Do You Want to be on the Right Side of History?
WARNING: This is a political post.
The above image is famous.
It depicts a moment in time when nine African-American students, escorted by the National Guard, were enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The nine students were surrounded by an angry mob of white people who did not want to share their school with black students.
About two decades ago, I watched a documentary which just stunned me. The filmmakers found numerous white people from the famous image and interviewed them. Each was noticeably older.
The filmmakers played a video of the famous incident, while a split screen showed the faces of the person being interviewed. Their discomfort and shame was evident.
The filmmakers then asked a series of questions, and each person interviewed had basically the same response:
I was so incredibly angry. I felt that my world world was being attacked. I feared for my very life. But…nothing happened when the school was segregated. My world did not collapse. And, after a few weeks, it seemed normal having back and white students mixed together.
After a long pause:
I’m so ashamed now. I was vicious to those black kids. I’m so ashamed.
See the girl behind the black student?
She was also a student, and the filmmakers tracked her down.
And she, too, was powerfully ashamed.
I was filled with absolute rage. I cursed at the black girl in front of me. I said terrible, awful, unforgivable things. But, after a few weeks we actually started talking to each other. She was funny and intelligent and very kind. We became good friends.
Each person interviewed talked about the impossibility of trying to explain their actions in 1957 to their children and grandchildren. The angry white mob could offer no explanation for their being the face of racism in 1957. They just felt shame.
The angry white mob at Little Rock in 1957 was on the wrong side of history, and many of them later, to their credit, recognized this.
I was born in 1957. In a few years the Cold War would reach its zenith and, as a student in elementary school, I was taught to “duck and cover” in the event of a nuclear blast from the USSR. However, I was never scared for I knew that if the USSR attacked us, we would attack them, and we would all be dead. And Russians, I thought, can’t be that stupid.
So, I never feared for the very survival of my country.
And as I grew into adulthood, there were political candidates I loved which won elections. And lost elections to candidates I loathed. I sometimes voted Independent. Mostly Democratic. And occasionally Republican.
Never though, in all these years, did I fear for the survival of my country, no matter who was in charge.
In 2018? I am terrified for my country.
I am not joking. I have a fear inside my body which is intense.
Since January, 2017, I have watched, horrified, as the man in the Oval Office has endlessly attacked the media, the truth, his political opponents, America’s allies, and America’s judicial system; all the while embracing Dictators across the globe. In short, I am watching, horrified, as fascism pushes against Democracy.
Since January, 2017, I have watched, horrified, as the standing of my country plummeted in 2017 and 2018. During the Obama years, the global standing of America rose sharply after collapsing during the George Bush years, then collapsed again under Trump. Today, only two countries have a largely favorable view of America: Russia and Israel. Compare this to the Obama years, when America was largely admired around the world.
Since January, 2017, I have watched, horrified, as the man in the Oval Office repeatedly pointed a finger at various minorities and blamed them for the problems with America: Immigrants, Muslims, the LBGT community, and people of color.
Yet, while I am horrified, millions of people like this. How is this possible?
Since January, 2017, I often think of Germany in the early 1930s when Hitler repeatedly pointed a finger at various minorities and blamed them for the problems with Germany. And millions of people agreed with Hitler. Millions agreed that Jews were a problem, as were Communists and Gypsies and Homosexuals and intellectuals and critics of Hitler. And the media. And these millions helped Hitler exterminate 12 million people. And eventually brought about the utter ruination of Germany.
Is this the future for my country? For the media to be silenced? For critics of the man in Oval Office to be rounded up and jailed? For the Supreme Court to become a tool of the man in the Oval Office, as with the entire judicial system? For white men, rich white men to receive most of the goodies while the rest of us struggle? For women to be returned to a 1950s status? For fascism to wholly destroy Democracy?
Because I am a student of history, and because I know that history does, indeed, repeat itself, these questions terrify me.
I believe that America is standing at a vital crossroad as these words are written. Which road we take will be determined on November 6, 2018. And this is a day which, I suspect, will live in infamy depending on how things turn out.
To repeat: this is a day which, I suspect, will live in infamy depending on how things turn out.
We have a choice on November 6.
We can choose democracy. Or fascism.
Some of you may be thinking: Well, Ross is a Liberal. So, of course he thinks this way.
While it is true that I am a Liberal, and incredibly proud of it, I am not alone in my concerns, which is why the Republican party has declined by an unprecedented 20% in 2018. These former Republicans have now registered as Democrats. This historic shift has been largely generated by college-educated women. There has also been a significant shift of people leaving the Independent party and registering as Democrats. These new Democrats give two main reasons for leaving their former parties:
- “The Republican party has become the party of Trump and I never signed onto that.” (This, from former Republicans.)
- “America is in trouble and only the Democratic party can save it.” (This, from former Republicans and Independents.)
In addition, well-known Conservative commentators will be voting Democratic this year. You can ready why:
- George F. Will: Vote against the GOP this November
- Max Boot: Vote against all Republicans. Every single one.
- Michael Gerson: The only way to save the GOP is to defeat it.
In Texas, a very very red state, several major newspapers, which have never endorsed a Democrat, have endorsed Democrat Beto O’Rourke over Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
My terror, thus, is not a by-product of my being a Liberal. It is the result of my knowing history, and of paying attention — the same dynamics affecting millions of Conservatives and educated voters.
Even senior citizens (65+), the backbone to the Republican party, are leaving. For, in 2018 they, too, will be largely voting Democratic. Numerous polls reveal an exodus from the Republican ticket with a stunning 55% of seniors stating that they will be voting for the Democratic ticket in November. “Older voters are much more reliable than younger ones, and if they are moving away from Trump…because they don’t like the way he has conducted his presidency, that is a real problem for the Republicans,” observed Karlyn Bowman, an analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. This demographic of 55% also believes that their Social Security, their Medicaid, and their Medicare are not safe with Republicans in power.
I have another concern.
Since Nixon, here is a scoreboard of illegal behavior:
- Criminal indictments: 209
- Criminal convictions: 113
- Prison sentences: 37
- Criminal indictments: 3
- Criminal convictions: 1
- Prison sentences: 1
I don’t know about you, but I think this contrast is stunning. And highly revealing.
I don’t know about you, but I like Presidential administrations when they aren’t filled with crooks.
On November 6, I will be voting to protect Democracy. In addition, I will be voting for the party which:
- Created social security.
- Created Medicare.
- Created Medicaid.
- Created a minimum wage.
- Created a 40-hour work week.
- Created subsidized housing for people with very low incomes.
- Created food stamps for people in financial trouble (for several months in the late 1960s, my own family was on food stamps while my carpenter father struggled to find work in an economic downturn).
- Create meals-on-wheels.
- Created the Civil Rights Act.
- Desegregated the military.
- Believes in global warming.
- Supports the LGBT community.
- Supports a woman’s right to choose.
- Supports a free press.
- Supports America’s long-standing allies and denounces dictators.
- Has created more jobs than the other party (Between 1939 and 2011, the Democrats created 58 millions jobs, verses 26 million Republicam-created jobs).
- Is fiscally more responsible than the other party.
On November 6, I will be voting for Democracy and against fascism.
On November 6, I will also be voting for the Democratic party, which has worked hard to improve the lives of most Americans in my lifetime, helped create the most jobs, and helped lower the deficit. I cannot think of a single program or act created by Republicans (save the creation of the EPA by Richard Nixon in 1970) which has helped the average American. I even Googled this.
On November 6, I will, In short, be voting for the party which is on the right side of history. The party which embraces inclusion rather than exclusion.
On November 6, as you stand in your voting booth, you might think of this question: how do you want to be remembered by history?
Your email address will NEVER be made public or shared, and you may use a screen name if you wish.