©copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert. empathyeducates
Words like "freedom," "justice," "democracy" are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply.
~ James Baldwin (1924–1987), U.S. Author. In The Price of the Ticket (1985). "The Crusade of Indignation," Nation (New York, July 7, 1956).
The verdict in the George Zimmerman trial affirmed Trayvon Martin has passed once again. With his death we as a nation die. Democracy was dealt a blow long ago. It is only with this legal finding do we see more of the light.
Before the people of this country willingly and freely forfeited their civil rights in 2001 we knew democracy was on the decline. (Remember the Patriot Act (sic) or when we were free to scan the shelves of our public library without government surveilance. The text for your review: "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” Act) Rights were denied. Complaints were filed, and yet we marched on. Today, and the past few weeks have been but a brutal reminder, in America, all men [and women] are not created equal. Indeed, in the United States, there has never been a union. We are divided on racial, religious, ethnic, and economic lines. Most of these boundaries are blurred and subtle; however, one shines brightly. It is the color of our skin.
On this July night 2013, we have abundant confirmation. Late in June we saw the virtual elimination of Affirmative Action. These laws have been challenged since their inception and since. The following day, Black and Brown Americans were denied their right to vote. Along the way, over many decades, millions of moments told the tale. For my Mom and me the culmination came late in 1999. You may recall the Supreme Court selected our nation's President. Never had this been done in the past and we can only hope it will not be done again in the present. However, we cannot know.
Too often what occurs is not apparent to the naked eye. Let us think back and reflect on the veracity of the adage it is "back to the future." Tonight, it is that for me. As I mourn Trayon Martin's second passing and that of a nation, I think of what caused my Mom's unexpected Earthly departure. The death of democracy.
For all of my life my Mom worked for peace, justice, and what she believed was the American Way. For her that meant equality. She and we believed the premise that all men [and women] are created equal, and yet, in practice we saw this was not true. What to do? For most of my life, Mommy and I embraced the thought that the struggle continues and we could, would, and did make a difference…Until Mommy felt she could not.
For her, the fallacy of democracy was affirmed in December 1999, when the Supreme Court, voided the people their right to a vote. Numbers mattered not. What mattered was the will of the few. While my Mom had long felt this was true, this one act was too much, too much hypocrisy. It was too harmful to democracy. My Mom could no longer believe, or at least she could not see a way in which she might better express her power. The sense of defeat had been building for years. Beaten down Mommy wanted out. [How many of us might feel that way today? After all in just a matter of weeks we have been bombarded with the devastating news – Affirmative Action was deflated, Voting Rights were denied, and now the certain death of a deliverance. Our brother Trayvon Martin life was cut short, twice.
It is a sad day, a sadder night, and dawn will likely not bring much, if any light. The din of defeat is loud. Racism rules. On this, July 13,2013, bigotry was further legitimatized as legal. What are we to do?
Before 43 took his oath my Mom was gone. She did not wish to see what she dreaded. Still, it came. In this moment, I wonder; what will become for and of us?
All those years ago, I too was distressed. Inequity seemed interminable. At the time, I remained hopeful. Tonight, I am not. Do I go on? Do we? Perhaps it is time to reassess or reflect. What might we have missed that lead to these seminal moments? What are the little doings that allow for a deadly deed, a Supreme Court decision and tonight's determination?
Please walk back through the past with me. Let us learn from our history. Let us look at our laws, how legislation is passed, and ask, in what ways might we diligently "stand our ground" Before another day goes by, let us decide if we want more George Zimmerman's or the dream that all men are authentically created equal.
Please imagine it is 1999. My Mom is alive. The testimony heard in a Sanford, Florida Court room, well that may be evident in the future and then again, it may not be. Destiny is in our hands.
Presidential candidate George W. Bush has the backing of the white majority, the evangelists, lovers of God, country, and guns. The National Rifle Association [NRA] too endorses the former Texas Governor Bush's bid. Brother Jeb, Governor of Florida also supports his sibling's ascension.
The two, the NRA and Jeb, become one. Each contributes to G.W. Bush campaign, one with cash and the other with another form of compensation, legislation. [This is the past that today is our prologue. Please stay with me.]
Grateful for the NRA dollars donated to his brother's campaign, Jeb expressed his gratitude first at an NRA Convention. Late, he anointed the organization with an other more tangible and generous gift, Six laws, just as the National Rifle Association requested. The Governor of Florida, Jeb sanctioned the regulations the NRA wanted in place. Indeed, he signed the six laws in a single session. This was a record and one that will be remembered for it afforded George Zimmerman "rights" and his "reason" for defense. "Thank you" or not Governors Bush and the NRA. You have provided us with a lessons that will not be soon forgotten.
My heart hurts. I ask myself, will I too perish as democracy and Mommy did or will my spirit persist for the struggle continues. I can only wonder and reflect on history. Trayvon's yours, and mine.
References and Resources….
- Reform the Patriot Act | Section 215 -- American Civil Liberties Union.
- "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” Act, United States Public Law. October 26, 2001
- Cases Raising Claims Under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act * United States Department of Justice.
- Affirmative-action face-off, By Adam Cohen. Cable News Network. July 26, 1999
- The Secret Danger in the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Ruling. By Richard Thompson Ford. Slate. June 27, 2013
- Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act, By Adam Liptak. The New York Times. June 26, 2013
- Shelby County, Alabama versus Eric Holder, Attorney General. United States supreme Court. June 25, 2013
- Busdh v. Gore 2000. Public Broadcasting Services.
- O’Connor: Maybe Supreme Court shouldn’t have taken Bush v. Gore, By Rachel Weiner. The Washington Post. April 29, 2013
- George W. Bush, Et Al., Petitioners V. Albert Gore, Jr., et al. Cornell Law.
- Jeb Bush Thanks NRA for Helping His Brother - Los Angeles Times, BApril 27, 2003
- Florida Governor Jeb Bush Sets Record b, National Rifle Association. Institute for Legislation June 8, 2006
- NRA's Behind-the-Scenes Campaign Encouraged 'Stand Your Ground' Adoption. Florida's Center For Investigative Reporting.
- The Money Trail Behind Florida's Notorious Gun Law. By Andy Kroll. Mother Jones. March 29, 2012
- Remarks By Governor Jeb Bush At The 2003 NRA Annual Meeting. National Rifle Association. Institute for Legislation May 5, 2003