Dear children: An open letter
As a child of the fifties, a teen of the ’60’s and an adult now pushing 78, I cannot get my head around what is happening in this country. One sixth of the country doesn’t believe what their eyes showed them about January 6th. United States Senators who won’t concede that the current president won fair and square. United States Representatives, and Senators, who are either dangerous liars or dangerous lunatics, people who were trapped in it on January 6th in fear of their lives, now brushing it all off. Republican leaders who won’t lead but only obstruct, betting our democracy on their capturing majorities in the next election. What would my professor of political science and master’s degree advisor say if he were still alive? He’d know what we should do. Or would he? I just don’t know. And that’s the point. I always felt like I knew. Now I don’t.
Then there’s the hard-headed or empty-headed flagrant racism against blacks, Jews, and Asians. Running up on an elderly man in his driveway and beating him almost to death? Knowingly crafting legislation to effectively deny the vote aimed at people who would vote against them–blacks, Jews, and Asians. Commenting on pervasive racism and the nation’s ability to not see it, Maya Angelou said, “If someone tells you something, believe him.” Now I have to come to terms with the fact that domestic terrorism groups have to be believed, that it is more dangerous not to take them at their word than to ignore them. Is it me, the always moderate father of yours who believes those groups need to be stamped out, even stomped out? In saying that I know too that doing it like that endangers the democracy that cradled me, your grandparents, and their parents? You need to remember that I could still go to Russia and Romania and find the houses of my grandparents, that my grandparents were born to parents whose first language was not English. Just as we’re getting comfortable, so to speak, in this land of ours, we have to ask ourselves is “comfortable” dangerous? If I hadn’t made a promise to my wife never to do it , I’d have a shotgun to protect the house and a handgun to protect us on the streets. That’s me? As Charlie Brown’s friends would say, “Good Grief!”
I ponder possible remedies. Should those of us who are left as moderates become serious activists, doing some of the things those of the far right claim we are doing anyway? Should we be in the streets, standing in front of houses, finding aggressive ways to cut the net of social demonism? Will history look back and say sadly that the tactics of Black Lives Matter were the tactics that if adopted by “democracy matters,” groups were the right tactics? Do we have to walk up to a neo-Nazi or Qanon moron and actually kick him, or her, in the groin? This is nuts. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Don’t forget that. One can make an interesting parallel comparing the decisions we have to make now to those the leaders of Athens had to make when confronted by Sparta. Athens, the gleaming and glorious democracy, lost big-time.
Maybe it’s time for “punch someone in the nose” politics. Congresspersons who beg for federal grants and then vote against legislation to fund them should be publicly outed. So called leaders like Mitch McConnel and Kevin McCarthy need to be dealt with aggressively. They need to be tagged, ie Moscow Mitch and worried like a terrier with a bone. They need to be showcased every time they act obstructively based on the “big lie.” They need to be come at like ground troops facing 50 caliber spitting attack helicopters. Maybe it’s time to ditch the Electoral College and the filibuster. For me, it’s an academic issue. For you, your children, and their children it is a living issue. My time and energy for this are past. Unless you and your peers take up the cudgels, learn the system, and fight in and for it then what’s left of the country due to climate change will be one you won’t be safe living in.
Former Homeland Security boss Jae Johnson was asked two questions. Do you see a danger to our democracy and what would you do if you were now Secretary? His answer to question number one was “yes” and that social media is spreading an anti-democracy virus that’s worse that Covid. That in itself is scary. To question two, he opined that the nation needed to change its focus from foreign terrorism to domestic terrorism. He said, and I wasn’t really aware, that there are groups dedicated to pro-democracy action. He said the US received from Congress, when it was sane, large grants to fight terrorism. We should use those monies to support these domestic groups, to fill the airways, social and political, with our messages and squeeze out theirs. I would add that in doing so we should enforce the law to its letter. If you can be arrested for J-walking,or smoking in the wrong place then arrest those punks when they break the least of the laws and see what they are really made of.
And then there is this, a page from Latin America’s recent history. When Fascism and in some places Communism was sweeping Latin America people who themselves were immigrants to those countries and/or people who sensed that the rising tide of hatred could get them killed began to buy property in America, mostly in south Florida, because of the large Spanish speaking population here. They also kept a packed suitcase under every bed. They could, at a moment’s notice, turn out the lights, lock the doors, and leave having someplace to go to. If I were your age or younger I might well do that. Would it be a country like Ecuador or Panama? The US Virgin Islands? American Somoa? Would it be Israel? I don’t know. But I would be thinking seriously and then acting on my decision.
What is the most devastating thought I have is that I am actually advising you to start thinking about it. “He who runs away, lives to play another day.” You need to make sure you get that day.
Written with a heavy heart and a love one only can know when one is a parent.
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