Perceptions, reality, disinformation, truth, fact, deflection, conspiracy, accountability or none at all and despite this daily grind of ongoing media and political swill, we are forging ahead with our American democratic republic. We are confused, bent, battered, torn and entrenched in illusion.
The historical constant for our nation is a fractured sense of purpose, regardless of who is in power. We are as a nation stressed by diversity, cultural notions, self-opinion, immigration, change and most significantly our unwillingness to deal with racism and the original sin of slavery on our shores.
Can 2021 be a pivotal year for this nation? We managed to avoid a fascist coup by our former president who is a wealthy grifter, bankruptcy hustler and reality TV star. His charisma and style resonates with several unique political bases: white-supremacists, Christian evangelicals, white blue-collar disenfranchised and authoritarian wealthy elites. Each group desires access and collectively their power is about being regressive and serving their personal interests or nationalist causes.
Elections are about power — who has it, who doesn’t and those desiring access or control. It is held or won anew by those who enjoy being system players and managing illusions. All of us need to be seekers of truth and understanding while remaining skeptical of anybody exhibiting style over substance. Truth is often hard to find. Power in a democracy is gained and held through the voting process. Votes are often cast based on emotion, personality, party affiliation and no real investment in understanding issues or consequences.
The media always has a role. Media can be persuasive, factual, neutral, biased, opinionated, fake, celebrity endorsers as well as take sides. The more we watch the more money they make. The good of the country — meh.
Almost every political advancement comes about because people protested, articulated strong beliefs and struggled for desired rights over privilege and power. The right to vote has always been a thorn in the side of political establishment authoritarians. They want control and to basically make money, be unaccountable, serve their friends and assure their “kind” maintain power and privilege.
So far in 2021, over 100 bills have been proposed in Republican controlled states to limit voting access. Erasing people’s voting rights and votes by denying access never seems to end for those who believe they alone should rule.
Quality of life in some circles has more to do with a secret handshake, birthright and doing what it takes to keep others in their place. Control the vote, control access. Find someone to blame and use fear and bullying as a weapon. Elevate ignorance and populations are more easily manipulated. None of this is new. It has fueled wars, religions, politics and survival for multiple generations.
This is a new decade and the next ten years could be an opportunity for healing race relations, accepting diversity or a continuation of the “us” verses “them” that brought us to Trumpsters and white-supremacists storming the Capitol. The corrosive forces of racial hate and anti-immigration are strong in this country. The leaders of the foiled coup are our neighbors, may hold public office, be community volunteers and generally are seen as proactive people. They are our fellow Americans and they believe they are on the right path.
Educators, politicians, corporate oligarchs, celebrity influencers, and media moguls know how impressionable we are. The seeds for our nation’s success, prejudice, and failure are being sown across our nation in classrooms, reinforced or undone through life’s lessons as well as familial and cultural belief systems. Addressing our nation’s history will be difficult because it does not, when it comes to People of Color (POC), match the narrative of being the benevolent ‘paragon for good’ we have created for ourselves and perpetuated through our education system.
Currently, in the state of Utah, there is push-back from the Utah police union accusing teachers of ‘political indoctrination’ by supporting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Closer to home, in Federal Way, people are taking issue with the Washington Education Association flying the BLM flag in honor of Black History Month at their state headquarters. In local school districts here and elsewhere in this country there are parents annually expressing concerns regarding the need for Black History Month.
Glossing over our history of slavery and disenfranchising African American heritage and POC in general is not going to help our nation heal or move forward with a sense of inclusivity for all who live in this great nation. The history deniers operate on the premise of, if we don’t teach it — it didn’t happen.
However, when something negative happens involving POC in real-time current events, they declare, ‘it must be their fault’, effectively assuring no accountability. Frame and blame have been and will continue to be obfuscation tactics for politicians in power trying to maintain control as well as people seeking to gain power.
We are not able to change the past, but justice, growth and accountability will never happen unless we deal with the sins of the past and root out the systemic realities and misguided values, engrained in our laws, education systems, and public discourse designed to disenfranchise POC. Sadly, a snail crawls faster than our willingness to address the flaws and sins of our nation’s forefathers and even worse – current-day leaders.
As awkward as BLM and Black History Month may feel to some, it is essential for each community in our nation to embrace our history — the good as well as bad — and be true to the facts with the goal of building a nation that serves the common good of all.
Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.