Monday, November 6, 2017

Reaction to Texas Massacre Colored by Divisive Environment

By Mildred Robertson

Yesterday when I returned home from church, I was appalled to find that a church in Texas had been attacked and that an untold number of people had been killed and/or injured. The first thought that raced to my head was, “God, don’t let it be a black church.”  Then when I discovered it was not a black church, I prayed, “God, don’t let it be a black or brown shooter.” My prayers were answered…but what a horrible prayer.
It does not matter what color the victims or the perpetrator were. It is a heinous act. It should be abhorred by all Americans…all people.
This brought me to a sobering realization.
I have allowed today’s divisive racial politics to affect my thoughts and infect my humanity. This realization caused me to see that, while this horrific shooting is not directly born of any particular political viewpoint, my reaction to it is.  My reaction is based upon the ethnic violence engendered by the hatred and distrust that permeates our country; feelings emboldened and normalized by the President of the United States.
Trump should not have even crossed my mind in this situation. My focus should solely have been on the victims of this tragedy. But this age of Trumpism has effectively subdivided us from our humanity, causing many of us to look at everything through the prism of race. Unfortunately, it seems, I too have succumbed to the unforgiving onslaught of divisive media reports of the misdeeds of a hateful minority which have led to racial distrust and outrage.
Don’t get me wrong. There is plenty to distrust, and much over which to be outraged. But we cannot let Trump and his band of deplorables drag us down to their level. We cannot lose, or misplace our humanity to the extent that we paint everyone in a category other than our own with the same brush. We must not care less for the pain and suffering of those who differ from us than the pain and suffering of those with whom we identify.
America has always had its problems. That is not an accusation. It is a fact. Our history speaks for itself. But we have been better than this. In the face of Bull Connor, the water hoses and the dogs, America stood up and said “no…enough!”  When our youth were sent to be slaughtered in Vietnam, the masses rose up against it. Even when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot down on the hotel balcony in Memphis, we had leaders like Bobby Kennedy who felt our pain and called on America’s better angels to calm our hurt and anger.
But today there is no such leadership. Today we are sent to our respective corners to prepare ourselves to come out fighting. While many hope and pray for the America that we know and love to come forth, to stand against the onslaught of cultural hatred, injustice, racism, violence and fear-mongering, we are simply tired of the fight. Tired of waiting for American values to once again take the fore-front…for American politicians to be patriots…for the American justice system to be just.
In the famous words of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hammer, “I am just sick and tired of being sick and tired.” But if we give in to the fatigue, we lose. America loses. We must not become like them. We must not embrace the politics of division.
I do not know what answer will make America realize its glorious potential. I don’t know what it will take for us to return to our nationhood and pursue the common good. There is not a solution on the horizon that I can see. All of our politicians have failed us…Democrat and Republican; black and white; conservative, liberal and progressive. There are no acceptable answers found among any of the current players on the field of politics. But an answer must be found if we are to survive.
I cannot change the world, but I can change myself. I refuse to let Donald Trump and his ideologues dictate my perception of the world and those around me. We cannot afford to ignore the caustic comportment that permeates our current politics. But each of us must search for a way to lock out the clutter and dig down to the hard facts. We must identify the many corrupt, unscrupulous acts that taint our current political climate and demand just punishment for the perpetrators. That is the only way to maintain our common humanity.
My heart goes out to the souls who were lost, wounded and aggrieved in that little Texas town. They are my brothers and my sisters. They are Americans. And they deserve better.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump is Apologist-In-Chief for Racism

By Mildred Robertson
Charlottesville is the site of an open wound. It is a festering sore that has plagued our nation since the first slave ship arrived on our shores in 1619.  Let us put into perspective the origin of this wound enflamed by the KKK, Alt-Right, Neo-Nazi march that exploded into violence on August 13, 2017.
The confederate monument they assembled to protect is symbolic of an ugly time in our history that has been rewritten to reflect a genteel past. You see, America’s passion for bygone days when slaves purportedly frolicked with glee on the plantations of their slave masters is in direct contrast to the reality of the past. This storied past which Southerners and many others throughout this nation cherish is no more than a lie to cover the true nature of not just slavery, but the people that perpetrated it.
Slavery and the slave masters were harsh, hateful, inhumane, cruel, cold-hearted, cold-blooded, callous and uncaring. Slaves were tortured, mutilated, starved, denied adequate shelter and clothing, raped, murdered and had children ripped from the arms of loving mothers and fathers, had fathers torn from their families…all in order to make a profit.  It is irrelevant whether the slave-master’s name is Robert E. Lee or Thomas Jefferson. There is no such thing as a benevolent slave-master.
The vicious treatment of American slaves would be good fodder for a Stephen King movie…except that these acts are not fiction. They are historical outrageously cruel acts endured by the ancestors of almost every African American in this nation.  And it did not just dehumanize the slave, but also the slave-master.  
So as an American…a descendant of slaves…I was refreshed and uplifted to see white Americans, many of whom I assume could chart their lineage back to a slave master, stand and say, “I wish to be freed from the depravity of my ancestors’ legacy.” Charlottesville’s decision to take down the monument was an acknowledgement of the wrong it represents and the hurt endured by every minority who views it. It was an acknowledgement that the history of the South’s secession was nothing to be glorified—that it was traitorous; that it was unjust; and that it was ultimately defeated.
Yet the President of the United States chose to embrace the lie rather than the historical truth. He became the Apologist-In-Chief for racists. He embraced his own personal depravity and his family’s legacy of hate and put it on international display. He equated those who stood against hatred and intolerance as equal to those who would tear down our democracy, discriminate against American citizens, and wreak violence and havoc within our communities. He further encouraged and gave the racists permission to rise up, move forward and continue to spread hatred and discord in our country.
It is now up to our nation’s leaders to wrest the reins of power from this man who will clearly go down in the annals of history alongside individuals such as Adolf Hitler. It is up to our leadership, whether Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, to ensure that we do not go down the path taken by Germany and many other nations who acquiesced power to dictators and madmen.
Our future depends on it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Trump Brings America to a Spiritual Crossroad

Battle to Govern More Spiritual than Political

By: Mildred Robertson
Daily we are bombarded with the most recent missteps of our misdirected government. We endure a constant barrage of lies, intrigue, accusations and misinformation from a White House besieged from without and within.  The media battles daily to dispense some measure of truth among all the falsehoods and innuendos that float out of the Washington beltway. Words, it seems, cannot halt the downward spiral that has engulfed our country. At least, that is the way I felt until scripture began to speak to me.
You see, over the past month our Sunday school lessons have focused on the prophets who proclaimed Israel’s downfall. Isaiah…Jeremiah…Ezekiel…Amos; all were oracles who beseeched God’s people to hear His voice and follow Him. They railed against a corrupt government and an incorrigible people.  Their words, it seems, echo down through the ages and ring loudly in the ears of a nation whose actions mirror those of a fallen Israel, and whose hard-heartedness places us in the cross-hairs of God’s judgment.
I hesitate to even take this path, in that I do believe in the separation of church and state. But as I witness those who call themselves “the evangelicals, the religious right, the moral majority” bow down at the feet of the hedonistic usurper Donald Trump, I cannot help but believe that the battle we face is far more spiritual than political.
Everything he stands for is antithetical to basic Christianity. From his border wall to the deportation of mothers and fathers seeking a better life for their children, Trump has displayed his abhorrence to the basic tenants of religion. His zealous fight to strip healthcare from millions of Americans, and his desire to further enrich that top 1 % of Americans who enjoy this nation’s bounty testify to his total disregard for the needs of the common man. He has proven himself to be common, uncultured, sexist, racist, dishonest, ignorant, ill-equipped to lead, and possibly even deranged. Yet religious leaders across this nation profess that he is called of God.
How is it that those who profess to know the word of the Lord can condone this man’s behavior? How can they embrace a national agenda that values profit over people, hate over love? Psalm 82: 2-4 says it thusly: “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?” It further exhorts:  “Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” It is as though the Psalmist stood beside us today and penned these words in the midst of our current national upheaval.
Prophetic scripture foretells a nation’s downfall, outlining death, destruction and exile. The prophecies were a call for change. That unheeded call resulted in a nation’s demise. America would be wise to be mindful of the warning. There is still time for us to chart a better course. There is still time for us to heal.
It is late…but not too late.
The Word also says, “If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Acidic Discourse Tears at Nation’s Fabric—Precursor to America’s Demise

By Mildred Robertson

Free speech. It is the bedrock of our democracy. It is what sets us apart from most other nations in the world. It is also what has helped create a chasm so wide between ideologies that our Union is threatened. Not since the civil rights movement has our nation been so divided, so hateful and mean-spirited.
During that period the media held up a mirror to America. What she saw shamed her. That shame led to action that created a new progressive era of inclusiveness; a time when many leaders strived to level the playing field for blacks and others who had not only been excluded from the American dream, but nearly decimated by it.
Because of the noble efforts of the media to live up to its high calling as the 4th Estate of American democracy, it was lauded and held in even higher esteem. Over the years it seems that once vaunted profession descended to a place ruled by ratings and advertising dollars; giving little thought to the need to guard the doors of our democracy. The meteoric fall of the mainstream media coupled with white backlash over civil rights concessions have left America vulnerable to the ravings of fringe elements that blame “otherness” for all of America’s ills.
Fox News, Donald Trump and others like them crept inside that open door to pimp the First Amendment and the values upon which it was based. The mainstream media, like a deer caught in headlights, failed to see that danger barreling down upon both it, and our nation until it was too late. The result has been the rise of entities proclaiming 1st Amendment protections while tearing at the fabric of our nation by spewing hate and divisiveness. They engage in hateful discourse and encourage violence against anyone who does not look or think like them.
Now we live in a nation wary of not just the media posers; but all media, including what many call “the mainstream media.” People have taken to social media to not only find, but to create their own truth. They have fashioned tribes that practice group think, and refuse to consider that the real truth may be found outside their twitter feed.
It is against this backdrop that we see raucous town hall meetings, angry protestors going after one another and representatives being shot down in a ball park. Americans seem to be armed with their own individual facts that leave no room for discussion or dissent; with some willing to kill for them. 
If we are to survive this current attack on our democracy we must somehow go back to the time when we realized that facts are facts, whether we agree with them or not. We must return to a time when those in power spoke the truth, and the media called them out when they did not. We have to somehow learn to put news gathering above garnering ratings.
If we cannot somehow find our way back to an America where truth and integrity are honored, and national discourse is respected, we are destined to go the way of many other historic empires. We are destined to fall.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Take Focus off Trumpgate: Health Care Legislation Needs Your Attention

As we watch the drama of espionage, collusion, treason and obstruction of justice unfold in Washington, D.C., many of us are overwhelmed by the magnitude of our country’s current peril.  I have detected a sense of hopelessness among my friends and colleagues as we stand by helplessly viewing the erosion of democratic rule in our nation.

The common lament is “What can I do as an individual citizen to help right this ship?” 
Well, unfortunately, we must leave the pursuit of justice against this corrupt administration in the hands of elected officials, the FBI, the Department of Justice and others tasked with protecting our democratic way of life. At least for now. 
But there is something we can do right now. We can hold our elected officials responsible for the bad acts they perpetrate while the world is focused on Trumpgate.
The Senate is currently attempting to push through destructive healthcare legislation while no one is watching. Mitch McConnell is working on a Senate version of the health care bill behind closed doors, with little input from any but a select few Republicans. It is expected to be as devastating to the average American as the recently passed house bill that, if enacted, would hit the elderly particularly hard.
According to the AARP, the U.S. House of Representatives health care bill would harm millions of Americans, hurt Medicare’s financial solvency and drive up health insurance costs for those over 50.
In its June 2017 issue of the AARP Bulletin, AARP lists, by state, the names of state representatives who voted for the bill. The American Health Care Act, which passed by a mere 4 votes in the House, includes what AARP calls an “age tax” that could potentially add as much as $13,000 to the cost of insurance for those 50 – 64 years of age, and would discriminate against those with preexisting health conditions.
AARP urges votes to hold representatives accountable for their vote. I urge you to do the same. In North Carolina those representatives who voted for the American Health Care Act, or “Trump Care” as I like to call it, are:

     NC-2   George Holding
     NC-5   Virginia foxx
     NC-6   Mark Walker
     NC-7   David Rouzer
     NC-8   Richard Hudson
     NC-9   Robert Pittenger
     NC-10 Patrick L. McHenry
     NC-13 Ted Budd
The only way we can change what goes on in Washington, D.C. is to change who we send to Washington, D.C. We need to contact our elected officials to let them know that we are not so distracted by the Washington spectacle, that we do not clearly see what they are doing. And we must let them know that we plan to hold them accountable at the ballot box. 
I urge you to contact your U.S. House Representative to let him or her know how you felt about the recent health care vote. And let your U.S. Senator know you will be watching his or her vote when McConnell roles out his healthcare bill.
We each have a voice in the preservation of our Democracy. Let’s be loud about it!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Trump Administration Threatens Democracy

By Mildred Robertson

I have been absent from the blog for about one month; somewhat overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges faced by those who fear for the state of the Union.  As I flip between CNN, MSNBC and the local news channels each night, attempting to make sense of the senseless babble emitting from the Washington Beltway, I shudder at the thought of 3 more years of Trump, or even a day of Pence, or any other successors who might ascend to the Whitehouse were we to successfully unseat the poser who presents himself as the leader of the free world.

The nightly drip of information revealing the ineptitude, subterfuge, nepotism, and juvenile arrogance that marks this administration is disheartening and frightening. I wished for, labored for, voted for a different administration. While I expected policies that were at odds with those I would support, that does not mean that I wished for this one to fail so miserably.

I expected a bad healthcare bill, and a heartless attack on our national social safety net. I knew that business would get a tax break on the backs of working Americans. I figured we would face more efforts to gerrymander votes and I expected attacks on a woman’s right to choose and endless babble about building a wall. I expected a good old-fashion political battle. I did not expect espionage, collusion, and possible treason that would shake the very foundation of our Democracy.
What is happening in Washington D.C. is not normal. The threat to our way of life is real, and I am appalled that it appears that no one knows how to adjust that reality in a way that will do us no harm. I imagine this must be the way Dorothy felt when she woke up in Oz. Unlike the denizens of Oz, our wizard cannot even create the illusion that he is all-knowing, even for a moment.  

So what are we to do?  While Trump has been slow to appoint leadership to a number of key administrative positions, what about those appointments he has made. If it turns out that he ascended to the White House through treasonous collusion, does his appointment of clearly unqualified people to his administration such as Betsy DeVos and Ben Carson stand? Are he and his family held accountable for clear acts of nepotism? Does the American Treasury recover the windfall received by his various properties and holdings based upon his ascension to the Whitehouse?

As we watch the drama unfold in D.C., it is difficult to focus on those legislative issues that face our country. The Wizard and his crew of flying monkeys have kept all eyes focused on Oz. The Republican-led Congress is clearly lost in the poppy field right outside the gates.

So what is to become of us and our national pressing issues? Who will be our champion and forge a way forward from this malaise that threatens to destroy our democracy? None named thus far seem capable and/or inclined; not the Senate or House subcommittees, not the special prosecutor.

I look toward 2018 with anticipation…and hope. I hope that those who thought it a good time to make a political statement see that voting should be neither whimsical nor emotional. I hope that those who have been disillusioned will come back and take up the fight. I hope that those who have been disenfranchised will pursue their right to vote. 

Our democratic way of life is being stolen from us minute-by-minute; day-by-day. It is unthinkable that I would actually quote Donald Trump, but it really is time for decent, upright, patriotic Americans of all genders, hues, religions, and orientations to TAKE BACK AMERICA. Whatever the internal battles that separate us, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal; we must redirect America’s course for our common good.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Replacement of North Carolina HB2 About More than Bathrooms

Focus on 2018 - Win the War, Not the Battle

By Mildred Robertson
I was recently asked my thoughts on HB142, which replaces the North Carolina controversial HB2 “bathroom bill.” It is a complicated issue. Regardless of your initial position on HB2, HB142 represents both wins and losses for either side.

First, HB142 is a continuation of NC Republican high jinx, as they exert total control over the governance of our state by manipulating the process. They prevented challengers from adding any changes or amendments to HB142, a completely different bill, by gutting it and inserting the HB2 restrictions into it, Therefore, Governor Roy Cooper and other opponents of HB2 were left with a take-it, or leave-it scenario, because Democrats do not have the votes to repeal HB2 or to sustain a veto by Cooper.

The only reason the Republicans even contemplated this new bill was to placate businesses refusing to practice in the state because of the discriminatory nature of HB2. They attempted to alter the bill just enough to make it more palatable to businesses such as the organizers of the NCAA tournament who gave the state an ultimatum.

Change the bill or lose the tournament through 2022.

It remains to be seen whether HB142 will accomplish that goal. The NCAA is to make its decision in early April.  I believe that those who oppose HB2 felt that the negative impact the “bathroom bill” had on North Carolina’s business prospects was their best leverage against the Republican legislature. By softening the impact of the bill through HB142, Cooper and the Dems have allowed their best weapon to become watered down.

Republicans are clearly being hypocritical, as they tout less power in Raleigh and more in local government. Meanwhile, they pass a bill that wrests control of the regulation of multiple occupancy bathrooms, showers or changing facilities from local government and school officials and gives that power to the state.

Another point of contention is the ability of local governments to enact nondiscrimination ordinances. House Bill 2 restricted those abilities. Likewise, HB142 blocks local governments’ ability to pass new nondiscrimination protections for workplaces, hotels and restaurants until December 2020. LGBT groups feel the new bill still denies them protection from discrimination.

I do not know whether Governor Cooper and the Democrats who supported him did the right thing. It is a decision I would not have wanted to make. Governing is not about winning everything you wish for all the time. Sometimes compromise is necessary for either side to get any sort of victory.

If the Republicans are successful in wooing back businesses that have abandoned the state by the droves with this watered down version of HB2, there is no reason for them to contemplate changing the remaining discriminatory features contained in HB142. If their efforts are unsuccessful, it is possible that the legislature will revisit this issue. But that means the ball remains in the Republican court.

However, that’s where it has been and will remain until the people of North Carolina determine that the current makeup of the legislature is counterproductive to needs of the citizens of this state and change our leadership. I do not know if that is possible with the gerrymandered voting districts that the state will have to live with, at least through 2018.

All the more reason for those who oppose North Carolina’s current direction to mobilize. We do not need to allow this debate to dampen the seeming mobilization of opposition forces growing in our state. We can attempt to re-litigate HB2, or we can focus on the real battle in 2018. That’s when we can engender real, meaningful, lasting change across the board.