Am I Chicken Little?

This may be a somewhat disjointed post, but words haven’t been working so much in the hands of this writer for the past few weeks. I hope that letting my newly focused political thoughts fly helps me settle down so I can think past current events and get my heart back into my work. (PS 8/21/16: I’m sorry for not spell-checking and proofreading this more carefully before hitting publish. It reads better now.)

Science and research have always fascinated me. When I was about six, I discovered a third grade science book in the school library that was written and printed during the 1930’s. It had a dirty, frayed yellow cover and some pages of its stories, the anecdotal lessons and science projects of a young class and its dedicated teacher, were dog-eared and torn, but it was the one I wanted to take home and read. A few of my classmates scowled at it. “That’s not even a story. It’s a school book!” “You’re gonna use your library card for that?” Even the teacher looked at it and asked if I was sure. I was. This is how I saw that book:

  1. It had science lessons I could understand.
  2. I appreciated the detailed pictures drawn and colored in a way that I liked.
  3. I could tell it was from the time of Shirley Temple’s earliest movies, so I knew it was from a time long before I was born. (It turns out that I’ve always been fascinated by history, too.)
  4. It seemed as though I was the only person who appreciated the value of that book, and I thought it would eventually be thrown away if I didn’t save it.

I wonder if a skilled researcher could examine and explain why I abhor theft, yet still have no remorse for having told the teacher I lost that book even though I still have it in my possession to this day. It makes me wonder if that dichotomous bit about myself, along with everybody elses comparable little bits, helps to explain why society has its ongoing problems with fairness, justice, prejudice, and all the little things that come together into big things that call into question the dealings of all our bloated organizations.

From government to corporations, from our so-called justice system, including law enforcement, to even our watch-dog organizations, newspapers, charities — I have uneasily accepted that I can never be 100% sure of the decency or veracity of anything or anyone. Yesterday I stood in the supermarket and reached for an organic product, on sale with a coupon attached to the front of the box, and wondered what kept the company, or any company, from putting something conventionally grown into that box and simply calling it organic. I know that not every thing told to me is a lie for one form of profit or another, but the insidiousness of the deceit when it occurs, throws nearly all things into question.

I remember my feelings of pride when one president put solar cells on the roof of the White House, and my sadness when the next president saw no value in that gesture toward a less oil-dependent future, had them removed for roof work and not put back once the work was done. Now corporations like Monsanto copyright the DNA of their genetically modified seeds and dare farmers to buy seeds from their company every year or keep every strand of that proprietary genetic material out of their crops, lest they be sued. Monsanto’s tyranny is especially loathsome in other countries like India. How do I vote with my dollars if Monsanto and other corporations are successful at keeping GMO labeling off food? How do I vote with my dollars when its hard to know the ethical history of the products I’m choosing from?

I also wonder why it’s okay that people with severe food budgets can’t vote with their dollars because it often costs more to buy foods labeled organic, non-GMO, or Certified Humane. Corporations probably point to the volume of their sales as proof that the public doesn’t care about such things. That would be another in their endless cascade of lies.    

From the time I first heard it, I thought the foremost tenet of the medical profession was, “First, do no harm.” For some time, I thought society should apply that thought to everything. Imagine if lawmakers examined this concept before they made decisions about, I don’t know, making changes that could poison a city’s water supply? While doing research for this post, I found out that although the Hippocratic oath contains more than one passage that could be seen as similar, the one about first doing no harm isn’t a part of it. There are actually some medical professionals who take issue with that simple sentence. I’m not sure that the very idea of chemotherapy goes against, “First, do no harm.” Chemo is one of the choices science has given to patients. I think a better understanding of “First, do no harm” is to realize that doctors should give their patients all pertinent facts without emphasizing their own bias. It turns out that more doctors than we know push certain treatments in order to feel better by doing more and more even when the odds of success are low and it could rob their patient of the opportunity to die mindfully, if they so choose. (I saw an episode of Nova that revealed a lot about doctors’ struggles with this.) Anyway, the fact that any doctor would dispute the wisdom of “First, do no harm” shows why my idea of applying it to all we do as a society would have no meeting of the minds that would enable the concept to change society for the better.

I want my vote in the coming election to count toward the change that would make my country work better and improve the lives of its citizens. As a black person in America, I want the Black Lives Matter movement to be properly heard and to continue to illuminate the issue of inherent bias in our justice system for as long as the movement is needed. I want the people of my country to talk about race intelligently, with truth as our guide, as we work to make the system work fairly for people of color and for anyone whether they are economically blessed or economically deprived.

 I recently saw a film on Independent Lens called American Denial, that taught me a lot about the heartbreaking reality of racial bias in America. It made me angrier and sadder about the Trump campaign’s and the Republican party’s embrace of coded language against people of color, as well as the clear language and attitudes against us that they blatantly use to court votes from outright racists. What could they do while in office to set back social justice movements that need to work within the system in order to make it better? Considering that society as a whole still has so far to go, and the fact that so few of us agree on the facts, much less the directions solutions to our problems should take, what are we supposed to do if we want change? Should we blow up what we have and hope that what rises up in its place this time is better than the vision of power corrupting absolutely that shows its face to us around every turn? I understand that Trump’s supporters also want change, but why am I supposed to trust or respect that branch of change when it’s wrapped in the cloak of racism along with other vile things?

I’m upset that President Obama has made too many concessions to the so-called other side in the attempt to make at least something work in Washington and to govern not just those who voted for him, but to also fairly govern those who hate that he ‘wasn’t born in America’ and that he ‘founded ISIS,’ and hell, even those who simply hate him because he dared to govern while black. I like the man at heart, but his love of the Trans Pacific Partnership makes me cringe. I don’t get it, but I don’t regret voting for him, not for that or for missteps with foreign policy decisions where I wonder if any move without precognition would have brought better results, considering the rancid seeds Bush and Cheney sowed in the Middle East during their stint in the White House.

I don’t hate Hillary Clinton or think she’s always trying to pull something, but I hate that she’s been a centrist for so long that the only thing I feel comfortable expecting from her is that she won’t send out roadblocks to social justice. I don’t think that after the debacle of her husband’s misfired clampdown on crime, she would want that same sort of tainted legacy. I do think Hillary learns from mistakes she’s made and ones she’s seen close up. But I voted for Bernie in the primary because the changes he called for were the ones I wanted to see happen.

The part above, where I talked about my respect for science and history and research, has informed my vote for this presidential election. By the time of the next election, I hope that the intensity of this year’s movement for change has spurred on decent people with better than average IQ and Emotional Intelligence to challenge the two-party system and give us a true choice of unencumbered candidates. But for now, right now, I don’t trust that Trump can’t get elected.                       

With his recent speech imploring black people to vote for him despite his love of Rudolph Giuliani’s wrong-headed and failed notions about black neighborhoods and crime, and his recent appointment of a race-baiting opportunist to a high-ranking position in his campaign staff, Trump telegraphs that he wants to stop the honest discussion of race in America. We’ve barely begun the conversation and he wants his constituents to know that he’ll help keep it that way. He thinks I’m stupid enough to ignore that and believe he wants to fight for me. A Trump presidency and the possibility of continued Republican majorities in congress, with their sometimes tacit but always visible approval of the racism and dangerous lies the voters they court believe about whether or not my life matters, feels like something that could happen. Together they could block the kinds of progress we need in favor of keeping the status quo of racism that makes the mere sight of a black face a signal of danger in the eyes of a stressed police officer. Taking for granted that this huge step backward can’t happen is the first step toward making it so.

I realized today that I’m not like Chicken Little, afraid that the sky is falling because I misconstrued some little thing. Our constitution has given us the electoral college which makes it possible for a person to be elected president without receiving the majority of the votes. I’m a black person in America and in the 2016 election, to vote my conscience for the children I know and for the child my daughter wants to have someday, I have to remember the 2000 election where the Supreme Court chose George Bush. I have to remember that change is a slow process because human beings are flawed beings. I have to remember that when Trump tried to court my vote in front of the, I presume, lily-white crowd that came to see him, they were strangely subdued when he talked about ‘helping’ me; they didn’t shout out in exuberant agreement; they didn’t scream, ‘Yeah!’

I have a lot of reasons for not wanting Trump to ‘represent’ me, and I loathe the thought of him ‘representing’ my country in the eyes of the world, from our allies to the people who already hate us. I hope that everyone who is eligible to vote in this election, and able to drag themselves to their polling place, does so. I hope that non-racists outnumber Trump supporters at the polls and come together to elect someone who isn’t him. Hillary Clinton isn’t the worst we can do. Trump has shown us that. I have hope that she might pleasantly surprise those of us who would have preferred Bernie Sanders. I have hope that she won’t feel like a placeholder to me once she gets started. I need to hope because I’m tired of reality punching me in the face.