The Summer That Will Always Be Remembered …

At 1:00 a.m. this morning, the time I would normally be responding to comments, catching up on the day’s news, and trying to find a focal point for my afternoon post, I began watching a documentary.  Our friend Keith recommended this one a while back, and I had watched only the first few minutes at that time, but kept it pinned to my taskbar so that I wouldn’t forget about it.  I thought, at 1:00 this morning, that I would watch 15-20 minutes of this nearly two-hour program, then get busy on comments and such.  But before long, I had watched 50 minutes, mesmerized, sometimes with tears in my eyes.  I paused for a bathroom break and to make myself a piece of toast to settle the acid in my stomach, then returned to the video.  At 3:00 a.m., the documentary was done, the toast eaten, and a lump in my throat the size of … Mississippi.

The documentary?  Freedom Summer.  Mississippi 1964.  The year that 1,000 college students from all over the United States traveled to Mississippi in an attempt to help Black people register to vote, to gain a measure of control over their own lives.

In 1964, less than 7% of Mississippi’s African Americans were registered to vote, compared to between 50 and 70% in other southern states. In many rural counties, African Americans made up the majority of the population and the segregationist white establishment was prepared to use any means necessary to keep them away from the polls and out of elected office.

For years, local civil rights workers had tried unsuccessfully to increase voter registration amongst African Americans. Those who wished to vote had to face the local registrar, an all-powerful white functionary who would often publish their names in the paper and pass the word on to their employers and bankers. And if loss of jobs and the threat of violence wasn’t enough to dissuade them, the complex and arcane testing policies were certain to keep them off the rolls.

In 1964, a new plan was hatched by Bob Moses, a local secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. For ten weeks, white students from the North would join activists on the ground for a massive effort that would do what had been impossible so far: force the media and the country to take notice of the shocking violence and massive injustice taking place in Mississippi.

This was the summer that three of those students, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were brutally killed in a plot hatched by County Sheriff Lawrence A. Rainey and eight other white male community ‘leaders’, their bodies buried deep in an old farm pond.

This was the summer that almost no Blacks were allowed to register to vote, for few could pass the “literacy tests” required of Black people in order to vote.  Even attempting to register could get them fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes.

I strongly urge you to take the two hours to watch this video.  The widow of Michael Schwerner has a role, as does Bob Moses, a civil rights activist who took part in Freedom Summer, was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and who died just over a week ago at the age of 86.  Here is a link, for any who are interested in this very important piece of U.S. history.

Fifty-six years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Largely because of that, I have always had a great deal of respect for former President Lyndon B. Johnson, but frankly after watching this video, the only word I could think of to define him was ‘bastard’.

This documentary … people risking their lives to ensure that ALL people have a right to vote, to have a voice in the governing of this country … is even more meaningful today when 42 of the states in this nation are doing their level best to once again take the right to vote away from Black people, Hispanics, the elderly, college students and poor people.  Are we headed back to the days of Jim Crow?  Will we find ourselves in just a few short years sending busloads of young people to Florida, Alabama, and again, Mississippi, to help in the fight to ensure people from all walks of life and of all ethnicities can do something so simple, so basic, as to vote?  Think about that one for a minute … and please do watch the documentary … you won’t regret the time spent.

Voting Is A RIGHT, Not A Privilege!!!

In 1965, Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Please note and remember that this bill was NOT titled the Voting Privilege Act of 1965, but the Voting RIGHTS Act … rights, not privileges.

Several constitutional amendments, the 15th, the 19th, and the 26th, require that voting rights of U.S. citizens cannot be abridged on account of race, color, previous condition of servitude, sex, or age (18 and older).  Are we all in agreement here that every person over the age of 18 has the right to vote?

However, according to a recent PEW Research study, white people don’t think that voting is a right, but rather a privilege that one must earn!  It’s no damn wonder, then, that 42 states are in the process of drafting or passing legislation that would make it far more difficult for people of colour, for the elderly, for college students, and for working women to cast a vote.

More than once I have ranted about those who don’t vote, or who vote for an inviable third-party candidate.  In my view it is irresponsible — we all have a DUTY to vote, even if we aren’t enamoured of any of the candidates.  I have also proposed that we have mandatory voting.  I have proposed switching election dates to Sunday so that all will have time and access to the vote.  I have also proposed that every state should go to an all-postal voting system in order to make voting as painless as possible for everyone. So, you can imagine that I am LIVID to find out that white people think voting is a privilege to be earned.

Why???  We all have to live under the laws that are determined by the president and members of Congress, so WHY THE HELL shouldn’t we ALL have a voice in choosing those people???  Why should some be forced to follow laws made by people that they didn’t even have a chance to vote for or against?  I have long ranted against restrictions in some states that disenfranchise former prisoners who are on parole.  They paid their dues, served their time … now they are out of prison, most are gainfully employed and paying taxes … WHY THE HELL shouldn’t they be allowed to vote???

And this is a partisan issue.  Among Democrats, only 21% see the right to vote as a ‘privilege’, while among Republicans, 67% believe that the ‘privilege’ of voting must be earned.

Quite frankly, I cannot imagine anything short of actually being in prison during election day that should prevent a person from voting.  Qualified?  Well, if they are a citizen, then in my mind they are qualified.  If John Doe is a Black citizen, an employed taxpayer, then why do the tighty whiteys want to take away his right … yes, RIGHT … to vote?  Do they think they are better than he is?  Do they think their opinion has more value than his?  Or … do they just figure he isn’t as smart or as ‘entitled’ as they are? Or … are they afraid?  Afraid that if enough Black people have a say in who makes the laws that govern us all, they might lose their privileged status?  Are they afraid that someday our Congress won’t be 90% white, but will instead be 40% white?  What, exactly, are you afraid of, Karen?

Black Americans are more likely than those in other racial and ethnic groups to see voting as a fundamental right, while White Americans are the least likely to say this. About three-quarters of Black Americans (77%) say voting is a right for every U.S. citizen and should not be restricted, as do 63% of Hispanic Americans and 66% of Asian Americans. White Americans are about evenly divided: 51% say voting is a right, while 48% say it is a privilege.

That 48% … they make me ashamed to be Caucasian … make me wish my olive-toned skin were much darker, for I am NOT white … not at heart … not if this is the way white people think!  Stick your Ango-Saxon heritage where the sun doesn’t shine … I am not as one with you!

Never before in my 70 years here on earth, as a citizen of the United States, have I been so ashamed of this country and its people.  Were it just me, I would leave this country tomorrow, by whatever means I could, including death, and never have a regret – that is how much I despise what is happening in this country.  But I feel an obligation, a responsibility, in part to my daughter and granddaughter, and in part to the people of this nation, to fight the good fight, to fight against the white supremacist forces of evil.

Is the GOP Inherently Corrupt?

Our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters has written a thoughtful, brief analysis of how the GOP went from being “The Party of Lincoln” to being the party of obstruction and conspiracy theories. While we can see how the GOP came to be frequently referred to as the GQP (Goofy QAnon Party), the question now is … will this be the end of the party, or is this only the beginning of a party that prefers fascism over democracy? Thanks, Jeff, for this excellent post!

On The Fence Voters

Inherent — existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute.

No, the disgraced 45th president of the United States was not the cause of the corruption that infects today’s iteration of the GOP. He was merely a cancerous symptom of a deep dive into the throws of corrupt behavior that’s been part of this party for decades now.

If we’re lucky, he’ll be the final nail in the coffin by which the party begins to moderate their views and act like they want to participate in our democracy the way our Founding Fathers expected. If not, we may be looking at an America most of us would never have thought possible — the authoritarian march to fascism. We’re not there yet, but it’s getting pretty damn close.

Again, though, it didn’t start with Trump. This once-proud party, the one that can claim Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower as one of their own…

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