Don’t mind me. I’m just over here, trying to heal and taking care of my own business, so don’t pay any attention to me. Seriously. Unless you want to pay the rent, or the power bill, or the water bill, or the internet bill, or the vet bill, or buy groceries just hush.
I am indeed muttering and gesturing obscurely today, following defeat of the For The People Act last night. The proposed legislation didn’t actually fail in a vote, only the debate on the Act failed. It was a filibuster, so 60 votes were needed to move forward with debate leading to a vote. But the debate was killed, so the bill is essentially dead.
This is politics, and I understand that but this is hypocritcal demonic politics. Aside from the normal partisan shenanigans, the most frustrating part of this action is the stance of the minority party. They have taken the position of opposing anything President Biden favors, just because. Their specific opposition to the For The People Act was that it was totally non-partisan, and that it amounted to one party taking over the election process nationwide. States rights!!! Yeah, advance to the rear and I’ll meet you back in 1957. This is the Southern Strategy all over again. This time it was effective, and they killed the effort for election reform.
Sad part about this is that now the wholly partisan effort to restrict voter engagement and take control of election boards away from the states can move forward unbridled. The hypocrisy of this is staggering, and makes my head swim. Again, this is an old playbook, but since its inception nobody has been able to effectively counter it. Except the election cycle that put a Black man in the White House. The efforts to suppress voter empowerment ramped up significantly after that, and now it’s on steroids.
The Obama election was apparently SO traumatic for the conservative right wing of the voting populace that making sure that was a one-time aberration is driving everything else they do. If it wasn’t so dangerous it would be funny. This is the issue that has brought them all together, in lockstep, behind a narcissistic, sociopathic, and delusional Svengali of the public distrust. It fascinates me how much of their messages dance on the line of obvious and overt racism and denial of same. Is it worth all that energy?
Apparently it is worth all that, because they are passing voter-suppression bills nationwide like they were coming off an assembly line. The language of the legislation is boiler plate, and the whole effort resembles something in The Matrix rather than something in present time. Cookie-cutter, one size fits all – the legislative stencil set. Very sad.
I was reading something last night, could have been Twitter, and someone asked the question about how people could be compelled to vote against their own self-interests. My response was that’s not new, and it’s been happening all along when racism plunked itself right in the middle of the dominant culture. It’s the elephant in all of the living rooms, but let’s not talk about it. OK let’s not talk about it but didn’t I understand from your minister that your double-wide is in bad shape and you don’t have the money but take heart, because at least you’re not Black? Isn’t that the bottom line – it can always be worse, but at least you’re not Black?
That’s the mortar holding all of these people together and voting against what’s good for them. It’s the racism, stupid. That’s how people can give a thumbs-up to expanding MedicAid because the narrative justifying that has become focused on whether immmigrants and lazy Black people will get benefits that YOUR tax dollars pay for. Ignore the fact that non-legal immigrants get $0 in social services benefits, and those on long-term visas or work permits often have wages withheld for taxes.
Some people believe that all we have to do is stop talking about slavery, and move on with things, and everything will be fine. Um, how do you figure? It’s not old and outdated behavior if you’re still doing the same thing in the present. I don’t particularly want to talk about slavery, either – it was brutal and horrific and goes well beyond my comprehension and moral sensibility. I’m not looking for more discussion on that, in particular, but I do want the acknowledgement and the agreement that it was nothing good. When people, especially from majority culture, minimalize that period in our history enrages me. There was no good side to slavery. If that is what it took to build what we have in this country today, then let’s talk about reparations. The relationship is in need of repair. Let’s talk about how that’s gonna look.
Sometimes I wonder if we are all speaking the same language here. And no, I’m not speaking of immigrants from another country with another first language. I’m talking about today, conversations between people who are not part of their families’ first generation born here in the United States. When I talk with other people of color, sometimes I struggle to be understood. Of course that could just be how I speak, being from New Orleans and everything. We do talk a little funny down there, at least the townies do. I also talk fast, so it’s not uncommon for half of my conersation with another person to be peppered with “Huh?” and “Can you say that again?” and “Would you please just slow down???” I talk faster when I am engaged and enjoying a debate or argument with someone.
Anyway, racism is a powerful motivator, and a powerful chunk of our infrastructure. Most of us are not even aware of how much of the where and how we stand today is based on racism and disparate treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, and it’s painful to find out that we don’t know, and even more painful to find out the truth. We are dancing on the edge of all of it, wanting desperately to maintain our comfort with traditions of the past but wanting to move into the new millennium with something akin to confidence. I’m not sure we can do both.
My biggest frustration is the hypocrisy, but I suppose I should give those folks a break. If you’ve had privilege all your days, and somebody comes along and says you have to share, you would probably see that as a loss. We all see power as a zero-sum issue – we all want 100% of the available power, and if we have to disperse our share we don’t have 100% any longer, so that’s a loss. It’s like me being an only child – I never had to answer to anybody, share anything, be fair to anyone else. My role was very static – what little agency one has as a child belonged to me alone. When my cousins were born, I was about nine, and I did have some issues about why my grandmother’s attention wasn’t focused solely on me. So, I kind of get it. Kind of.
What is missing in the zero-sum view of this is that power is infinite. If I was called on to share my time with my grandmother, she had a different block of time for me. Sharing her with my cousins didn’t take anything from me if I could have just seen there could be enough for all of us. But I was nine.
If adults cannot understand there’s enough for everyone, we probably haven’t progressed very far from the perspective of a nine-year old. We are entrenched in a perspective of scarcity, where there’s only enough worms for the early birds, for the go-getters and the aggressors and the highly motivated in the crowd. If I believe there is enough for everyone, whether it’s in terms of resources or access to resources or skills or money or whatever, I am less likely to resist someone who wants other folks to have power of their own.
One of the first things I learned in the arena of social justice was that power over iothers is not sustainable. We are all in that world view right now, where people have power over us, and others control our access to necessary resources. That usually makes for a burning fuse, waiting for ignition. And we have plenty of incendiaries. Instead of power over others, it is better to aim for power WITH other. Allies and co-conspirators are far more sustainable than competitors.
To progress to collaborative power in alliance and solidarity with others, we have to begin from the baseline of equity. Superiority on any level will crash the whole thing, and that’s why there is so much conflict and so much insistence on success. To the victor go the spoils is an idiom of war, and we do not need to be at war with each other. Wars generally began as conflict over finite resources, but if we know we’ll have what we need, what do we need with fighting each other?
Success is highly overrated, and highly subjective. I heard a podcast from Brene’ Brown a while ago that dissected the concept of success. She was interviewing a professor, an engaging woman who had done a lot of work marrying creativity to more technical pursuits. She submitted her opinion that success was not equivalent to master, and was a win-lose proposition based on subjectivity. Her concept was that mastery was the better measure of acuity and positive results. With mastery, you have tried again and again, sometimes winning sometimes not, but you have learned every time. Try again, fail again, fail better. (Cornel West uses that one a lot.)
The risk taking may be the necessary element in achieving mastery. Every time we put ourselves out there, with a chance of success as well as failure, we are taking a risk. If we never change anything, we don’t have to keep taking a risk. We sit on our laurels and the spoils of war, and we are stuck there. I suppose that is why so many of us find ourselves at middle age wondering what the hell we’re doing here and why. That more or less explains the sports cars and the bad ideas you see from people at 60 – it’s the need to re-create yourself and take a risk, by whatever means necessary. Aging is not for sissies (and I have a book with that exact title to prove it.).
If I perceive of myself as better than everyone else, I’m separated from my source energy, and I’m separated from everyone else. If I have even an ounce of humility, I have a chance of being in community, of being in relationship with other people. Recovery has taught me, often by beating me with the proverbial two-by-four of reality, that humility is not about being humble and groveling. It’s about accepting the reality of who I am and where I am and that I’m not less than anyone else, nor more than anyone else. I am right where I am supposed to be. And yes, that’s annoying.
Come down off your throne and leave your body alone…somebody must change. That’s one of my favorite songs, by Steve Winwood – “Can’t Find My Way Home”. It says quite a lot of what I am feeling these days, like I can’t find my way home. Somebody holds the key, and somebody must change. This is an acoustic version, but I like acoustic guitar things a lot.