Monday, December 13, 2010

Crackin' on Crackers

It would appear that my earlier use of the term "cracker 'Democrats'" in a story link on facebook featuring the new Georgia House Democratic Leader Stacy Abrams has ruffled a few feathers.  I have always understood the word "cracker" to be uneducated, poor white trash.  It has never been synomyous with "rural" as I've known plenty of crackers who live in a city.  Being uneducated poor white trash doesn't have a geographical limitation to me.  It's more about your attitude toward life. 

Anyway, my comment was meant to relay that if any more ignorant white elected Democrats (trash in my book) wanted to leave a party led by a smart, capable, African American woman like Stacy Abrams, they should just go now.  Somehow, that's been translated by some to say, "F*ck you, rural Democrats!  We don't want your kind no how."  Which is certainly not true, and anyone who either knows me or has worked with me on political stuff over the years would know.  There is a no more beseiged individual right now in the political landscape than a rural, white Democrat, especially if that Democrat is male.

With the collapse of Democrats in Georgia, I do wonder if we can get the rural areas back again under the Democratic banner.  Since the Republicans have pretty much successfully characterized us all as only made up of "cityfolk, liberal whites, homos, and colored people", I don't have a lot of hope that despite having their economic best interest at heart, that we'll get them back.  The Pennsylvania and Virginia examples could be telling.  Statewide elections in PA are won by taking the cities by large margins, and winning the suburbs.  Rural PA is as red as blood, but Democrats can win the state with an urban/suburban coalition.  That's how Obama won Virginia in 2008.  And in Georgia, the key to the surburbs is women.  I really think that rural GA has simply stopped listening to us for the most part.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't keep talking to them, but acting like rebuilding the old urban/rural coalition for Democrats is realitistic is a sure way to keep on losing for decades to come.

Our party switchers have all been rural Democrats, plus the Representative from ATHENS.  A lot of these guys looked many of us in the face before the election, denouncing the very IDEA that they'd ever be anything but Democrats.  That was, until Roy Barnes got beat, Democrats lost EVERY statewide office we held, and the national GOP gained 60+ seats in the US House.  November 2 was a VERY bad night in Georgia, no two ways about it.   And some of the switchers have specifically said that the Democratic party is too urban, too gay, too black, and too liberal for them now.  What I suspect is tha they pooping their pants imagining what kind of districts will be drawn for them if they DON'T flip to the GOP.

So yes, as I watched Democratic Leader Stacy Abrams discuss the party switchers over the last month or so, my thought was, "How could ANYONE not be proud to be part of a group led by such an intelligent, well spoken woman?"  I do know that some folks are upset that the rural boys aren't in charge anymore,  and there are some folks who still wear the Democratic label who nonetheless think that an intelligent, capable, African American woman who takes on the mantle of leadership is somehow the very definition of "uppity".  That's definitely not the democratic party they knew, and they aren't really comfortable being a minority in their own caucus.

On the emotional level, I get why they would want to leave.  I remember when I first went to Africa, and I'd be the only white guy that I'd see for days at a time.  It was jarring, but the confidence I had instilled in me from being a white guy in America allowed me to quickly get over it.  I realized it didn't have anything to do with me, and I could just carry on.  The Democrats who have bolted could have carried on to, knowing they'd be the first to be screwed in redistricting.  But carrying on would have required a moral fiber and strength of character that none of the bolters possessed.  To me, that makes them trash, and since they happened to all be white (at least the bolters in the legislature), white trash.  And I wonder how much having a black female leader from Atlanta played in their thought process.

So I commented that any crackers pretending to be Democrats who still wished to leave should just go.  That was NOT a general invitation for all white rural Democrats to leave.  The fact that I personally know Democrats from every state in the South, many of them in quite rural areas, not to mention states like Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Utah makes me very proud of my party.  We do have lots to offer for the thinking person.  We don't have an interest in taking away anyone's guns, even if I do think there is an argument to be made that urban gun control is a very different beast than rural gun control.   I worry about the economic decay in our rural areas, the inequity of school funding, and a host of other issues that make a real difference in rural American life.  It grieves me that so many just look at me as someone who wants to take away their freedom, confiscate their guns, force them to either have or watch gay sex, and God only knows what else!  I sure as hell don't want to lose the people we have left in rural areas!

After I was informed by a friend that unnamed people were angry that I'd called all white rural Democrats "crackers" (I did not...they read that into 'cracker', not me), I decided to look up the formal definition of the noun "cracker".

In the Urban Dictionary, there were three definitions:
  1. Originally the white slave driver because he would "crack" the whip, hence the noun cracker.
  2. Noun. Slang word used to refer to those of European ancestry. The word is thought to have either derived from the sound of a whip being cracked by slave owners, or because crackers are generally white in color.
  3. opposite of "N-word", an insult to whites... except white people aren't dumb enough to walk around calling each other that word because it's intended to be demeaning.
Then I went to, where I found the following:
  1. a thin, crisp biscuit. 
  2. a firecracker. 
  3. Also called cracker bonbon. a small paper roll used as a party favor, that usually contains candy, trinkets, etc., and that pops when pulled sharply at one or both ends. 
  4. ( initial capital letter ) Sometimes Disparaging and Offensive . a native or inhabitant of Georgia (used as a nickname). 
  5. Slang: Disparaging and Offensive . a poor white person living in some rural parts of the southeastern U.S. 
  6. a tuft or knot of cotton, horsehair, hemp, etc., at the tip of a whip's lash; cracker; popper. 
  7. braggart; boaster. 
  8. a person or thing that cracks. 
  9. a chemical reactor used for cracking. Compare catalytic cracking, fractionator.
  10. a break without complete separation of parts; fissure. 
  11. a slight opening, as between boards in a floor or wall, or between a door and its doorpost. 
  12. a sudden, sharp noise, as of something breaking. 
  13. the snap of or as of a whip. 
  14. a resounding blow: He received a terrific crack on the head when the branch fell. 
  15. Informal . a witty or cutting remark; wisecrack. 
  16. a break or change in the flow or tone of the voice. 
  17. Informal . opportunity; chance; try: Give him first crack at the new job. 
  18. a flaw or defect. 
  19. Also called rock. Slang . pellet-size pieces of highly purified cocaine, prepared with other ingredients for smoking, and known to be especially potent and addicting. 
  20. Masonry . check1 ( def. 41 )
  21. a mental defect or deficiency. 
  22. a shot, as with a rifle: At the first crack, the deer fell. 
  23. a moment; instant: He was on his feet again in a crack. 
  24. Slang . a burglary, esp. an instance of housebreaking. 
  25. Chiefly British . a person or thing that excels in some respect. 
  26. Slang: Vulgar . the vulva. 
  27. Chiefly Scot. conversation; chat. 
  28. British Dialect . boasting; braggadocio. 
  29. Archaic . a burglar.
So it appears that I was correct in thinking of a cracker as an ignorant (#21 white person. Being a southerner by birth, I did not associate it just with the South.  Ignorant is ignorant, regardless of where it is found.  And white trash can live in a holler or in a run-down urban tenement.  Now before others think I'm calling names to people who might live in a holler or a run-down urban tenement, the key for me in someone being white trash, or a cracker, is ignorance. Willful ignorance that is not open to even hearing a different way of thinking.  

Take home point: I was not calling all white rural Democrats crackers, nor was I wishing they'd leave the party.  The ignorant, self-centered crackers who have bolted to the GOP in recent weeks were my target.  I value, and desperately hope to keep what rural white Democrats we have left.  I apologize for any impression I gave to the contrary regarding my rural brothers and sisters.

That said, the folks who thought it was necessary to go to people around me to express your displeasure, you are cowards.  Anyone who's seen my wall on Facebook can see that I'm not opposed to people calling me out or arguing with me out in the open.  The passive aggressive folks who like to whisper to everyone EXCEPT the person they are upset with, who also hint that perhaps a formal complaint should be filed -- well, you are the poster child for why the Young Democrats of America has been forced to rebuild from the ground up.  I respect people a lot more who are willing to say to ME, "What the HELL, man?" whenever I've said or done something to offend.  That's when we can talk it out and sort everything out.  But I know for some folks, creating behind-the-scenes drama is like breathing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why I Oppose Pledging "Allegiance" to the Georgia Flag

“I pledge allegiance to the Georgia flag and to the principles for which it stands: Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation.”
Certainly seems innocuous enough, right? Who could possibly disagree to the principle of Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation? Not to mention fidelty to the state which you serve? Well, there's plenty wrong with it when you look into the history of such a pledge.

In 2009, Sens. Pearson, Rogers, Williams, Wiles, Mullis, and Seabaugh introduced SR 632 - A RESOLUTION affirming states' rights based on Jeffersonian principles; and for other purposes ( Sens. Williams and Rogers are the key leaders controlling the Senate at this point, and this pledge is part of their radical "states rights" agenda.

This resolution restated controversial propositions of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Among other things, this established Jefferson's belief that states had some kind of extra constitutional veto over federal legislation or action a state believed usurped its authoirty under the shared sovereignty doctrine of the Constitution. What the resolution fails to mention is that 10 states specifically condemned KY and VA for passing those resolutions and the ideas contained within them. South Carolina explicitly relied upon these resolutions in 1832 when it tried to nullify the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832. President Jackson had to make preparations to invade South Carolina by force before a political compromise cooled the situation and South Carolina backed off.

The Constitution makes the laws of the United States the supreme laws of the land. Anything a state does contradictory to federal law is null and void. States have no nullification rights, and it's attitudes like those of the GA GOP Senate caucus that led to the Civil War, which honestly answered the question forever. We are AMERICANS first, citizens of the United States of America. We are citizens of our state and locality second. How can you pledge loyalty to the United States of America while at the same time pledging the same loyalty to the state of Georgia without diminishing BOTH pledges? I argue that you cannot.

Further, under our constitutional system, it is not up to the state legislature to interpret the US Constitution. We have courts for that, and the Supreme Court is more than willing to throw out federal laws that overreach federal authority. Implied threats of violence inherent in nullification and secesstion should not be tolerated. This is this spirit of nullification and threat of succession which is driving this "state pledge" idea. Even State Rep. Bobby Franklin (R) said that the pledge to GA was needed, “given the usurpations of Washington.” I understand that Franklin doesn't like the outcome of the elections of 2008 or any of the laws LEGALLY passed by the Congress now ending. But there are legal ways to attack such laws, and nullification/secession is NOT included.

What this pledge does is try to drive a wedge between Georgians and the United States Government. It says, "Sure, I pledge allegiance to the United States...only so long as it doesn't piss Georgia off." We are ONE nation, under God, the national pledge says. Taking a pledge to Georgia does seem harmless, but the ideas driving it are dangerous and sinister. As a result, I would hope that my state Senator, Jason Carter, wouldn't participate.  However, much to my disappointment, it appears that he will.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obama and "The Gays"

I understand, and certainly share, the frustration that Obama hasn't used his majorities in Congress to make good on the promises he made in the 2008 campaign.  The frustration over his Administration's legal maneuvers in DADT and DOMA are also understandable.  As someone who's earned a law degree, I appreciate his strategy of defending laws he clearly does not agree with as a way to make sure the stake is permanently through the heart of those laws. 

The President's interview with The Advocate was enlightening for me on a couple of fronts.  When talking about disillusionment and disappointment in the LGBT community, Obama said:
I guess my attitude is that we have been as vocal, as supportive of the LGBT community as any President in history. I’ve appointed more openly gay people to more positions in this government than any President in history. We have moved forward on a whole range of issues that were directly under my control, including, for example, hospital visitation.

On “don’t ask, don’t tell,” I have been as systematic and methodical in trying to move that agenda forward as I could be given my legal constraints, given that Congress had explicitly passed a law designed to tie my hands on the issue.

And so, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think that the disillusionment is justified.
Now, I say that as somebody who appreciates that the LGBT community very legitimately feels these issues in very personal terms. So it’s not my place to counsel patience. One of my favorite pieces of literature is “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and Dr. King had to battle people counseling patience and time. And he rightly said that time is neutral. And things don’t automatically get better unless people push to try to get things better.

So I don’t begrudge the LGBT community pushing, but the flip side of it is that this notion somehow that this administration has been a source of disappointment to the LGBT community, as opposed to a stalwart ally of the LGBT community, I think is wrong.
I guess the President is saying to us, "Look, I'm doing the best that I can.  I know you want me to do more, faster, but I want to get this done right.  I'm your FRIEND.  Look at what I have done so far!  Saying that I'm not that good of a friend is wrong, and kind of hurts my feelings."  OK, I read the feelings part into the President's response, but I think it's true. 

What has President Obama's Administration actually accomplished for the LGBT community since taking office in January 2009?  Here's a list:
  1. Signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  2. Supported legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”—which has passed the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee—including sending the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman to testify before the Senate in favor of repeal.
  3. Lifted the discriminatory ban on entry to the United States based on HIV status.
  4. Ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to guarantee medical decision making and visitation rights to LGBT couples.
  5. Expanded the Family Medical Leave Act to ensure that LGBT parents and partners can take leave from work to care for their child, parent, or spouse just as any family member could.
  6. Committed to ensuring the Housing and Urban Development Department’s core housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and clarified the department’s definition of “family” to include LGBT people.
  7. Removed a common barrier to safe housing experienced by those in the LGBT community by including gender identity and expression in the Fair Housing Act. 
  8. Led a successful international effort to gain recognition of LGBT organizations at the United Nations.
  9. Reversed an inexcusable U.S. position by signing the United Nations Declaration on Gay Rights, which condemns violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity worldwide.
  10. Signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act.
  11. Changed State Department policy so that transgender Americans can more easily obtain passports that reflect their true gender.
  12. Banned job discrimination based on gender identity throughout the federal government.
  13. Endorsed the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009 to provide full partnership benefits to federal employees.
  14. Eliminated the discriminatory Census Bureau policy that kept LGBT relationships from being counted, encouraging couples who consider themselves married to file that way and urging transgender Americans to identify their true gender.
  15. Hired and appointed a record number of qualified LGBT Americans, including several transgender appointees— the first president ever to do so.
  16. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Billie Jean King and the late Harvey Milk.
  17. Sent an administration official to the Senate to testify in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the first time any official of any administration has done so.
  18. Hosted the first LBGT Pride Month Celebration in White House history, and after eight years of silence under the Bush administration resumed the tradition of issuing Presidential Pride proclamations.
A lot of people will say, "Yes, that's lovely, but it's only moving issues around the edges!  We want DADT and DOMA repealed!  We want ENDA passed!  And we wanted it yesterday!"  I think the 2008 campaign did create unrealistic expectations of what Obama would be able to accomplish upon entering office.  Our Presidency is not a monarchy.  The President, for the most part, cannot simply decree things, even with huge majorities in the House and Senate.  What he has been able to decree, he has done so, in a methodical manner.  It's real change, even if not everyone feels it.  Obama is laying groundwork that will pay off for us as we continue to fight DADT and DOMA in Congress and the courts.

The sad fact remains that if the Teabaggers totally take over Congress, legislative movement on our rights will come to a halt.  A GOP Congress will not even vote on ENDA or DADT.  And you can forget about DOMA.  We'll probably see a renewed push to amend the Constitution to ban same sex marriage again.  Such a move will fail, but don't be surprised when they try.  I think the House is lost to us, but the Senate is not.  If we can keep the Senate, we can still get judges appointed who are open minded about LGBT rights, and we can stop the worst of the House-passed bills.  And hopefully Obama will wield his veto pen to protect us.

So remember to vote if you haven't already.  You really have no room to bitch if you don't participate.