Daily Archives: December 15, 2014



Charles Blow want to know

Last week I spoke at a seminary and graduate school in New York about the protests following the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.
It was invigorating and inspiring to be among so many young people with so much passion about social justice, young people beginning to feel their power as change agents and brimming to exercise it by disrupting the status quo.However, I couldn’t help noticing a disturbing sentiment echoed in a few of the questions about the value of voting. One gentleman even said something to this effect: “It doesn’t make a difference whom you put in office because the office is corrupt.”


I couldn’t disagree more. Voting is not some fruitless, patrician artifact from a bygone era. It is not for those devoid of consciousness and deprived of truth. It is an incredibly important part of civic engagement. No politicians are perfect, but neither are they all the same. The sameness argument is an instrument of deceit employed by the puppet masters to drive down the electoral participation of young idealists.

They’re not that young.


I do not doubt Warren’s sincerity. But let’s face fact. She’s a nice prop for our “Free Press” — Dana Bash being typical. She treats everything and everyone as entertainment fodder for her corporate owners. Happily there’s blowback.

And speaking of said owners –

We don’t vote for people because they are the exact embodiment of our values, but because they are likely to be the most responsive to them.

If that’s your story Charles you stick to it.

Also, there has been too much blood spilled, too many bodies buried in the struggle to expand the franchise of voting in America for us to cavalierly shrug it off. And the effort to constrict the pool of eligible voters is too well organized and too well financed for anyone to see his or her vote as lacking value.

It’s so well organized and so well financed that the vote is smaller and more meaningless than ever.

And yet, I do understand the bulging frustration that the political system can foster.

I’m not at all sure that you do, dear.

I understand the feelings of these young protesters who are chafing at our current representative democracy and yearning for — yelling for — more direct democracy in which “the people” make direct demands and direct decisions, possibly circumventing an admittedly polarized-to-the-point-of-paralysis federal legislative system.
Protests are a form of direct democracy.

No shit, Sherlock!


But direct democracy works best at the local level, like town hall meetings. It is far more challenging and unwieldy when national policy changes are sought.

Oh those Town Halls!

I understand the fundamental questions being raised in these protests and others. There is an emotional declaration: The system is broken. There is also a moral, philosophical question: Who are we?
Are we — or better yet, should we be — a nation that tortures detainees, or targets and kills American citizens with drones, or has broad discretion to spy on the American public? Should we be a country hamstrung over how to deal with millions of undocumented immigrants, or our gun violence epidemic, or our growing income inequality? Should we be a country that accepts bias in its criminal justice system, a country of mass incarceration and a country where so many young black men can be killed by the police?
Who are we?

No dear. It’s “Who WERE we?” that’s important. Right Kylie?

That is a very real question. Who are we now and who do we aspire to be? Do we aspire to the ideas enshrined in our founding documents? Do we truly believe the Declaration of Independence?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

“All men” didn’t include women — or those with complexions like yours and mine, Charles.


That’s why the notion of a President Obama has been such an affront to so many.

In the immortal words of Susie Creamcheese :


“America was founded on a genocide, on the unquestioned assumption of the right of White Europeans to exterminate a resident, technologically backward, colored population in order to take over the continent.

America had not only the most brutal system of slavery in modern times but a unique juridical system (compared with other slaveries, say in Latin America and the British colonies) which did not, in a single respect, recognize slaves as persons.

As a country – as distinct from a colony – America was created mainly by the surplus poor of Europe, reinforced by a small group who were just Europamude, tired of Europe (a literary catchword of the 1840s). Yet even the poorest knew both a “culture,” largely invented by his social betters and administered from above, and a “nature” that had been pacified for centuries. These people arrived in a country where the indigenous culture was simply the enemy and was in the process of being ruthlessly annihilated, and where nature, too, was the enemy, a pristine force, unmodified by civilization, that is, by human wants, which had to be defeated. After America was “won,” it was filled up by new generations of poor and built up according to the tawdry fantasy of the good life that culturally deprived, uprooted people might have at the beginning of the industrial era. And the country looks it.”

(Back to Charles)

Who are we? We are America — impossibly strong, illogically optimistic, eternally hopeful. This is a laboratory in which one of the greatest experiments in human history is still underway. We can be whoever we want to be, dare to be, dream of being.
We are the young people in the streets, who shout out and die-in for the right to be treated equally and to live freely. We are people who must know that the voice and the vote are mutual amplifiers, not mutually exclusive.

You know who we are Charles? We’re The Who — that’s who!