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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The process of political, social and human struggle was described by jazz pianist Cecil Taylor this way; "It is in the Brewing Luminous".

Last nights elections saw Democratic victories in Virginia, New Jersey, New York and even in two State House races here in Georgia.  Does this mean the forces of bigotry, hate and reaction are in retreat or that America is saying enough is enough? Or is this the just the natural ebb and flow of an off year election, where the party holding the White House traditionally loses electoral seats?  We will have a better idea of the answer to the questions in a year after, the results of the congressional midterm elections are in.  We do know this; We must fight we must resist.   We must fight, even if a long term political victory eludes us. 

Hope is an issue that many liberals raise to me when I paint a rather pessimistic view of my long term expectations for American progress. This is particularly my view when it comes to issues of race.   When I speak, what is for me, and many other a forgone conclusion, the idea that racism is permanent,  many recoil often in anger.  This misunderstanding of American history and in one sense human life itself perplexes me.  The ultimate reality is that each and everyone of us will die some day.  It is an existential certainty.  Does this reality stop us from living and struggling to improve our condition today, while we are here?  

Knowledge does not have to lead us to wallow in despair.  in the Biblical Book of Solomon it is written; "For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief" .  Is this always true.  It is arguable that understanding the Sisyphean, cyclical nature of American politics, frees us to understand that the election of Donald Trump was not a historical aberration but part of a cycle of progress and retrenchment which has characterized the American experience since the beginnings of the colonial era.  We have seen this all before. 

The first Africans brought by the British to North America in 1619, to the Virginia Colony.  They worked as indentured servants. The first free Black child was born in Virginia in 1624.  Permanent slavery was not introduced until 1680, in direct reaction to Nathaniel Bacon's unsuccessful multi-racial rebellion in 1676.  As a result of that rebellion poor Whites were literally given a property right in their whiteness. The White indentured servants, were for the first time able to buy land. Those of any African decent were denied that privilege. The dividing and permanent conquering of our working class had begun. The first of many Sisyphean cycles had also begun.

It is no accident that Steve Bannon encouraged Donald Trump to put Andrew Jackson's photograph in the central spot of honor behind Trump's oval office desk.  This murderer by duel, and engineer of the infamous "Trail of Tears" massacre came from outsider, unpolished roots similar to which Trump would arise nearly two hundred years later.  Trump's racism and bigotry, learned from his KKK associated father has been on display his whole public career.  The public record of his active racism is unassailable. Given this record was Trump's successful election campaign born of the twin pillars of birtherism and anti-Mexican fever, the same kind of anti-immigrant fever, which drove his followers to vote for him in reaction to the election of the first multi-racial, African American, President?  I think the answer is obvious. Trump was elected after also admitting to crimes of sexual battery and a long history of misogyny.  What other factors explains the public's willingness to elect such a vulgarian to the highest elected office? People wonder why his teflon characteristics exceed that of Reagan who was known as "The Teflon President.   Like Andrew Jackson both Reagan and Trump ran as a racist and bigot.  Jackson was a pro slavery Indigenous American hater and murderer. Reagan announced his "pro states rights" candacy just outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi where three civil rights workers were infamously murdered on June 21, 1964.  States rights was the anthem of pro slavery states prior to the Civil War and pro segregationists after the war. 

We could add Andrew Johnson and Ronald Reagan to this list of blatant bigots who were elected to the White House on a wave of racism and bigotry.

This brings us back to the issue of optimism, framed as hope.  How can we be happy and survive knowing that this cycle is likely to repeat?  "It is in the brewing luminous".  The process of resistance brings us joy.  We can celebrate the small victories like those we won last night, even if we lose the long war.  We will ultimately die so let us live with joy and purpose until the inevitable day.    

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