Tag Archives: voter suppression

America’s Original Sin Revealed Again: The Malignant Open Wound of American Racism

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Joseph Conrad wrote in his book Heart of Darkness: “The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.” 

Those  words are terrifying when you think of them.

Since the first  African slaves arrived at Jamestown in 1619 the American experiment has not been without its flaws, mistakes, crimes, and to use the often frowned upon, its sins. There have been many sins in that experiment; the long term genocide committed against the original inhabitants of the country, the Native American tribes, which now reside in reservations with little economic opportunity and as the COVID 19 pandemic have shown, little access to healthcare and many other disadvantages built into treaties they signed with the government of the United States.

Then there are others as well, the treatment of almost every immigrant group at the hands of English, Scottish, and Welsh Protestants who dominated the political, economic, cultural, and sociological hierarchy of the new republic. That included the Irish and German immigrants who had their churches burned and treated as second class citizens by the Know Nothings of the 1830s to 1860s. Then there were Southern and Eastern Europeans, Jews from many countries, Japanese and Chinese, and then the Mexicans, who we robbed of 40% of of their country’s land by a war that Ulysses Grant said: “I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico.”

But all these aside, America’s original sin was the enslavement of millions of Blacks which sadly only ended in name with emancipation, Reconstruction, the XIII, XIV, and XV Amendments, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Instead of real freedom African Americans saw those rights wiped away by State Legislatures, beginning in the South but throughout much of the nation, enacted Black Codes, Voter Suppression programs, such as Poll Taxes and Voting Tests, and Segregation laws. These were backed up by White Nationalist and Racist groups including the Ku Klux Klan, the Red Shirts, and the White League. up to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Courts, going up to Supreme Court of the United States, which upheld voter suppression laws, Poll Taxes, and Segregation under the guise of separate but equal in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson of 1896. Of course while Plessy legalized segregation in all walks of life, it did nothing for equality, which for Blacks was ruthlessly destroyed. The courts also looked the other way when Black townships were attacked and massacred by the well armed Paramilitaries of the KKK, White Leagues, and Red Shirts, or the lynchings of Blacks that claimed thousands of lives.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court John Harlan, a former slave owner and in his dissent with the Plessy decision wrote:

“The destinies of two races, in this country are indissolubly linked together, and the interests of both require that the common government of all should not permit the seeds of race hate to be planted under the sanction of law. What can more certainly arouse race hate, what more certainly create and perpetuate a feeling of distrust between these races, than state enactments, which, in fact, proceed on the ground that colored citizens are so inferior and degraded that they cannot be allowed to sit in public coaches occupied by white citizens? That, as all will admit, is the real meaning of such legislation as was enacted in Louisiana.”

Justice Harlan’s words were prophetic and directly address what is happening today.

Such crimes are still happening even today, sometimes by those that claim the mantle of the original lynching as in the case of the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota which was captured on video from several sources, which showed an officer putting his full body weight on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes, 8 minutes in which Mr. Floyd begged for his life saying “I can’t breath,”  but by the time the officer now accused of his murder assist by three other officers, was dead. This was despite the presence of many witnesses who tried to persuade them not to keep killing him.

Mr. Floyd had been accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill by a store owner. The crime was a non-violent misdemeanor, but the police responded as if Mr. Floyd had committed an armed robbery or murder. In fact he was unarmed and otherwise non-violently protest his arrest, he was killed. Though the mayor of Minneapolis called it murder and demanded that prosecutors act quickly, they demurred and delayed until protests broke out, which spun out of control. They have now spread  country, some peaceful, some that became violent, and some peaceful protests which were met with police spraying pepper spray and launching Tear Gas, into peaceful protestors, including at least one member of Congress.

Harper Lee wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird:

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.” 

President Trump embodies the words of Atticus Finch in that book. He has only fanned the flames with his tweets, and retweets which only incited supporters to help commit destructive acts, and provoked the protestors to respond in kind. The actual truth and facts of what happened in each case, beginning with the murder of George Floyd, will not be determined until all the forensic, video, and audio evidence provided by legitimate news organizations, ordinary citizens, and police records is examined to determine what happened in each demonstration following his murder. But after several days of inaction by prosecutors to change the police involved the anger burst into protests.

Malcom X said something very appropriate, and which if you have not experienced poverty, and discrimination, you may find it hard to empathize with the plight of American Blacks. The often  misunderstood Civil Rights leader said: “The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities – he is only reacting to four hundred years of the conscious racism of the American whites.” What we tend to forget is that such treatment in Europe brought many English, Scots, Irish, Germans, and others to the United States, where their descendants emulated the behaviors of their ancestor’s oppressors, especially towards Blacks who many believed were sub-human, the same term used by the Nazis to describe the Jews. Think about if you or I were the products of such longstanding, pervasive, and institutionalized discrimination, how would you feel or what would you do? If you cannot answer the same as Malcom X, then you will never understand.

Sadly, this is nothing new to American Blacks, and who of us, if we were in their shoes would not protest, even in anger if their local, state, and Federal governments actually pursued policies of justice rather than passing laws that they refuse to enforce, and meaningless rhetoric promising better times, voting rights, civil rights, and equality. The last President to do this, at great political cost to himself as a Southern Democrat, who against his party’s wishes pushed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1964, and the Civil Rights Act of 1965, as well as the promise of the Great Society. Had Johnson not gotten derailed by Vietnam he might have accomplished much more.

But what would White’s do if their civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcom X, as well as allies like Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, while lynchings continued. What would White America do if their churches, like the 16th Street Baptist Church, of Birmingham Alabama were bombed, or the parishioners Charleston, South Carolina’s Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church gunned down at a Bible Study by a hate filled murdering racist in 2015. What would we say if people fighting for our right to vote as were murdered in cold blood by on and off duty law enforcement officers and members of the Ku Klux Klan, as were Andrew Goodman, Mickey Scherner, and James Chaney near Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964.

Today American Blacks are most impacted by the economic crisis and medical crisis caused by COVID 19 harder than the Black Community harder than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. If one were to be fair, who could not blame them for ceasing to believe the rhetoric of political leaders. Who could not blame the majority who protest peacefully, but who are demonized, and set up by others intent on inciting violence, be they angry Blacks, or White Nationalists following  social media posts designed by their developers, be they American supporters of racists groups or President Trump, or foreign actors, like Vladimir Putin’s Russian, or Premier Xi’s Chinese intelligence units attempting to exploit the divisions In the American electorate as they did in the 2016 Election which President Trump lost by one of the largest majorities of popular votes, while winning three states by slim majorities which gave him win in the Electoral College.

I won’t go into details of the various “news” and opinion articles I have seen over the past few days, because so much disinformation has been published That it is hard to wade through, and it will take time. I would rather be right on specific cases than engage in generalities, and right now the only thing I can be sure about is the historic precedent and the murder of George Floyd. As far as the individual protests, I cannot comment more until I see more evidence, especially when so much disinformation is being reported about the protests, and the President continues to throw gasoline on the fire by his out of control tweets, as do his supporters. Likewise he continues to use this as a Political weapon to attack Democratic Mayors, Governors, and his Democratic rival for the Presidency, Joe Biden, as well as the free press which tries to report the events honestly on the ground, which had left several reporters, and innocent bystanders injured by rubber bullets fired by police while covering the riots.

That being said I honestly believe that outside agitators, mostly from the political right if you believe the local leaders and not White House propaganda, including off duty police officers are inciting much of the violence and looting. That does not mean that there might not be some left wing agitators, but the left has nothing to gain from inciting violence, it would only make the lives of Blacks harder, and encourage more violence against them.

No American is benefitted by the actions of Donald Trump, who can play on the the imagined fears Whites of Black people by simply playing one off against the other. He learned well from his KKK member father, it’s only when it costs you money when it becomes important, but despite court judgments against him and his corporation, he continues. That makes it obvious that his hatred of Blacks is what really is driving his response, and he will pay the political price, even as the nation suffers as a whole suffers for his actions and words. To this end we must fight for justice and not be silent in the face of evil.

One cannot look on as a bystander when innocent and non violent people are being assaulted and killed by police. As Yehuda Bauer said:

“The horror of the Holocaust is not that it deviated from human norms; the horror is that it didn’t. What happened may happen again, to others not necessarily Jews, perpetrated by others, not necessarily Germans. We are all possible victims, possible perpetrators, possible bystanders.”

Bauer also wrote: “Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”

I have no idea how this is going to play out, but a coming economic depression, an unending pandemic which had killed over 105,000 Americans as of today, and now massive riots provoked by unnecessary police violence and the incredible inequality brought about by America’s Original Sin are a perfect storm to make things a lot worse.

The wounds caused by America’s original sin are so deep, gangrenous, and malignant that they cannot be healed simply applying a bandage and hope that they will heal. That’s pretty much what we always do, even when well intentioned pass laws that are ultimately ignored, gutted, or overturned by their opponents. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed on April 9th 1945 on the direct order of Adolf Hitler wrote these words:

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

That is all of our task today, if we are silent, we are complicit in that original sin, and it becomes our personal sin as well. America’s Original Sin needs complete disinfecting, and major surgery to cut out and excise it from our identity. Evil is the absence of empathy, which is the mark of a malignant sociopath. If you can turn away from the plight of African Americans and America’s Original sin, then there is little hope for you, and our country. But like Nelson Mandela I believe:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under afghanistan, aircraft, alternative history, alzheimer's disease, anti-semitism, armored fighting vehicles, artillery, authoritarian government, Loose thoughts and musings

Vigilance is the Price of Voting Rights and Freedom

Print

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Last night I published an article about receiving a notice that my absentee ballot as a military voter would not be counted on election night because there was a question about my eligibility to vote in this election.

Now imagine that you are a military voter who has had to vote absentee since 1996 and during that time you changed your party affiliation to the party that is not the majority party in that state, though at one time it was. Now imagine that you had trouble even getting a ballot during the 2012 election cycle because the legislature changed the rules to require a voter to request a ballot for each election, something that was not publicized. Now imagine that you have been reading all kinds of reports of Republican operatives in Red States attempting to disqualify Democratic Party voters or those who might reasonably be suspected of voting Democrat.

Then imagine receiving this notice with your ballot and imagine your reaction.

provisional-ballot-notice

My reaction was to go to Red Alert and Battle Stations. I wrote about it here as well as at the Daily Kos, and then I went into action calling the County Clerk office, the Federal Voter’s Assistance Program, and the West Virginia Secretary of State Office. The Federal Voter’s Assistance program employee who helped me just happened to be a West Virginia native from the county that my paternal grandmother is from contacted the West Virginia Secretary of State Voting Rights section and the matter was cleared up. Both the man at the Federal Voter’s Assistance Program and the lady from the Secretary of State office were very helpful.

The answer from the County Clerk’s Office was that I got the form by mistake and that a computer problem put them behind and in the rush to get the ballots out the provisional ballot form notice was mistakenly put in the packets. While I understand that I am not sure how much I believe it as it seems incomprehensible to me that that form would be put in every packet by hand without someone noticing and asking the simple question “should we be sending this form out?”

I hate to sound a bit paranoid but recent history shows that there are some public employees who will defy the law for their political and social beliefs, as in the case of Kim Davis in Kentucky. Either it this was a case of incredibly gross incompetence which is pretty rare, or it was it was an intentional act of an employee who is now covering their tracks.

I have to ask. What if an employee of the Clerk’s office decided to send them just to Democrats, or Republicans for that matter and then lie and say that everyone got one with no way of proving it as the forms are not serialized. The question should be asked and the situation investigated and if there is wrongdoing then it should be prosecuted. This is an absentee ballot nightmare scenario. While it won’t matter for the Presidential ballot as West Virginia is solidly behind Trump, it does matter in the state and local races.

Now my vote will be counted on election night, at least that is what I am told. So the next step is to make sure that everyone else who got one of these forms knows what happened and that their votes will count. I have contacted the Secretary of State’s Office and asked that they and the Cabell County Clerk Office issue a press release and also individually notify people that their vote will count.  I can imagine that if I was in Iraq or Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, or on a ship at sea with little way to reach back and find out what is going on that I might just not vote. I can imagine that if I was a student living out of state or an elderly shut in I might just give up on this election. Not everyone is the asshole that I am when it comes to real or potential civil rights and voting rights issues. Many people are simply too nice to rock the boat or the vote.

And then ask the logical follow-up question: “If I didn’t contact Federal and State officials to advise them of this would the situation have been noticed or corrected?” That has to be asked, because accidental or not it would have led to de-facto voter suppression. The Secretary of State office agrees with me and even called me back and they are working on how to work with the county to make sure that people know that this was a mistake.

I do not care what party you are affiliate with, or for that matter who you vote for, but I do ask all of my readers regardless of party affiliation to hold their legislatures, county clerks, and state level secretary of state offices charged with ensuring that elections are free and fair to make sure that no one is disenfranchised. I also contacted the news office of one the local NBC affiliate in Huntington because I am not sure that this will get out to the people that need to know and that if there is a cover-up going on that it will surface without outside scrutiny. I am also going to contact other news outlets.

If a “mistake” like this happened to me it can happen to anybody. The price of maintaining our civil rights and voting rights is unrelenting vigilance.

Until tomorrow, stay alert, and keep democracy alive.

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under civil rights, News and current events, Political Commentary

When Your Vote Will Not Count

provisional-ballot-notice

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I wasn’t planning on publishing another article today but this worked me up.

I returned from Germany on Saturday and got my mail today. Among the things I got was my absentee ballot from West Virginia. I opened it and marked it and then found this note. Evidently someone there knowing that I am military and a registered Democrat has challenged my right to vote. Chances are that the person who did this does not know me but rather is a GOP hack who is trying to suppress my vote.

In the last six years West Virginia has made it progressively harder for active duty military personnel to vote. In 2012 i almost was not allowed to vote because I didn’t know that the legislature had changed the law and now require those requesting absentee ballots to request one in every election, if you forget to request one, you don’t vote.

Today I will contact the County Clerk’s office, the Secretary of State office, my State Representative, the Governor, the Democratic Party of West Virginia as well as a number of military and veteran voters organizations. I may even have to get a lawyer. This is voter suppression. An unknown person or entity can challenge your vote and you cannot know who it is or even if your vote counted until after the election.

It’s a foretaste of our totalitarian future of the present bunch of Republicans led by Trump gets power.

I thought that you should know just what power hungry Republicans are willing to do to suppress the vote, even the vote of career active military people who are combat vets simply because they are Democrats. If you are an active duty military person who is a Democrat you had better make sure that your state count’s your vote.

This is war and I won’t go down and let my vote be tossed aside without being heard.

Padre Steve+

7 Comments

Filed under laws and legislation, Military, Political Commentary

Fiery Trials: Emancipation & Equality Today

c91f46b3ce5943b9e213e3cd306c6348_f3094

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Just a coupled of thoughts on this Sunday night. Like yesterday I have been spending a lot of time on my Civil War-Gettysburg Staff Ride text. I have been working on re-writing the chapter on ideology and religion as they related to the causes of the war, its conduct and its aftermath. One thing that caught my attention was something that I think is profoundly important today.

In December of 1862 as he spoke to Congress prior to the the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln spoke these profound words:

“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history….This fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation….In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.”

His words in giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free are part of an understanding of freedom, especially Lincoln’s radical understanding that the Declaration of Independence actually meant what it said that “all men are created equal.” For Lincoln this meant African Americans, inlacing those that labored as slaves. Lincoln understood the Declaration in its most broad understanding, he saw it as a universal liberty. As early as 1854 Lincoln posed the idea that the Declaration of Independence was the standard maxim of free society …constantly spreading and deepening its influence,” ultimately applicable “to peoples of all colors everywhere.”

Today there are a lot of people, especially the loudly political preachers, pundits and politicians of the Christian right and their allies who are committed to rolling back the rights of blacks, but also of women, and to prevent Gays, Lesbians and others of the LGBTQ community from having any rights commensurate with their status as citizens. In many states we have seen the protections of the Voter’s Rights Act being eroded as state legislatures enact laws to restrict voting rights and make it more difficult for people to exercise their right to vote. State legislatures are enacting laws that allow people to discriminate against others based on “a sincerely held religious belief” and while those laws are targeted against Gays they are in many cases written so broadly that they will protect just about any form of discrimination based on religion, even by public officials in the conduct of their duties as happened in  North Carolina last week. 

That is why what Lincoln said as he was preparing to sign the Emancipation Proclamation matters today. When we give freedom to people, we protect the freedom of everyone, but that my friends is not how many people in the so-called Christian Right see it. For them it is their freedom to discriminate in God’s name, because they like the anointed lords of the Southern Aristocracy believe that it is God’s will for them to do this. Sounding like a Southern planter, preacher or politician of the 1850s the founder of the movement known and Christian Dominionism R.J. Rushdooney wrote: “One faith, one law and one standard of justice did not mean democracy. The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state . . . Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies.”

British Evangelical-Anglican theologian Alister McGrath notes how “the arguments used by the pro-slavery lobby represent a fascinating illustration and condemnation of how the Bible may be used to support a notion by reading the text within a rigid interpretive framework that forces predetermined conclusions to the text.”

That my friends are what we are dealing with today. There is a party of Christians who have tremendous political power who are using it for the most nefarious of purposes, using the law and the police power of the state to deny rights to others while preserving their own while claiming to be the victims of persecution, just as did Southern slaveholders in the 1830s to 1861.

So, that is all for the night. I expect to put out something related to this topic again tomorrow, perhaps a full section of the chapter on religion and ideology from my text.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under civil rights, civil war, faith, History, laws and legislation, LGBT issues, News and current events, Political Commentary

My Goodness My Vote Almost Got Suppressed and I’m a White Guy: Not that it Will Matter Anyway…

The Legislators of West Virginia made a change to Absentee voting that had I not bothered to make a phone call that I would not have noticed. Absentee voters must now make a new absentee ballot application every election. Local, primary, or general.

It is not like before where if you voted in the primary and are a legally qualified registered voter, of whom most are military that you would automatically would get your General election ballot. Now you can go and vote in the primary and unless you realize that the West Virginia legislature changed the law and requires you to register for every election, even if they are less than 6 months apart and think that you will get to vote in the general election you will be sorely disappointed. You will not get a ballot. You will not be able to vote.  For all practical purposes you will be denied the your only chance to have a say in who runs the country. Unless per chance you are someone like the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson who can spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy candidates at the Federal level and any state that you please thanks to Citizens United. If you are someone like that you don’t even need to bother to vote, you simply bury candidates that you don’t want in office by financing anywhere in the country, even if you don’t live in those congressional districts or states.

Now in my case I didn’t notice the change to the absentee ballot application. I have been on active duty either as a mobilized Army Reservist or Active Duty Navy Officer and away from my home of record since 1996. I have never had a problem voting, until now. With two weeks to go before the election I wondered why my wife and I hadn’t gotten our absentee ballots. Now we are a mixed marriage, she is a Republican and I am a Democrat but neither of us got our ballots.

So I made a phone call to my country clerk office who told me that though I was a registered voter I was not getting an absentee ballot. I was horrified. I was told that I could have them send a new application or go online to request an absentee ballot. I was pissed. I asked what happened and was told that the rules had changed. I asked who changed the, the legislature? and was told that they are always changing the  election laws. I told the lady that I would go online to get my application and that I thought that it was a case of voter suppression because had I not bothered to call I would not have been able to vote.

Not that my vote will really matter anyway, but it is the principle. When it comes to the Presidential election West Virginia is redder than my ass after consuming too many habanero peppers. If I vote for the white guy, it doesn’t matter. If I vote for the black guy in the White House it doesn’t matter. If I vote for a third party candidate it does’t matter. The voters of West Virginia which at the local level is overwhelmingly Democrat will vote for the white guy that is not in the White House. That was shown in the Democrat primary when a convicted felon in the Federal prison at Beaumont Texas got more than 40% of the vote against President Obama.

I am now voting out of the principle that Americans should be allowed to vote not that I expect that my vote in my red State will matter one bit. The reason why is that only votes of the voters in a few “swing states” really matter.  Some states are so “Red” or so “Blue” that when it comes to voting for the President your vote really doesn’t matter. Both political parties have so gerrymandered congressional districts and state legislature districts to ensure that their guys are pretty much safe. So if you are a voter who is of the party that is not of the incumbent then for the most part you have a losing vote. As far as the presidency, forget it. If you are a Democrat in West Virginia that votes for Obama, or a Republican in California that votes for Romney you are screwed because unless you have a lot of money to donate to other races in other places your one vote won’t matter in an electorate that is as bitterly dived as ours.

I will vote. But since my vote doesn’t matter to either campaign because I don’t live in Ohio, Virginia, Florida Wisconsin or Colorado I am simply going to ignore the rest of the election season the best that I can. I am so tired of the partisanship and enmity that I just don’t care anymore. Well screw it, I do care otherwise I wouldn’t write about it.

But the fact is unless you live in a swing state or a contested congressional district your vote doesn’t matter a bit to the professional political politicians, pundits and preachers, or dare I say prostitutes of either party your vote doesn’t matter a hill of beans. Unless… you and I decide like William Holden in the movie Network stand up and say I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore and vote to upset the status quo.

The fact is that the most conservative and most liberal parts of both parties are too entrenched and invested in their special interests and issues to give a damn about the rest of the country and I say a pox on all of them. If I wanted to be a part of a party that only voted along party lines and refuses to compromise I would move to a country with a parliamentary system like England.

I am mad as hell and after almost losing my vote because of unpublicized changes in election law and I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of me anymore. That’s why I’m an American.

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary