August 2, 2017
The recent efforts of the Republican Party and the hidden forces of conservatism, to destroy and repeal the Affordable Care Act is a record low exhibition of American low theater and deception. Performing under the spotlights of racism, classism and public hysteria, the cast of small minded performers disguised as national leaders staged a spectacle that the international world audience is reviewing in shock and disbelief. I remind you, we are still in the first act of the drama.
All of us are involved in the production of this spectacle on some level and no seat in the house is free. To that end, we all must be critically aware of the back story. This is not a story, as the billing suggests, about the question of who gets health care in America- and at what cost. This is a story about the declining health of America’s soul, the destruction of democratic institutions, and the affirmation of this nation’s long standing regard for capital over human interests and human life.
It is this story which, very quickly after the American Revolution led to Shay’s Rebellion. It is this story that leads Native Americans to suffer interminable damages and destruction because of broken treaties that the Government of the United States would not honor. It is the story of American Slavery and the dismantling of reconstruction efforts after the Hayes /Tilden election of 1876. The back story was still being played out when American Veterans after WWI, found it necessary to march on Washington in an effort to get the pensions that they were promised and were entitled to receive in exchange for their service to America. That story has not lost its popularity or fascination for some. It appears consistently in our national struggles for civil and human rights and in struggles to have all workers receive a living wage in exchange for their labor. At this very moment while America is watching President Trump publicly vilify Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and miraculously turn the Attorney General into “a heroic victim” of sorts, Attorney General Sessions is moving with all deliberate speed into America’s landfill of failed policy by resurrecting various initiatives intended to restrict individual freedoms, liberties and entitlements. In the meantime, the stench of this nation’s political sickness and moral depravity continues to increasingly permeate the air, and the air waves.
The writers and developers of this story line would have us believe that it is a minority contingent of “the Republican Party that is driving this irrational and dangerous national political agenda”. That may be true, but all Americans must be mindful of the fact that it is the majority of the American population who are sufficiently undisturbed that also empowers the implementation of this “new agenda”. It is that kind of passive non-engagement, on the part of too many, which poses the larger threat to the political health of this nation; and damages the reputation of America on the world stage.
This kind of faulty reasoning has become a large and damaging component of our public analysis of too many social challenges. For example, it is like the often recited argument that there are only a few bad cops that give all good cops a bad name. Instead, I suggest, it is the good cops who do not openly and actively condemn the behavior of the bad cops which give all cops “a bad name”. This erosion of logic continues until, as we see today, the bad becomes normalized until the bad becomes “the new good”. Now, as is the case in real time, the President can stand in front of a live audience of police officers and openly call for police to comport themselves without any regard for the law that they are sworn to uphold-and such a Presidential proclamation is not soundly condemned and it is barely news.
The “selected” Director of Communications, who is now fired, for the President of the United States, can take the mike and spew garbage, profanity and vitriol that cannot even be repeated in respectable circles – he was not even officially appointed-and it is just a conversation. This behavior would occasion the suspension or expulsion of any student from any good high school in America. What does this conduct say about classism in America? Is this the erosion of American values or the true revelation of America’s values?
We watch progress that was made in the areas of human rights, civil rights and international relations being destroyed by middle school expressions articulated by the President of the United Sates. We are bombarded by a weird pattern of “tweets” that are poorly and regularly articulated under the cover and influence of who knows what, and the “good people” call this “in-experienced and different”. All of this takes place while we watch the drama that is being directed around an anti-democratic and racist quest to destroy the Affordable Care Act and the legacy of America’s first African American President of the United State of America.
There is something wrong with the soul of America. The Emperor proudly reveals that he has no clothes and asserts, to the world, that he should not be expected to wear any should he choose not to do so. He also dangerously proclaims with equal force and irrationality that all who seek his favor must dress as he dresses and stand ready to heed his contradictory commands-at any moment of his choosing. What does this behavior portend for America’s future and for the future that our children and grandchildren will inherit? How does this conduct by the President of the United States “bend” or destroy conventional notions of American Democracy?
As a descendant of Africa who was born and raised in this country, I must ask myself and “African American leadership” just what this behavior means for and to the future of Black people here and abroad. Are we simply following the Hurst? Have we become so invested in the American political order until we dare relinquish the reigns of self-determination to others? Have we forgotten that the greatest political gains made by Black People in this country were secured, not too long ago, before we had the right to fully participate in the American Democratic process?
Does the leadership of Black America not see the strategies of this administration that have been adopted to discredit and marginalize the press, the courts, the Native American and the LGTB community – all by executive action and little or no Congressional objection? Do we believe that self- marginalization and silence are a responsible defense to this kind of aggression? Are too many Black leaders attempting to hide from the inevitable?
We must not forget our history or the history of our treatment in this great “land of the free”. We must not forget the insults that were and continue to be visited upon the first African American President of this country. Insults delivered by the same individuals who now speak proudly about serving “the interest of the American people” and “making America great again”. Is a racially based insult to one of us no longer an insult to all?
I respectfully implore all of us who are watching this drama play out to be mindful of the fact that America has never been able to even fake a long term commitment to Black equality or well- being. It is “our dream “and African American loyalty to America that has given America a bye on its weak and aborted attempts to create a “socially just” and equitable order.
If African American institutions are to survive and prosper, if our communities are to be restored, if our presence in the jails and prisons of this country are to become rational and proportional, if African Americans are to become secure against the ravages of individual and state sponsored abuse and violence, it will be because African American leaders take the initiative to develop and enforce the implementation of remedies specifically designed to produce those objectives. Black people must once again develop the resolve to put self-empowerment over and above the desire for inclusion and external validation. We cannot wait on the future or the generosity of others to deliver our mortal salvation. The evidence demands that the process of collective self-repair begins immediately. If this is not a “Sankofa Moment”, there is no such thing. My prayer for the health of our future is that we can respond accordingly.
Dr. William Small, Jr. Is a retired educator and a former Trustee and Board Chairman at South Carolina State University