Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And if I needed any more proof ... the racist legacy of the modern conservative movement

About a decade ago during my last dating relationship, my girlfriend's brainy middle son brought home from church some literature from the "Conservative Chronicle" that he said came from "some think tank." I looked it up on the internet, and when I learned who the editor was, a Southern reactionary named Samuel Francis, I decided I wanted nothing to do with it because it came across as borderline racist. (Needless to say, I refused to attend the church as well, and that would eventually doom the relationship.)

Well, it turns out that there was nothing "borderline" about that publication.

Today I learned that the "think tank" that produced it was the Council of Conservative Citizens, a name not as innocuous as it sounds -- it was formerly known as the White Citizens Council, a staunchly segregationist organization that opposed the civil-rights movement in the 1960s. In effect, it operated as a kinder, gentler Ku Klux Klan minus the sheets and secrecy and apparently hasn't changed its views in all that time. Furthermore, it had at least two right-wing now-former Republican politicians -- Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia and Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi -- speak at gatherings. (Yes, the same Trent Lott who insinuated that he was hankering for segregation in feting the late Sen. Strom Thurmond during his centennial in 2002.)

I find it interesting that the political right likes to call attention to the historic racism of the Democratic Party and, in its arrogance, have openly wondered why African-Americans don't vote Republican. They conveniently overlook the fact that the Southern racists that gave the national Democratic Party that reputation began migrating to the GOP beginning in the 1960s -- of politicians of that era, only the late North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms was never elected as a Democrat -- and completely sold out to the GOP on a national level during the Reagan years. (Recall that even Ronald Reagan himself ran racist campaigns to appeal to them.)

Basically, the political right ought to stop denying its ties to racist groups, present as well as past. I don't think it's any coincidence that race has become less a factor as the political right has fallen from power, because back in that day the right used it has a divide-and-conquer tactic to achieve and maintain power. But instead of marginalizing its opponents, it ended up marginalizing itself. There's a reason Jesus said, "You reap what you sow."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A different shade of green

It still amazes me just how much opposition to President Barack Obama is being expressed, especially by those who didn't vote for him. You'd think that they would wait and see if and how his economic policies would work before criticizing him -- in many cases, getting personal.

On second thought, perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised. We've seen this before, beginning in 1993 with Bill Clinton, some of whose adversaries were trying to derail him during the campaign.

Anyway, I think I know what's behind it: Envy.

Here's why: With all the bellyaching about what Obama does or doesn't do, rarely if ever do you hear his critics giving any alternatives. Nor can they, because the economic policies they subscribe to are the very same ones that caused the mess that he was elected in part to clean up. It was in that context that radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh declared a few months ago, "I hope he fails."

But that's par for the course, I guess, when you're dealing with a hugely popular political figure who isn't a conservative Republican.

The difference between jealousy and envy is that jealousy results when someone has something you want or is threating to take something you already have; envy, on the other hand, is the result of resentment toward another because of someone's possessions and/or status regardless of whether you can achieve or even want them. That's why the Scriptures describe envy, not necessarily jealousy, as a sin -- it's a form of self-worship and thus idolatry.

That, of course, hasn't stopped the naysayers; you get the impression that they would rather wreck the country than see someone not of their party cause positive change. When conservatives had Clinton impeached, what was their point? Basically, that they were in control for its own sake. It had really nothing to do with his corruption (the allegations were generally manufactured anyway) or his conduct -- the real issue was that, if things worked out, they would be seen as useless.

Which is just where things are going now.

It's one thing if people could actually give specific reasons why Obama's policies will necessarily fail; thing is, they have no authority to do so. They complain about his raising taxes (when he has actually pledged to reduce them on 95 percent of taxpayers). Besides that, if you put more money in the hands of the common people it makes sense that the merchants will eventually get that money back, offsetting a greater tax burden on the wealthy.

But we're talking not about what makes sense -- just "know-nothingism" based on resentment of the "other." And that's getting old. Quickly.

Some thoughts on being a son

When I was growing up, my dad occasionally expressed fear that he was failing as a father. To be truthful, I didn't know how to respond.

As I look back decades later, I think he had every reason to feel that way. For openers, he didn't grow up with his father, whom his mother threw out for infidelity when Dad was 5; had no adult male to show him the ropes; and was probably overwhelmed with the responsibilities. I get that today, as many men, especially in the African-American community, are going through the same thing.

Lately, however, I've caught a number of Charles Stanley's messages on the atmosphere that parents are obliged to create to rear healthy children, which is where my dad did fail. Children need to have a sense of belonging and competence; however, my thoughts, talents and tastes were never accepted, let alone valued, and I was merely expected to conform to the family dynamic. (Which I knew I never could and thus didn't even try.) Though all my gifts and interests were in the arts and communications, as a career I was steered toward math and science -- ostensibly to make a lot of money but ultimately, I suspect, to keep me cooped up at home.

Which leads me to another important point. Last year I ran into a woman that Dad had been involved with after my mother left him -- at the time of his death I was not on speaking terms with him, so I met her only at the first viewing -- and she noted that my mother, brother and I "were all he had."

That was a problem -- perhaps the problem. You see, Dad was using us to determine his identity and give him the security he always lacked. That, of course, was neither our role nor our responsibility because -- well, if he didn't give them to us, where were we supposed to get them?

OK, OK, I'll get out of the self-pity mode. Anyway, I now understand that the most important thing a father can give to his children is a sense of vision, hopefully to make this world just a little bit better than when they came into it. I think that's the problem with many families -- they try to buy a home in the nicest suburb available to raise their kids to go out and make money and start the whole process over again, with no rhyme or reason. Granted, these things aren't bad in themselves, but when that becomes the bottom line ... well, don't you feel a sense of emptiness, that you should be doing more with your life? Even "Christian" families get stuck in that same rut.

As a single man who probably will never have his own children (and thus not engaged in that battle), it's probably easy for me to make those kind of pronouncements. Still, I have an idea of what I would do were I a father -- and, more importantly, what I need to become an effective man. Number one on the list would be to cultivate friendships with older men who have been through the process. (Which I wish Dad would have done.)

Because I may never be a father -- but I will always be a son.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

True compassion

Earlier tonight I attended my regular Tuesday evening recovery meeting and, which I can't tell you just what the meeting was about, I can tell you I heard something of which I needed to be reminded. It was this: Identify with and pray for those who are suffering similarly.

That hit home for me because I've lately been struggling again with self-pity about being single, especially since dating has generally been a disaster because I have never initiated relationships very well. (Why that is, of course, is a subject for another day.) And when you're in that spot it's easy to get caught up in your own situation and believe that it will never end.

At times like those, as I first read in the late Walter Trobisch's book "Love Yourself," it's helpful to remember those who also are struggling. It reminds us that, as one of the Program's slogans reminds us, "You Are Not Alone." And I know full well that I'm not the only single man feeling frustrated because relationships with women haven't worked out, even at my advanced age.

But that's a universal. At the funeral of a churchmate and co-worker who died in January of ALS, I relayed the story of this woman asking about another colleague who had also attended our church who was facing cancer. (Unfortunately, he had died the month before.) And he too had prayed for other people rather than focus upon his own fate. In fact, I'm convinced that when we focus upon others our own troubles lift.

So before you hit the sack tonight, pray for someone else who may be troubled. And I hope I can take my own advice.