are seeing just how unjust some of our laws are.  A woman should be allowed to make decisions regarding her own body without the interference of an old white men who know nothing about having to make a choice on whether to have a baby or not.  What goes on between same sex or opposite sex couples is between those individuals and it is not the business of the courts or Clarence Thomas.  And my marriage is exclusively mine.  It took me most of my life to find the man that I believe I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.  A conservative justice would know nothing about that, nor would he/she know anything about the tremendous hardship they would create for not just me but for the millions of same sex couples in this nation.

Your religious beliefs are not a weapon for you to use to punish or prosecute people for being who they are.  Yet it seems so easy for some to disregard and devalue any group or community that they don’t belong to by literally rallying like minded people into a fervor to ostracize that group.

I don’t know where we are going to land, but I guarantee that it will be a rough ride before we come to a full stop.

~ J.L. Whitehead

Monday, May 23, 2022

The fight of our lives

 

I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life.  Depression has derailed successes that I could have had and made them acute failures.  And just when I thought I found reasons to rejoice in my existence comes the resurgence of something that will impact me for the rest of my life.

The message is clear…my life and my presence have no value in this country.

There is so much hatred in the world that it has spilled beyond the closets that they conveniently hid in and have somehow found their way into the mainstream of our society.  It is the norm.  Everybody knows somebody that hates someone for no reason…or rather, most people of non- color know somebody that hates someone for no other reason than the way they look, love or worship. And while some of you reading this may say, “Hey, that’s pretty racist for him to say that!”  To that I would have to say that it only sounds that way.  It may sound unfair; that I am painting one race of people with the same brush and if it were being done to me, I would be extremely upset.  And you may be correct about everything I just said.

Except…

We have a white supremacy/terrorist situation going on in this country.  We always have.  It just evolved into a different form of repression, fear, anger, and resentment.  People of color don’t really care who you worship or look like.  Our problem seems to be with sexual orientation…and even now, we are working on that.  But for some of our non-black brothers and sisters, it appears on the surface and by their own admission, there is an unnatural fear us, an none normal resentment of us and they are mad as hell at a circumstance that we didn’t create.  Add to that the need to stay and remain in power while simultaneously creating a never-ending source of wealth.

But I digress, the ideology of hatred is the norm while the dogma of loving your fellowman has as much appeal as catching an STD.  And while the philosophy behind white supremacy is nothing new, what it has evolved to in plain sight is something that I think every LGBTQ person fears the most…our rights taken away from us.

The dog whistle has been sounded and open season has been declared on people of color, women, Jews, and the LGBTQ community.  Blacks have always suffered at the hands of the police at a disproportionate rate as compared to whites.  Jews, blacks, and brown people have been murdered in their synagogues, at their grocery stores and during routine traffic stops more than any other group of people.

 Speaking as a member of both being African American and Gay, I am in fear of what our new republic could mean for people like me.  As a member of the LGBTQ community, I could easily see the right to marry striped away from us followed by our very existence coming under assault by laws making it easier for people to discriminate against us.

As a black man, I am in fear that the only places I would be allowed to live in would be the ghettos created for us in the forties and fifties.  People that look like me may be killed and our murderers never brought to justice all because one group of people has decided to take away the rights of another.

We are standing on the precipice of losing our republic as we know it.  We are standing on the verge of losing the democracy that we love and, in many ways, took for granted.  We thought that our democratic systems would remain in place indefinitely because both parties agreed to participate in that process.

But what do you do when our greatest institution falls into the hands of one individual who elicits the very worst in us…creating an “America First” policy that soiled our relationships with many of our allies?

The ideology behind “Trumpism” is nothing new.  We’ve experienced this type of fear and hatred in the early nineteen hundreds.  America First was created at the turn of the century which refers to a policy stance in the United States coined by progressive internationalist president, Woodrow Wilson that generally emphasizes nationalism and non-interventionism. The isolationist approach gained prominence in the interwar period (1918–1939) and was advocated by the America First Committee, a non-interventionist pressure group against the U.S. entry into World War II. (1)

But America First does not necessarily translate to America Great.  We claim that we are the land of the free, but I realized early on that the saying did not apply to everyone. I foolishly thought that it did, but this of course was when I was a child.  I found out in high school that I couldn’t do or say the same things that my white counterparts did or said.  I lost my summer vacation as a result of this. 

We are dangerously close to losing any gains that we have made within the last fifty years.  A similar circumstance is happening with women now where they may not be able to receive the medical care needed should they need to have an abortion.  I cannot say loudly enough that it is not the right of some old, rich white man making decisions for a woman’s body...decisions that will impact all women but poor women disproportionately.

But the Republican party represents something else that I don’t recognize.  Although Trump is not on the ticket for the primaries this year, Trumpism is.  More people are exposing misstatements and untruths about our judicial process simply because they may not like the results of our electoral process. And the ideology is simple…if you win, you’re fine.  But if your opponent win, accuse them of cheating without proof.  Kind of sounds like the thoughts of a spoiled child.  But this is where we are.

I’ve built a wonderful life with my husband.  We are just as happy now as the day we met some fourteen years ago…and I want to stay that way.  We are quiet.  We love our friends, our community, and our church.  We worship alongside one another and I would have it no other way.

I am discouraged and disappointed, but the thought of not participating in our electoral process never crossed my mind.  You get tired of the lying, cheating and misleading information.  You get tired of people trying to cast doubt on our electoral process, accusing us of doing the very thing that they are doing to remain in power.

Let me be clear…the Republicans do not have a platform to run on.  They have no policies that will benefit the American people.  What they do have is a means to cast serious doubt on an election process that is flawed, but not obsolete…unless they lie, attack and cheat.  They will do and say everything that will make you think that our electoral process doesn’t work…unless they win.

And in that lies my fear.  They stand a good chance of taking back the house and Senate.  And then everything will be in place to hand the presidency to Donald Trump whether the American People elect him or not.

And in all of this lies my fear.

~ J.L. Whitehead

 References:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_First_(policy)

(Comments are welcome at the appropriate section of this op-Ed) 

A return to the good ole days

  I begin my days by turning on the television and watching the news.   Slowly, I am trying to start my day another way.   Maybe I can get...