How Can You REALLY Believe in Democracy?

For most of my adult life, as an American of African descent, I have hated the so-called democratic political process we've got going in this country. I was excited, at 18 and a senior in HS, to be able to vote, and I registered right away, and voted in the 1984 Democratic primary for Jesse Jackson.

I didn't know shit about politics, and only voted for Jackson cuz he was "black." I mean, I knew he stood behind Dr. King, and was there when he died, and I figured that counted for something. At the time, I was extremely militant/borderline black nationalistic in my thinking, having just come from Jamaica and really experiencing racism for the first time. Harlem was in the midst of the Crack Wars, and the police, mainly white, were on my block every day, harassing my friends, locking them up, banging on doors, wreaking havoc. People I knew were dying, or wasting away like zombies from crack, or jumping off of roofs because the Angel Dust they took made them think they could fly. I lived in Harlem, I went to school in Harlem, I walked 'Two-Five every day in the summer at least 3 times, and my world was very small.

As I got older, I experienced a lot more. I traveled a little bit around the country (not much, but more than your average Harlem teen gets to do) and I ended up falling in love with your all-American white kid from Jersey. Talk about culture shock... particularly when I moved in with him.

Because those worlds--Harlem and North Jersey--do NOT intermingle, for the next four years I lived life as an honorary white girl, drinking lots of beer, jumping around to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", drunkenly screaming "BRUUUUUUUUUCCCCCEEEE!" in dive bars in Central Jersey and hanging out in Houlihan's every Friday night. I could do that because despite my Harlem teenagehood, I can speak Standard American English without any hint of "regionalism". Because I'm not from here and not "vested" in a community, and because I don't choose to answer to any racial designation, I could mimic what I saw around me and for the most part, I fit right in. I heard lots of "You're the whitest black girl I know." It's not a compliment that's particularly flattering, but it does mean I'm a damn good chameleon.

But when that world came crashing down (and I think it started the night I stayed up watching the LA race riots sparked by Rodney King, and watched assholes rejoice when OJ was acquitted in retaliation) I landed on the Rock, back in NY, back where people actually mingle with each other.

By then, my disillusionment with race and politics, and the intermingling thereof, began to set in. Especially as I got better and better jobs, made more and more money and could see what money could get you. But then it all evaporated once I walked off my $80K job, 9/11 happened, and went back to school.

During school, I sat in Welfare and Food Stamp offices with immigrants and the Hispanics; Bronx Family Court waiting rooms with the hopeless and the battered and the depraved; Dept of Housing offices with the potentially homeless or inhabitants of the Projects as I tried to get a Section 8 voucher. (I never got that, by the way, and I cried my eyes out that day, not that anybody in that office gave a flying fuck.) I watched the Katrina Disaster on TV and cried when people blamed the victims for not getting out. You don't know what it's like to be trapped by circumstances until you're trapped by circumstances.

The thing about all this is that I can read. Very well... on a college level since I was a little kid. I don't read many books anymore cuz who has the time, and I can't read the newspaper because it always makes me cry, but the Internet is a wonderful thing because you can get snippets of info every where, and cross-check your facts if you're so inclined. And as I've said before, I'm a questioner, so seeking answers to things is what I do. So I ask questions of myself and the world and God, and then I go look for the answers. And what I found is that to the little guy, to the woman sitting in the Welfare Office trying to get help or "re-certify" her claim, or trying to get Medicaid or Food stamps or a Section 8 voucher, politics don't mean shit.

Who the president is, doesn't mean a damn thing. The rich and the educated will argue that the President and the elected policy makers do things that affect your daily life by proposing such things as Welfare Reform or whatever, but I am telling you, as someone who has sat in those offices with the rank and file, your big words and your policies are way over my head. Even if I had the education to decipher it all, at the moment the only fucking thing I'm thinking about is the fact that my fridge is empty and my rent is WAY past due. That I need help, TODAY, RIGHT NOW, or I'm in deep shit. Elections don't mean anything, who the President is or who wants to be President doesn't mean anything. Not today, not tomorrow, not for a long, long, time. At least not until my rent is paid, and my kids are safe while I work, or I can support them while I stay home and try to keep them from using drugs or running the streets with gangs.

So what this means is that the educated and the middle class and the rich are making decisions for those people who are too far down on the food chain to be able to even THINK about those decisions. And you may not think about that, as you take your kids to safe schools, or drive your SUV's up the block to pick up milk, or complain about $4 a gallon gas. Your fridge is reasonably full, your house is warm and your neighborhood is fairly safe, as far as these things go. The line between the rich and the middle class is pretty thin, but the Divide between the poor and the middle class is HUGE and getting wider every day. This is what my sis the Professor and I refer to as living on "both sides of the Divide", and it's not about the money. It's about the fact that she and I were trained to think, to reason, to ask questions of authority, and most importantly, we can speak Standard English. But we can also speak and understand the language on the other side of the Divide. So we can cross back and forth fairly easily, though she more easily than I. And the fact that she works with the children of the people I've sat in the Welfare and Food stamp and Medicaid offices with, lets her know that these families are in a bad way.

And what this has to do with my Rant Of The Day, is that the educated/Standard English/Thinking/Questioning side of me has been prowling the Internet, reading unreported news stories (Hillary's camp may even have actually been the ones to start NAFTA-gate), and other people's blogs about the general feeling of this election, and what's going on in the Democratic Party. And I am deeply disturbed. Racism is deeply ingrained in this process. It's an amazing thing to see what people will write "anonymously"... the hate and garbage that they will spew. What they're REALLY thinking, hidden alone in the dark of night, typing away on their computers. And people just don't "get" it... don't understand the desperate need for HOPE. No man is a true savior... I don't happen to believe in Jesus as the Saviour, and I don't happen to believe in Messiahs. I do firmly believe that heaven and hell is what we make of it while we're living and breathing on this planet. Yeah, I do believe in God. I do believe that the spirit/soul continues on after our physical being has decomposed, and I do believe that there are folks who can hear those souls... so therefore it's possible that Others can influence our daily lives. But they can only INFLUENCE us... not change our direction. We cannot be "saved" by anybody but ourselves. So it's not that I think Obama can change the world or make a huge difference, and he may not be sound on a lot of shit compared to others (though I contend in "real world" experience and bill-passing and contact with real people, he's got Hillary beat) but what the man has offered that tired mom in the Food stamp Office is Hope. And I'm telling you, she needs it. BAD.

But the way I'm feeling right this second.... she' not going to get it. We're in Hell. And it's about to get a lot worse. I'm not sure how Hillary can justify staying in this race this long, and I'm not sure what she thinks she will gain by tearing Obama apart. If the situation were reversed numbers-wise, the Powers That Be would be calling for his head. And I do know she's put his back against the wall... because he started out looking like "One of the Good Guys", but with the attacks that have started coming he's got one of two choices... fight back and become like everyone else, or stick by his principles and refuse to fight dirty. But in the this country, that's tantamount to looking like a sucker. In Hood language, "kindness is a weakness" and the weak get destroyed. And that is just too bad.

To me, the leader of a country should inspire people. Yes, he should be able to get things done... he should be able to fight for things. But fight OTHERS... not his own party. Not in his own backyard. And sometimes, a country and a people need "hope" and "faith" in living righteously. Sometimes, your soul needs feeding. Because as someone who has felt scared for the welfare of myself and my Sun... who has faced the possibility of eviction or eating at Ma's house cuz you don't have shit in your own fridge, as someone who even now, faces the question: "Do I go back to work full time, sacrificing time with my kid and his activities so that I can keep all the bills paid, and if not, how do I balance my career/physical needs with that of my child/family?" sometimes honey, all there is, is Hope. Hope for a better day tomorrow, hope for a little windfall or a decent job, hope for a damn good sale at Target. Hope that I'm doing right by my kid. It would be nice for me to look at the world, at my country, and be inspired by someone, to know that Hope can lead to great things.

People who are comfortable can afford to look at only the "facts" and what can physically be done. People who are uncomfortable know that sometimes you need somebody to just give you a little hope, because hope is what motivates you to do better.

But at this moment, it's looking like McCain, baby, and a hundred-year-war. And that's pretty fucking Hopeless, if you ask me.

Business as usual. Who give a fuck about the little guy anyway?

Comments

Dogon said…
i think u right about MCain and can u help me find the source of my spam on my blog page?
Dogon said…
thats me rawdawgbuffalo
onesillymama said…
Huh, I voted for JJ in the 1984 primary too, for some of the same reasons.

I've been a HRC supporter but what you write is true, and she's really been disappointing me, more as we go along. I hated that she hinted at Omana being a good VP candidate; this morning on one of the talking head shows they asked one of her supporters how it could be that he is fine to be "a heartbeat away" yet not ready to be Commander in Chief at the same time? The stupid answer, oh he's ready but "less" ready than HRC. But no, you keep telling us he's not ready. WTF???

I totally agree with what you said here: "the educated and the middle class and the rich are making decisions for those people who are too far down on the food chain to be able to even THINK about those decisions." So many people don't understand the desperation that so many people are experiencing. I've heard people blaming the victims of the mortgage scandals saying "they should have known better." This was their first foray into home ownership... these aren't "educated" people we're talking about. I can TOTALLY see how someone could convince them that an ARM is a great idea. And it makes me sick.

Just my 2 cents on a crabby Monday morning...
The Bear Maiden said…
Dogon I knew who you were :) and I answered you OL. Hope it helps..

And SillyMama. Thank you. Just for mulling it over, just for giving thought... and hope your Monday gets better...
Bonnie said…
I predicted McCain back in January, and I am still sticking to it. Sad, isn't it? Even in a year which should have been a shoo-in for the Democrats, they are managing to do themselves in.

I am old enough to just barely remember RFK. If Obama goes up against McCain, I think it will be the RFK vs Nixon contest that never got to happen. Nixon would have won that contest anyway, and I think McCain will win this one. Oh my, we're going to have another Nixon, lucky us.

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