On forgiveness

Ridiculous. Infuriating. Asinine. Callous. Those are some of the feelings as I read an op-ed by Michael Eric Dyson spinning Desmond Tutu’s death and legacy as an alternative to the current calls for racial justice and the reckoning of the genocide across US history and the colonization of North America by European immigrants [https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/28/opinion/desmond-tutu-america-justice.html].

I want to jump to and, who is the audience for this editorial? Because why M.E. Dyson writes is preposterous.

I find the processing of whiteness — white guilt about white supremacy and whitewashing to pretend that the record is not as sordid as it is — that passes as civics and domestic politics within this nation state to be depleting and by that I mean exhausting and energy-sapping and life-taking to meet callousness with compassion, to forgive when they willfully forget and perpetuate and perpetrate new lies.

I am not a close student of Desmond Tutu’s public speeches and statements, leadership and political moves and public stances. I’ve done some reading about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the end of apartheid but we are far from being in a place where white America will tell their truths.

I want to ridicule Dyson by pointing out the absurdity of being a tenured professor at Vanderbilt University writing about the merits of making it work out. I find it difficult to read because this is more naive than Democratic legislators trying to negotiate with Republican peers who do not accept women and people of color as equals.

I once believed a myth that Black people in the United States could save the rest of the citizenry. But I don’t but much faith in such savior roles or racial dogma at this juncture in my life. I want to judge my younger self for harboring such foolish naïveté, as I did about all the shovel-ready-projects that were supposed to lubricate the stimulus package in 2009. But all that grandiose policy amounted to little of what was promised. It was futile for the president and members of Congress to promise about an 21st century energy grid or rapid transit trains spanning from Florida to the Northeast to California when they could not guarantee governing majorities for years on end. Instead, they made multi-year promises when they rose to committee chairs then were sidelined into minority party status by November 2010.

There’s something similarly amiss when Black Lives Matter is being conflated with cancel culture and then blamed for the inhospitable and dysfunctional and violent state of affairs between races in the United States.

Dyson doesn’t say “turn the other cheek” but he suggests that the well of indigenous and Black redemption of reckless white Americans is a renewable resource. To highlight the forgiveness of family members of the Charleston 9 is unfortunate, if not perverse. To have to hold and accommodate a man who pretended to be coming for prayer group is a tremendous and horrendous burden. Maybe redemption and forgiveness can be infinite but at this stage in my life, they do not feel sufficient for the illness and ailments that plague this society.

Maybe the timeless aspect of the oppressed’s forgiveness is that we are all humans and ultimately, there will/must be some balancing amongst the humans but it is hard to feel that when most of what I see is ignorance and defiance among people who have been accustomed to others suffering being coupled with their indulgence. Even as they learn of their impact, they don’t want to rein their excesses in. They want to continue to be violent and genocidal in their supremacist belief systems.

What’s the point of taking the moral ground when the ground is being seized and taken or plundered? Rather than prescribe maybe he could acknowledge the anguish and disgust that people of color feel. The pain that more whites acknowledge and empathize with and can acknowledge rather than argue or avoid. But there’s no reconciliation without going through the agony and saddling the burden of that leadership on people of color and other oppressed majorities is not how we rectify the brokenness of the powerful.

Ailments > Healings

Earlier I read a phrase that the meager attempt of a solution providing resolution to a tremendous problem was akin to:

aspirin for cancer

And I jumped to the metaphor that the machinations of Democrats and the Democratic Party are antibiotics — over-prescribed and increasingly ineffective.

There are various fronts and flanks and subcommittees among the Democrats: senators and congresspeople within the federal system, legislators across the states, and those at the municipal and local levels; the Blue Dogs; the New Democrats; the Progressive Caucus; the social liberals who purport to be fiscal conservatives; the alumni of the Obama administration, the alumni of the Clinton administration, and those who worked in both; co-sponsors of the Green New Deal; the military hawks versus the peaceniks; and the Squad. Obviously, there are others but this is an incomplete list.

And there’s some sparring, jockeying, subterfuge, allying and aligning between different individuals and certain camps. I speculate that there’s not cohesion or unanimity on the benefits and reasons for growing the numbers of D elected officials as some of the DS in Congress do not care for other DS, and some of them are capable of befriending and cuddling and aligning with Republicans. The split between the Bernie Sanders supporters versus the Hillary Clinton supporters became a leadership vote (and upset) within the Nevada Democratic Party that is now causing the power and roles between the national body (the DNC) and the state parties to be renegotiated. Even though many leaders of the state parties may not have stood with the current NV leadership on the Bernie/Hillary vote, they are seemingly with the outsiders and insurgents-who-have-become-officials interns of data files, money and bank accounts and some other forms of power-sharing or power-grabbing.

That being said, the suggestions that what will salvage or strengthen the levers of power and structures of politics are more Democrats are offering a miserable remedy for a severely broken apparatus.

The continued dependence on a two-party system inhibits us from destroying some of the legal and financial structures that are barriers that essentially prohibit new actors from entering politics. When the legal barriers are too high that they are nearly impossible to alter, we are told to settle into the limited notion that we most work within the Democratic or Republican Party, which is inadequate for the ailments that we face. There are special interests who maintain the status quo and they do not wish to move towards greater democracy.

They will not accede without demands. so we must make many demands.

Picking on the youngest ones

That mark, David Shor, has the audacity to chide the 20-something volunteers, temporary workers, part time workers, interns and entry level employees for the Democrat Party.

Shor picks on the young adults, when there’s layer upon layer of the Old Boys Network in campaign consultants, lobbyists and other industries that orbit around partisan political.

Shor picks on the young adults when there are the incumbents and first time candidates that come from the traditional places resulting in the likelihood that they will get their blessings and backing of the bloated Establishment of the Democratic Party.

Shor picks on the young adults when there are the donor class who invest in disappointing mediocrity that enshrines modest tweaks to the status quo rather than robust interventions and interruptions oc systems that are broken for most families, adults and children, but systems that serve the plutocrats.

And this wunderkind wunderkid is heralded for concluding that 18-29 year olds are more progressive and more liberal and more radical than the typical Democratic voter. Note: there’s an aspect of confirmation bias considering the swaths of adults eligible to vote who are to disgusted by Democrats and Republicans to identify with either of the two main political parties.

But this Obama campaign acolyte is being repurposed and repackaged because the Democratic Party knows that it faces multiple existential crises. First among them, that the older voters who preferred HRC in the 2015-2016 primary are dying while tge teenagers coming into voting age are much more likely to vote for Bernie Sanders abd AOC types of candidates.

And, the Old Boys Network can’t stand it.

In part because the white guys in power, who benefit the most from nepotism and it’s-who-you-know patronage, don’t want to share power and have to adhere to equity. The white guys don’t want to have to give up half of all the seats at the table and half of all the positions to women. The white guys don’t want to have to give up 20% more of the seats at the table to men of color. The white guys don’t want to have to give up another 5% of the seats to gender nonconforming and non-binary people. The white guys do not think that their slice is only 35% of the whole.

That said, the white guys in power do not believe in equity, fairness, or representation. The white guys in power do not believe in this basic form of democracy.

Too many white men in power who put the letter D after their name will collude and conspire with Republicans to defeat or thwart changes coming from the reluctant Ds, those of us who pick that affiliation as the lesser of two evils and a compromised, hollowed political audacity.

Shor looks to the history of the likes of Bill Clinton, John Corzine, Chuck Schumer, Terry McAuliffe, John Hickenlooper, and Steny Hoyer. He trusts that there will be plenty more doors and floors for him to rise to, as the Democratic Party has plenty of seats for just his type.

Juicing War

But it is easier not to mistreat prisoners if you no longer capture them.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/03/opinion/us-war-afghanistan.html

Samuel Moyn says a lot in that piece about the lies, deceit abd immoral of US warmongering. What I would add:

But it is harder not to war when you’ve juiced it with $700B annually.

June is Reparations Month

Turns out that M4BL has decreed that June is Reparations month. Yesterday, I was cringing at the prospects for something substantive, something that was more than performative bullshit. And I wrote about that. Today, I feel like reparations month is taking root in my soul.

It must be Reparations Month as I’ve read two stories in two days on the Politico website, that bastion of two-sided storytelling trying to paint both political parties as decent and honorable endeavors.

Tonight, I learned that, according to the United Nations, all reparations have five components: 1) Cessation, assurances and guarantees of non-repetition. 2) Restitution and Repatriation. 3) Compensation. 4) Satisfaction. 5) Rehabilitation.

Learn more from the M4BL Reparations Toolkit.

12 definitions of decolonization from Yvette Mutumba

Pablo Larios interviews Yvette Mutumba about decolonization and she rattled off a list of twelve with the most fabulous prelude that I’ve ever read:

What follows only begins to touch on a matter of decades of thinking, working, experiencing, talking and growing.

As for the 12 definitions of decolonization:

> that I will not do the job of those sitting inside institutions and organizations that are predominantly white

> conversations which create serious exchange, but also discomfort, maybe even pain, on the other side of the table.

> having to sit with that discomfort.

> understanding that decolonization is not a matter of ‘us’ and ‘them’, but concerns all of us.

> acknowledging that this is not a current moment or trend.

> not necessarily being political, but no choice to not be political.

> admitting that having grown up in a racist structure is no excuse.

> transparency from the institutional side.

> re-centering

> stepping back and making space.

> creating safe spaces.

> changing structures as much as building new structures

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen in the Midst of Grexit

I borrowed “Citizen: An American Lyric,” Claudia Rankine’s 2014 collection of poetry from the library weeks ago. It is full of social commentary written in formats that are part poetry and part prose elsewhere. It is currently overdue, so I grabbed it today to read a few more lines and a few more pages before I return it this afternoon. Fittingly, I read it in the midst of #ThisIsaCoup blasts into our global cyberscape thanks to the failed romance and mounting grievances between Greece and the European Troika. There is so much to read in these 24 hours since a “agreekment” (sic) has been announced through the fourth estate. But, Rankine’s words on page 75 strike me as apropos to the political and economic storm and man-made disaster happening over days, weeks, months and years in Europe:

what faces you, the storm, this day’s sigh as the day shifts
its leaves, the wind a prompt against the calm you can’t
digest.

Blue ceiling calling a body into the midst of azure, oceanic,
as ocean blushes the blues it can’t absorb, reflecting back
a day

the day frays, night, not night, this fright passes through
the eye crashing into you, is this you?

Yes, it’s me, clear the way, then hold me clear of this that
faces, the storm carrying me through dawn

not knowing whether to climb down or up into its eye —
day, hearing a breath shiver, whose are you?

Guard rail, spotlight, safety lock, airbag, fire lane, slip guard,
night watch, far into this day are teh days this day was
meant to take out of its way. An obstacle

to surrender, dusk in dawn, held open, then closing,
then opening, a red-tailed hawk, dusk at dawn, taking
over blue, surveying movement, against the calm, red sky
at morning.

whose are you?

Navigating these storms will require many skilled deckhands working towards a shared goal. It will require that many egos get put on ice or are told to pipe down because their attitudes prevent the key participants from figuring out the terms of negotiation and the chemistry to play well together. That’s why we have the adage of “all hands on deck.” Not doing so, will result in a European Quagmire that will result in the collapse of the European Union — too many opinions, too many differing wishes, and too many demands.

As Thomas Piketty and others stated in an open letter to Chancellor Merkel last week:

In the 1950s, Europe was founded on the forgiveness of past debts, notably Germany’s, which generated a massive contribution to post-war economic growth and peace. Today we need to restructure and reduce Greek debt, give the economy breathing room to recover, and allow Greece to pay off a reduced burden of debt over a long period of time. Now is the time for a humane rethink of the punitive and failed program of austerity of recent years and to agree to a major reduction of Greece’s debts in conjunction with much needed reforms in Greece.

the other approach is justice

There are a couple of approaches to poverty. One is what you would call charity. Mother Teresa chose to pick the babies our of the gutter, to do direct service with God’s most vulnerable. The other is called justice. It has to be both-and. It can’t be either-or.

– Sister Florence Deacon, on pg 12 of the NYT Magazine, October 28, 2012. Sister Deacon is a part of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Primary sources, found freely online

An excerpt from 1970, found online today:

But many … have become disillusioned after a time by their experiences with liberation groups.  More often than not these groups never get beond [sic] the level of therapy sessions; rather than aiding the political development of [those involved] and building a revolutionary movement, they often enourage escape from political struggle.

All this in the second paragraph of an article titled, “What is the Revolutionary Potential of Women’s Liberation?” I removed the references to women and women’s movements and women’s rights to make the passage applicable to numerous oppressed populations. It is applicable to sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and xenophobia.

Therapy is critical. And this suggests that it alone is insufficient to sustain, or continue to nourish the souls and liberation of those involved. The clarity of mentioning political development and political education is a clear second step after one has taken the first stage of deep healing. In order to grapple with the inner injury, there has to be an external system to grapple with.

Politics is a use of power.

In my own experience, revolutionary groups with only the therapy stage lose those who have been a part of them once they have healed. When there is a lack of new engagement, new opportunities, new levels of discourse then the initial emphasis of “therapy sessions” is insufficient.

On the other hand, the on-going presence of the initial stage of healing and a second track can create a dynamism and interplay between the two tracks.

 

****

There are passages that demonstrate how significantly times have changed:

 

As well as what remains the same:

Many of the characteristics which one needs in order to become respected in the movement — like the ability to argue loud and fast and aggressively and to excell in the “I’m more revolutionary than you” style of debate — are traits which in our society consistently cultivates in men and discourages in women from childhood.  But these traits are neither inherently male nor universally human; rather, they are particularly appropriate to a brutally competitive capitalist society.

The authenticity fixation has reached its limit in certain circles, and is pervasive in others. It may be perishing, but it has a long, slow death.

***

Eleanor Holmes Norton describes the intersection crash of race + family, in the Black Women’s Manifesto, writing:

With black family life so clearly undermined in the American environment, blacks must remake the family unit, not imitate it. Indeed, this task is central to black liberation. The black male will not be returned to his historic strength – the foremost task of the black struggle today – if we do not recreate the strong family unit that was a part of our African heritage before it was dismembered by the slave-owning class in America. But it will be impossible to reconstruct the black family if its central characters are to be crepe paper copies acting out the old white family melodrama. In that failing production, the characters seem set upon a course precisely opposite to ours. White men in search of endless financial security have sold their spirits to that goal and begun a steady emasculation in which the fiscal needs of wife and family determine life’s values and goals. Their now ungrateful wives have begun to see the fraud of this way of life, even while eagerly devouring its fruits. Their even more ungrateful children are in bitter rejection of all that this sort of life signifies and produces. White family life in America today is less than a poor model for blacks. White family life is disintegrating at the moment when we must reforge the black family unit. The whole business of the white family – its softened men, its frustrated women, its angry children – is in a state of great mess.