Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Last Rebel Yells

This piece evolved from an initial intent to post an article on the FB page featuring the faces of the "Unite the Right" protestors from Charlottesville. When the article and my commentary failed to post on my FB page (very unusual), I began writing the piece below in response, also in reflection from having attended my family reunion in Fredericksburg, VA. Here is part of what I wrote:
Unfortunately, the article I tried to post yesterday with the photo of the Unite the Right protestors did not post, nor did my message. But today, after all of the chaos, terror, destruction, and the unfortunate deaths, I have another opportunity to express my utter despair at what happened in Charlottesville yesterday.
As all of that nonsense was going on, I was in Fredericksburg for my family reunion. As a child, we would travel to "the country", at least once a year the second weekend in August to reunite those family members who had remained in Fredericksburg with those who had migrated to DC and Philadelphia. I hadn't been to one of these events since my grandmother passed away more than 20 years ago, for a variety of reasons I may share later. On the drive down I-95, we passed an enormous confederate flag that has been erected just past Quantico and right before Warrenton, VA.
So, just over an hour's drive away from the Nation's Capitol, the confederacy has resurrected itself on the side of a major interstate. I saw it the last time I drove down to Fredericksburg for my Aunt's funeral last fall; this time I asked my niece to take a photo so that we could post it online. She didn't get the picture, and now that I have had a chance to digest what occurred yesterday, I believe it was the hand of God maneuvering things so that we would not continue to spread the hate that flag represents. Of course, my reason for wanting to post a picture was to highlight that very sentiment, but it doesn't need to be broadcast by me.
I don't know all of the details of what happened yesterday in Charlottesville because we were absorbed in our bubble of reacquainting ourselves with distant relatives. But I was reminded of the very powerful reason why my grandmother and her favorite cousin left the "county" for DC and Philly so many decades ago--they wanted a better life for their children. They understood the limitations of opportunity for black Southerners, so they joined that Great Migration as young women and later established branches of our family tree in northern communities like so many of their peers. I can only imagine that some incident or mindset, similar to what was on display in Charlottesville yesterday, is what spurred them to leave.
I posted it here because in the days since the protests, I have been reflecting a LOT about what this all means today in 2017. Not that I had no expectations that the backlash to the Obama era had begun and ended with the last election (because, sadly this is only the beginning of the counter-revolution), but it builds on a theme that I felt compelled to express a few weeks back on July 4th. I framed that piece about being woke enough to cautiously appreciate that holiday, but now I want to stake out an even bolder position--that our celebrations of this country serve to appreciate our evolution, and then to demand that we continue to strive towards becoming a more perfect union.

Because these grand American ideals are for everyone.

If your ancestors died to preserve ideals that did not expand rights or that were meant to exclude people, then that is a reason to mourn, not celebrate. Your pride is rooted in something that is the very antithesis of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the ideals of our Founders--not the Confederate generals whose cause you defend. When you choose to stand for racial segregation, gender inequality, religious intolerance, and any other form of systematic oppression, it betrays them and every person who has ever shed blood for this country.

And of course, as I was writing this piece, the Trumpet sounded off again...and so I'm convinced that whenever I think I've missed the window to respond to his nonsense, I just need to give him six hours to say or do something else outrageous.

Too much has happened to unpack everything in one piece. So here are some themes I hope to address as I continue to examine my counter position to MAGA--America is for all of us:
  1. We all hear your dog whistle, Mr. President, so no need trying to conceal it by deliberately changing the subject and getting angry. No more fake nuclear crises or hollow threats to fire members of your Cabinet.
  2. Ironic that no one thought to be this overt during the tenure of the first black President. The worst you could muster up against Obama were racist cartoons, but this angry white mob thing is really quite a step forward. Feel free to march through the hood on your way back to the suburbs.
  3. My Grandma Viola and her Cousin Ruth, and my other Grandmother Amanda and the many other thousands of black folks who migrated out of the South clearly understood why you march to preserve your old confederate monuments. And they aren't spinning in their graves over any of this because Barack Obama was the real shock...this backlash was to be expected.
  4. There is no slippery slope when it comes to venerating Founding Fathers and Confederate generals. While many people have issues with our slave-owning Framers, most of us can see the difference between honoring the first President of the United States and honoring the President of the Confederacy. They are not equals.
  5. Finally, thank you for leaving your bed sheets at home so that the world could really see your faces. Like many people, I was expecting to see more rowdies from the MAGA crowd because they are easier to ridicule. But color me shocked to see the IT guy at work, the guy who sells life insurance, the guy who manages the electronics store, and the kid's soccer coach. All clad in your Ralph Lauren polo shirts (he's a Jew, btw). 

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