Monday, July 13, 2015

Presidents and Umbrellas

There's a picture making it's rounds on the internet of President Obama standing under an umbrella held by a Marine, adjacent to a picture of Queen Elizabeth holding an umbrella. The caption is something like: "England's Queen can hold her own umbrella, our little queen cannot."

This is an example of the kind of fake, manufactured outrage that so often floods our facebook timeliness and email inboxes. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do an image search on google to find images of Presidents from Eisenhower to JFK to LBJ to Nixon to Ford to Carter to Reagan (yes, even the sainted Ronnie Raygun) to Bush I to Clinton to Bush II to, yes Obama under an umbrella held by a soldier or Marine or aide or assistant. And for every image showing someone else holding a President's umbrella, there are images of each of these Presidents holding their own umbrellas.

There are plenty of things to get worked up over, even to spark outrage. I'm outraged that it is easier to purchase a firearm than it is to vote. I'm outraged that tax and regulatory policies lead to huge increases in the numbers of working poor and non-working rich. I'm outraged that America is number 1 in the world in the percentage of our citizens that are in jail. I'm outraged that legal fictions called corporations, which enjoy immortality, are accorded the same rights as natural persons, meaning that they can spend billions of dollars to control the levers of government. I'm outraged at the entire concept of supply side economics, where large bank bailouts and agribusiness subsidies and "free trade" are deemed good policy, but helping people who lost their jobs because of large bank bailouts and agribusiness subsidies and "free trade" is called welfare for the unworthy. I'm outraged that "Christians" spend much of their time justifying their own behavior, because they are better than "those people."

I'm outraged that charities exist to take care of our veterans who are homeless and jobless, recovering from severe head trauma and amputations and PTSD. And I'm even more outraged that a former President of the United States, who sent those men and women off to war, collected a $200,000 speaking fee from one of those charities. I'm outraged that chickenhawks lie to Congress and the American people to send those young men and women off to fight a war of choice, and then cut taxes. And I'm outraged that those same chickenhawks then blame the next President for the deficits and the power vacuum that they created in Iraq.

I'm outraged that the CEO/owner of a truck stop chain and an NFL franchise, along with his brother/state Governor, bilked truck drivers out of tens of millions of dollars without having to go to jail, while a young kid selling a few untaxed cigarettes on a street corner is choked to death by police. (Look up Pilot/Flying J and Jimmy Haslam).

And I'm outraged that it took 50 years, and the deaths of 9 peaceful worshipers in a church to remove a symbol of segregation, Jim Crow, and racial violence from the property of the cradle of secession.

So there's plenty to be outraged about. Who's carrying the umbrella doesn't seem to be that much of a deal.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Final Thoughts on the Confederate Flag

I'm afraid that I have offended some of my friends with my strident language in recent days about the flag. I apologize to those who have taken offense. So let me explain my thinking in a less strident way.

For many South Carolinians, the stars-and-bars is a symbol of honorable men defending their homeland and their way of life. But for about one-third of South Carolina citizens, the flag also speaks to the experience of their ancestors. These forebears were ripped from their homes and their way of life, shackled and chained in the holds of ships. Those who survived the 6-week voyage across the Atlantic arrived in places like Charleston, and were auctioned off like livestock. That history is a stain on our nation, and that flag symbolizes for them the stain of slavery, the stain of lynchings, the stain of Jim Crow laws and segregation, and the stain of institutional racism that still exists.

As an American, we pledge our allegiance to a different flag, and the Republic that exists as "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The flag of the confederacy stands in clear and direct opposition to the notion of liberty and justice for all. Its waving on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia celebrates nullification and secession, rather than one indivisible nation and liberty for everyone. It is an affront to justice for all.

Its flying at full mast, while the flag of the United States flew this week at half mast in remembrance of those massacred in Charleston, violated Federal law. Those images sent another message, that of indifference to the suffering of generations described above, and to the tragedy on Wednesday night. Many excuses have been offered to rationalize not lowering that flag, but each of them rings hollow.

As humans, we have the unique capacity to recognize and understand the feelings of our fellow humans, all created in the image of God. Not only that, we have the unique capacity for reconciliation. State Rep. Doug Brannon, a Republican from Spartanburg County, will file a bill to remove the flag from the Statehouse grounds. I hope that South Carolinians of goodwill will support Rep. Brannon's bill. Let's hope that is a first step toward understanding and reconciliation.