Vote to Change Our National Character

By Tom H. Hastings

When we speak of people from a particular identity group—ethnicity, nationality, regional group, state, town, or one of many others—we often essentialize, that is, generalize. Sometimes that’s fair, sometimes not. Of course, it’s always inaccurate unless it’s stated as a tendency, not an absolute, and unless it’s offered as a viewpoint, not proven fact.

What are we to think about our character, as Americans? How do we square the following observables?

·       Donald Trump occupies the White House, busily alienating allies and befriending dictators, pulling out of any international agreements that keep the peace or protect the planet, and appoints top officials who operate with stunning head-in-the-sand obduracy in those arenas.

·       Like Hitler’s Sturmabteilung, the Proud Boys support Trump and routinely engage in violence at his rallies and in the streets of our cities, targeting immigrants, gays, and Muslims.

·       Republicans rule the Senate, the House, and the Supremes.

·       Republicans use endless dirty tricks and chicanery to gain and remain in power. I mean, is it fathomable that Brian Kemp, the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia is the official responsible for overseeing the elections and he’s at the top of the ticket, running for governor, and sitting on 53,000 voter registrations, overwhelmingly from African Americans, and his opponent is also African American, Stacey Abrams? This is buck-naked overt racial voter suppression.

·       And in Texas, same game, Republicans have tried and often seriously succeeded in suppressing African American voters, always by lowdown tactics such as switching address requirements at the last minute and effectively stealing the franchise from thousands of black college students, as they just tried on the students at black university Prairie View A&M.

·       Merrick Garland. I mean, cripes. Could Republican Mitch McConnell be more unethical? Dubious.

With the exception of the last minute victory for democracy in Waller County, when the glare of publicity forced officials to allow the Prairie View A&M students to vote, we Americans have allowed all these travesties and many more to stand, all the while wondering if public protest is OK or not, and debating how demure we need to be in the face of the ruination of the first modern democracy, our American experiment.

We can take the first steps back from the ledge very soon, on November 6, election day, if we might like to regain our balance, our democracy, our power as citizens. From local races to ballot initiatives to statewide offices to our federal elected officials, we will either continue our trend away from a strong democracy—one which protects the rights of the minorities with as much vigor as it bows to the decisions of the majority—or we will begin to roll back the poor policy decisions of the past two years (more if we consider the anti-democratic measures of the Republican Senate in the past several years).

It is up to us. No one can vote for you and your vote matters—we have seen many elections decided by just a few votes and several decided by a single vote. You are important.Φ

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court. 

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