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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Racism, guns, terrorism, and the motive to emigrate

It is easy and tempting to compare the tenor of the GOP presidential debate to Germany of the 1930s,  when so many people seemed to fall under the spell of Hitler.  But with the 21st century came a greater willingness to examine the attitudes of the people during the years of Nazification.  The examinations reveal that the charismatic hold Hitler had over the people involved  his perceiving what the people wanted and shaping his propaganda and his policies to meet their ambitions and desires.  He met with more political agreement than opposition.  Those who disagreed with his policies were intimidated into acquiescence by their friends and neighbors.  

However,  America has its own holocaust to account for.  Slavery and its Jim Crow aftermath and the dispossession and genocide against the American Indians still emerge as political factors.  The campaigns of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio resonate with appeals to those aspects of American history and identity.  What is happening with the GOP campaign is a revival of a mentality among the people that produced the suppression and atrocities which are inescapable facts of American history.  The call to make American great again is uttered in terms of oppression and hatred.  The difference is that the political parties have switched positions.  The GOP is now the advocate of oppression.  To it, equality , justice and liberty for anyone but white people are liberal decadence.  

When Barack Obama was elected president,  many, probably most, considered it a milestone in America's advance toward freedom, equality, and justice.   But a black president in the White House was so deeply resented by those still possessed by racial attitudes that a new wave of overt racism flooded the nation's politics.  The GOP announced from the beginning, as is recorded many times by Mitch McConnell,  that its mission is to obstruct anything proposed by President Obama.   Early in his first term when Obama was negotiating with John Boehner,  his phone calls were refused by the House speaker as a ploy to show the black president that he would not be treated as an equal by the white leadership.  GOP congressional  leaders have from the outset demonstrated their seething resentment of a black interloper occupying the White Man's House.   The brazen displays of contempt and disrespect by Congressional leaders encouraged the resurgence of racism and overt oppression of blacks that have become common again in American life.  The frequent killing of unarmed blacks by the police is a sign of an attitude that is a return to the early, violent days of Jim Crow.  The attitude motivating this behavior has a long tradition in the United States. 

After the Civil War, during Reconstruction,  Blacks became participants in government.  In many counties in the South,  blacks comprised the majority.  They, of course, gravitated to the Republican Party to which they owed allegiance for freeing them from slavery.  But in the 1870s, as Congress ended Reconstruction,  white  communities and politicians took action to get control of government back into all-white hands.  A major move was to suppress Black voting.  White Democrats organized armed militias to wage terror campaigns against Black Republicans.*  Historical accounts record an extensive campaign of attacks against Republican meetings and the killing of Black leaders.   While the Ku Klux Klan was active,  many of those attacks were not carried out in clandestine circumstances.

During the last quarter of the 18th century,  the campaigns of terror and suppression successfully eliminated the black Republican vote in the South.  For example,  in 1875,  there were 90,000 Rep publican votes cast.  In 1878, the state's Republican vote dropped to 4,000.

The oppression in the South was so intolerable to many Blacks that they began organizing groups to emigrate out of the United States.*  Liberia became a destination of choice.  At one point an organizer from Louisiana, Henry Adams,  in 1877 wrote that he represented 69,000 Southern Blacks who signed up to emigrate to Liberia if they could find the means.  Racial terror increased.  The year 1890 had the greatest number of lynchings of Blacks in U.S history, and the desire to leave the country was commensurate with the violence and oppression.  

There were other places than Liberia that were emigration destinations,  but it was a country created for freed  slaves and had the most appeal.  A problem was the expense of getting there and establishing a life for people who had great difficulty in coming up with the  money for the trip.  

Blacks and other minorities in the U.S. are facing some of the same discriminations and oppressions today that they faced 125 years ago.  But this time it is Black Democrats who are facing organized oppression by White Republicans.  Since 2008 when Obama was elected, Republican state legislatures have passed restrictive laws with the aim of suppressing the Democratic vote.  It is estimated that since the 2012 election,  laws have been passed that will eliminate 1.28 million votes for the 2016 election.  

The rise of Donald Trump is a sign of a nation sinking back into a state of suppression.  Those who delve into what is making him so popular among voters keep coming up with the conclusion that he appeals to a deep bigotry that is being unleashed within the nation.  One study concludes that he relates to people because, "He isn’t afraid to say the things they also say, even if those things are deemed racist, sexist, xenophobic or politically incorrect."  In other words,  a very significant portion of the population does not believe in the quest for liberty, equality, and justice for all people.  Trump has given a voice and a face to a political trend among the people that does bear a resemblance to the attitude among the German people in the 1930s that turned to Naziism.  But it is a brand of hate and oppression that has its origins in America and is a malignant political force that is rooted deep in Republican politics, not just in Donald Trump. 

Trump is also the face and voice of the one percent.  To those Americans who like to live under the rule of corporations,  he appeals to their allegiances and the belief that their well being  is dependent upon the wealthy.  

In South Dakota, there is a marked decline in the registrations of Democratic voters, while the Republican Party makes gains.  The discriminating, oppressive, and corrupt government of  South Dakota gives people who believe in liberty, equality, and justice a motive to emigrate from the state.  The voter suppression on the reservations, the punitive laws that target minorities and women, and  the support of predatory activity and fraud in business dealings have much to do with the decline of Democrats.  And the stalking and taking over of federal properties by armed white supremacists has sent a signal of what direction that American is heading.   Some people are looking for the modern day equivalent of Liberia, whether it be another state or another nation.  The United States has established a democratic example for the rest of the world, but much of the civilized word has surpassed it.  Many people have given up on finding the advancement of democracy in South Dakota.  It is pointless to engage in politics with factions whose idea of political success is the deprivation and oppression of other  people.  

The turmoil of emigrants fleeing violence and  oppression is straining the  democracies of Europe.  For those Americans who are looking to escape oppressive political designs,  the big question is,  where can they go?  In the wake of the Trump rise in politics,  Canada and some other countries have already extended an invitation for talented and democratic-minded people to contribute their talents and their desire to build democracy to their countries

*Journey of Hope:  The Back to Africa Movement,  Kenneth C. Barnes.  University of North Carolina Press,  2005. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States