I’m NOT with Her but you won’t catch me trashing her either.

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Today I got into an online argument with some of Bernie’s true believers, including many women who yelled at me, you know how folks do that online, ALL CAPS LET’S YOU KNOW THEY’RE SERIOUS or MAD–because I reject the demand that Hillary Clinton should release the transcripts of her speeches. See, I remember the vast right wing conspiracy, no quotes needed cause it’s very real, that was mobilized to attack her husband, Bill Clinton AND her.

It seems to some of these folks that HRC (twitter speak for Hillary Rodham Clinton) is so powerful that she caused the economic meltdown wrought by Wall Street cause she got money to talk to them (let the irony of that sink in.) I have not doubt that she told them some of what they wanted to hear and some of what she wanted to say. Is she withholding the transcripts because she beguiled them with offers of more power and more tax breaks and then bewitched them into giving her bunches of gelt, mucho duckets, lots a’lettuce (pop quiz, what is the origin of those terms?)

That’s unlikely, I suspect she doesn’t want you to see the coziness she has with the leaders of affluence and influence but also because she tends to be just a little hard-headed in a way that’s NOT politically expedient. She can’t help resisting the kind of parsing of her words, her clothing and her every political reaction that no other presidential candidate has had to withstand, NO OTHER.

And here I agree with her, this feels like a witch hunt to me. Now, let’s get this straight, I do have trouble with her triangulating, her “no we can’t” philosophy that says we can’t have what other countries, not all of them rich, have-like universal childcare, healthcare and free college. She is too hawkish for me and her vote for the Iraq War is hard to forget so I am voting for Bernie when and where I can.

BUT, here I am shouting at you in CAPS-ya know, being a woman of certain age-I saw what happened when Bill treated her as a partner, when she tried to come up with something like Obamacare, possibly even more universal and progressive than that since it is essentially, Romneycare. I saw the  vicious response, the backlash to her presumption to have brains and power. And, she saw it and felt it too. She and Bill fought back with political expediency. She learned through brutal experience what a lightning rod a strong opinionated woman can be, and she adapted for good or ill but mostly for her husband’s sake (another contradiction, why did she stay, see Shonda Rimes for a possible explanation, in last week’s Scandal.)

If we look back at the period of actual witch hunts, we see that women who were survivors no matter what you threw at them, women who kept their own counsel and didn’t seem to need others, who refused to bow down, were accused of all manner of powers, powers that couldn’t be explained in the usual way.

Well, I didn’t have the type of ambition that HRC or most politicians have so I have not adjusted my political beliefs to the times the way she has. But I can tell you something about the pressures an opinionated woman in politics experiences. Back in the Anita Hill days, I had just started to work for a politician who later fired me for bridling against the demands he made of me that had nothing to do with the job. It almost ruined my life. I kept my principles intact-and got nowhere in politics. Bernie has kept his too so I’m voting for him and those principles.

As to HRC’s principles though, one thing she never abandoned was her belief in women’s rights-to abortion, to contraceptives, to rights akin to being a human (“it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights,” http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/hillaryclintonbeijingspeech.htm) That’s no small thing. Should I shout that at you? THAT’S NO SMALL THING.

Another aspect of Hillary’s run that we neglect at our peril and continue to state in our ignorance, is that Bernie’s campaign has all the young people-not all folks-unless you consider white people the only ones who count. I can’t tell you, as an old white lady, why so many Black women, and Asians and Latinas are supporting HRC over someone who talks about legislating opportunity for everyone like Bernie does.

Maybe it’s the fact that the Clintons have really worked at establishing relationships, especially in the Black community. Or maybe, as MSNBC’s commentator Joy Reid, noted,  women of color are pragmatic and will not join a movement they don’t see as producing results. Whatever the reason, I have to  consider that  their support is thoughtful. It would be disrespectful not to do that.

If you want more reminders of what Hillary Clinton has gone through to get where she’s gotten to, read Michelle Goldberg’s “Hard Choices, I used to hate Hillary, now I’m voting for her.” She writes, “revisiting news stories from the 1990s, I was reminded that before she was excoriated as a sellout corporatist, she was excoriated as a feminist radical. She was widely seen as being to her husband’s left, in a way that threatened his political viability. Time after time, under intense pressure, she would overcorrect, trying to convince a skeptical mainstream press that she was a sensible centrist. Eventually, her tendency toward triangulation became almost instinctive.”

To be honest, Michelle’s response seems to be fairly reactionary but it does express some of my disgust with the attacks on her as a candidate. Have you NOTICED (yeah, I’m shouting again) that we have never had a woman president? Here we are the exceptional country, and I use that term inadvisably, but we can’t seem to get there.

Oh, I get it-Hillary isn’t that woman, that candidate-that we want. She may just be the candidate that paves the way but can’t get to the end of the road with us. It seems her very desire to be all things to all people may have doomed her in this time of “authenticity.”

But if you tell me that she is so evil, so representative of the power structure that you can’t even vote for her if she gets the nomination, I won’t see you as the enemy (the way some of you will already see me as the enemy for “defending” her.) I didn’t get mad at voters who chose Nader either.  After all they didn’t really elect Bush, the Supreme Court picked him.

Oh, gee, there’s a thought. The next president will pick a number of nominees to the high court. Sigh, if that doesn’t turn you into a supporter of whomever our nominee turns out to be, I’ll resist the urge to shout-LOOK WHAT’S COMING!

 

 

The Obama Years-Change, Backlash & Contradiction

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President Barack Obama hugs Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, prior to delivering his State of the Union address. (Photo credit should read PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

In case we’ve forgotten in the breathless cable news coverage of #horserace2016, Barack Obama is still our president. Perhaps this is why I haven’t got religion yet for the next campaign, I still have feelings for the current icon of our dysfunction and I need to figure them out before I move on.

I had already begun to miss that brilliant, sensible man, Mr. Obama, by the time he gave his last State of the Union address. But no one expresses that sentiment better than the Nightly Show’s Larry Wilmore who does a segment called, The UnBlackening, on the politics of the 2016 campaign. It’s undoubtedly the beginning and possibly the end of an era. Over the last year Barack Obama had just begun to do what pundits called “showing his Black side,” while giving no damns for his critics.

We had all hoped that he would grasp early on that he could not count on any friends or allies on the other side of the aisle. But being the kind of even tempered, conciliatory and eminently rational, constitutional lawyer that he is, he wanted to bring people together while attempting to neuter their adherence to ideologies, but the Republicans declared war on him and everything he tried to do from the start. When Obama worked to put the Republican plan for healthcare insurance, otherwise known as Romneycare, in place they set out to kill it and the Republican-led Congress was last seen wandering off into legislative oblivion trying to do just that.

Let’s back up, way back. I’m old enough to remember when I chanted and marched against LBJ and reviled his war mongering away of young lives. Even though Johnson brought public service jobs to my friends with the War on Poverty-right there as Tavis Smiley says, “who even dares to use the “p” word now”- we hated him and declared a kind of victory when he vowed not to run again-after which he faded from the scene and then from life itself.

Johnson brought about voting rights for Black people still living under Jim Crow, Medicare and Medicaid , the free lunch program modeled in no small way on that of the Black Panthers and more we can’t even dredge up without using google [http://us-presidents.insidegov.com/q/43/9699/What-were-President-Lyndon-Johnson-s-accomplishments]. How long did it take for my generation to recognize his contributions? Oh, I’d say till the 2010’s at least.

LBJ himself said that his civil rights legislation would give the Republican Party to the South for a generation. But even he did not foresee the Grand Old Party’s terrifying free-fall  into intolerance and xenophobia. He might not have been able to imagine a high court which has embraced and expanded the Second Amendment while it continues to nullify the Fourth Amendment. Voting rights which we took for granted and which were in the process of turning the South around, are now seemingly lost to another generation.

Ah well, my daughter who like her brother is bi-racial (their dad is Black while I am white or if you like, African-American while I am a WASP) believes that since the election of Obama, racism has flared and it has become more dangerous than ever before in her lifetime. That may be true or it may be just more obvious but it’s undeniably a factor in Obama’s administration. After all many white people had to vote for Obama in order for him to be elected but the backlash has been vicious and touched almost every Black person in some way.

So what about Obama himself, could fiction have invented a more contradictory character?

His critics hit him hardest as a wimp, a closet Muslim. Yes, he is the first president in our history and in our immediate future, to have lived in a Muslim country, to understand and appreciate the many diverse cultures in which Muslims live-THIS IS NO SMALL THING.

Yet he has probably killed more Muslims than George Bush. He had Bin laden assassinated, as he likes to brag, has regularly droned to death civilians attending weddings or whatever and has 3 or 4 wars going on in the Middle East and Africa at any given time.

He embraced the young “Dreamers” of the Latino community then he became the “deporter-in-chief.” He won the Nobel Peace Prize while jailing anyone who pointed out the American penchant for war crimes. Is he more contradictory than any president of an imperialist power?  One answer comes from Joy Reid of MSNBC who said that the next president will likely be more hawkish than Obama and it seems undoubtedly so. Yet this commander-in-chief has also spent more of his political capital and reputation on negotiating treaties and deals, the one with Iran being the most notable, than any president I can remember.

Has Obama done much for Black Folks, sadly not much, but that’s not actually surprising while still disappointing. However, his administration has aided struggling Black families which are disproportionately poor by limiting the everyday way that banks rip people off, creating more avenues to healthcare and pushing to make student loans more equitable. He had to be forced by a movement to talk about reducing the reach of the criminal justice system [#Blacklivesmatter!]. But just the mention of him and Trayvon together in a sentence tugged hard on my heart and made many people see the world in a different way-more as it is.

Beyond his experience in other countries and awareness of other cultures, being a person who was raised white yet is Black gives him a unique and penetrating vision of the dual hearts that beat on either side of the American street, a knowledge which is invaluable to us as the troubled people we are.

And, in a country where the scorn for African-American families runs so deep, it is embedded in almost every social interaction or cultural conversation, the Obama family in its near perfection, two brilliant, highly educated-bootstrapping style-parents, two beautiful and seemingly normal girls growing up in the public glare, is amazing and important. What’s more, their father, Barrack Hussein Obama, is clearly a man in love with his wife and an adored by his children, an American dad who can be teased like any other beloved but real father. As everybody knows who’s ever been around a “firstie”-it must always be so.

But the most amazing thing about this man and this admirable family of his, is that no matter how reviled he has been, no matter how disrespected he and his family, particularly his smart and gracious wife have been, he has come out the other side, still hopeful, still living as if what we do as individuals and as a nation can and shall make a difference, brings tears to my eyes over and over again.

When he’s gone from the national scene, I fear that our conversation about the importance of our American heart of darkness, white supremacy, will go back into the shadows where it has operated so successfully. While I hate that his family has had to suffer in the spotlight of our national disease, I believe the sweeping away of this ugliness can only happen in confrontation.

Beyond the mean-spiritedness, Obama still provides hope and a vision that I realized I share with him-a desire to live my life in a world where “unarmed truth and unconditional love” will overcome, which is why I feel a kinship with our soon-to-be ex-president. Ah, Barry, Barack Hussein Obama, I’m gonna miss you, please don’t be a stranger.