Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Denigration of the Community Organizer Demeans the Left on Purpose

I am reading a book right now on the civil rights movement. It is the third in the trilogy - "Parting the Waters" which won the Pulitzer prize, "Pillar of Fire" and the last "At Canaan's Edge." It tells the story of the civil rights movement in the King years and obviously ends with his assassination. But, it is more than that, it is the history of America during this time and tells the story of Vietnam, the Kennedy assassinations, Malcolm X, desegregation in the north and so much more.

But, one of the things that becomes starkly clear when you read these volumes, how little has changed in our politics. The civil rights protesters and freedom riders were frequently called "communists" and "sympathizers" anti-democratic. If someone in the civil rights movement dared to question the war they were denigrated as anti-American. This line of denigration has not changed and will not change until we define what it is to be an American. It is something the Democrats do not do and are afraid to do.

One such story in 1965, Julian Bond (current chairman of the NAACP and founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)) was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. This was a landmark achievement, not achieved since reconstruction; the SNCC released a statement in opposition to the Vietnam war and offered sympathy to persons who were unwilling to respond to a military draft." This is of course a country, a region of the south that was still regularly lynching and killing blacks as well as white Americans organizing around the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

On January 10, 1966 the Georgia state legislature voted 184-12 not to seat Julian Bond because he publicly endorsed the SNCC's statement of opposition to U.S. policy in the Vietnam War and his sympathy for persons who were "unwilling to respond to a military service." An unjust war, beginning to kill thousands of Americans and Vietnamese and a country that did not accept him, nor wished for his participation in the democracy ousted him from its sacred body because of his dissent. This has always been the way in America for those who dissent and understand the idea of citizenship is not to support the government blindly, but to try and make our government more representative.

Again, Ronald Reagan, the leader and icon of the Conservative movement who voiced his vociferous opposition both to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 declared his candidacy for Governor of California in 1966 based on the rejected policies of Barry Goldwater. Some of Reagan's statements are so disgusting, so racist and so narrow in its view of America they are worth repeating for posterity. Not to mention it happened in nearly the same week as the Julian Bond story.

Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (calling it "humiliating to the South"), and ran for governor of California in 1966 promising to wipe the Fair Housing Act off the books. "If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house," he said, "he has a right to do so." Reagan's January 4 announcement for Governor "set a dual tone." He warned darkly of oppressive liberal government, "neurotic vulgarities" on the college campus, and disorder from thinly disguised minorities - "Our city streets are jungle paths after dark" (The Watts Riots recently occurred). Then he said on Meet the Press "I am simply incapable of prejudice." It is worth noting that after the Republican convention in 1980, Reagan traveled to the county fair in Neshoba, Mississippi, where, in 1964, three Freedom Riders had been slain by the Ku Klux Klan. Before an all-white crowd of tens of thousands, Reagan declared: "I believe in states' rights." This is the Republican icon who never rejected these statements or beliefs and while he was President tried to narrow civil rights by many measures. This is Republicanism.

Reagan won the Governors race catapulting him on to the national scene with the rejected policies of Barry Goldwater, spawning 40 years of dominance on the national scene. It his legacy that we now seek to stop combined with a dangerous christian right that seeks to obliterate the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Sarah Palin represents this legacy and John McCain is too chicken shit, too desperate to reject any of it. And he questions our patriotism at every chance.

What did Governor Palin say? "I guess being a mayor is like a community organizer, but has real responsibilities." This is code to the base, don't worry we got your back. These dissenters, anti-American people who seek to work in their communities do not represent us. It is code for communist and protest and uppity black people like Congressman Westmoreland's words used to describe Senator Obama yesterday.

The Rethuglicans want to deride us and tell us what an American is and how we should act and who we should call hero. A hero is only someone who went to war, not someone who dedicates their life to the poor or the sick or justice, an American is someone who stands by it always, not someone who questions the decisions of its government, a feminist is someone who only has a vagina and doesn't whine, not someone who believes in the equality of the sexes, women's rights, choice and equal pay.

As people on the left we need to loudly re-define what it means to be an American, what this country means to us and not what it means to the boys who have been running this country into the ground since World War II. We need this to happen or we will be forever running from these attacks about our country. Senator Obama had to fend attacks from his minister who said some questionable things, no doubt, but did he deserve that type of scrutiny? What about Governor Palin? Her husband is a member of the secessionist party in Alaska and was so until 2002. The party also says she was also a member. Where is the scrutiny? Now, I don't really care what party this guy was a member of and how he dissented, it is his right as an American, but the hypocrisy is stunning.

She passes the smell test of good conservative values, Obama does not. He ain't white, his wife ain't white, his kids ain't white, his friends ain't white, he's a socialist, a communist, a liberal, therefore he ain't American. Enough!

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