Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beating the Tribal Drums

Read the newspapers and magazines. Watch the news and political commentary. It all adds up. You’ll hear the tribal drums pounding the same old message, ‘us vs. them.’

Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings

President Obama named Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter, a liberal named by a Republican president, and she's not expected to alter the court's ideological balance. Sotomayor stands on the verge of making history as the Supreme Court's first Hispanic justice. She’s a 55-year-old appeals court judge of Puerto Rican descent who was raised in a New York City housing project, educated in the Ivy League and served 17 years on the federal bench. Republicans call her ill-suited for the bench. Three-quarters of the Senate's 40 Republicans say they’ll vote "no" on her confirmation, contending she would bring liberal bias and personal sympathies to her decisions.

Republicans have been particularly critical of Sotomayor's position on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The National Rifle Association is strongly opposing her and has threatened to downgrade any senator who votes to confirm Sotomayor in its closely watched candidate ratings. The warning has made little impact on Democrats, many of whom have rallied behind the judge despite their perfect or near-perfect ratings from the NRA, but it obviously has influenced some Republicans who were initially considered possible supporters but have since announced their opposition, citing gun rights as a key reason.

Seat a Hispanic female on the Supreme Court? Lose our guns? Say it isn’t so...

(Sotomayor was confirmed by a Senate vote of 68 to 31, getting 9 Republicans to vote in her favor. Chief Justice John Roberts will swear her in Saturday at the Supreme Court.)

Gates Affair

Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is black, was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after a confrontation at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a white police officer, Joseph Crowley. When asked about the incident during a July 22 news conference, President Obama said police “acted stupidly” in making the arrest. The incident and the president’s comments set off a whirlwind controversy about the state of race in our country.

Racial profiling, police-community relations, class issues, racial issues and other talking points flooded the air waves. Glen Beck called the president a racist. Rush Lindbaugh spoke to his belief that the president has a deep seated hatred of whites. Lou Dobbs supported the’”Birther” movement, while Republicans in Congress struggled to decide which side of the issue to take.

Do you think that constructive dialogue on race might be needed to move the country forward? Duh!

After accepting Obama's invitation to discuss the July 16 incident over a beer at the White House, both Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. Joseph Crowley thanked Obama for the cold ones served on a patio near the Rose Garden. Neither they nor the president offered apologies for their roles in the affair.

Poster President

After the Obama waffles and Obama bucks, what other racist insults toward our president can we expect? Well, there was the poster of Obama in a Hitler uniform, moustache and all, featured at the infamous Tea Parties in April. Posted throughout Los Angeles this weekend , another controversial Obama poster raised plenty of eyebrows, but this one doesn't have a thing to do with hope. An unknown artist made his or her mark by putting up posters of Obama drawn as Heath Ledger's Joker from "The Dark Knight" on Los Angeles freeway on-ramps. The creepy image, with the caption "Socialism," has also been reported in Atlanta, Ga., making some wonder if there's more of an organized movement. As expected, plenty of people are offended about the president being compared to a terrorist.

According to an article this morning by Associated Content: "As if it isn't enough to equate President Obama to a sadistic, murdering terrorist, a more typical charge of socialism is made in the bottom of the Obama Joker poster. Nothing more specific is spelled out, and no one as of yet has figured out where these posters come from, or who made them."

Should we forget the spirit of hope that swelled within many of us during the Obama Campaign for Change? Should we dust off the life-long fear and distrust of “the others”? Better yet, should we go back to sleeping at the wheel and save ourselves the agony of listening to the hate-mongers?

I definitely won’t. Anything worthwhile takes time and effort and I’m in it for the long haul. I’ll watch, read, and learn and put the lessons to good use so that our country can live up to its great potential. I won’t accept the tribal anthem “us vs. them”. I’ll keep working until the watch word is “we”, “We the people of the United States of America.”

"The greater danger for most of us is not
that our aim is too high and we miss it,
but that it is too low and we reach it."
- Michelangelo

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