I have been thinking about America the last couple of weeks. What is America these days? What do I see/hear/feel about America on a daily basis? What is up with all the hate groups (1000 according to the Southern Poverty Law Center)? Why is America so xenophobic about immigrants? What is up with the three front running Republicans vying for a presidential nomination? What is the problem with America and having 41 million people living below the poverty line? Who and what are everyday Americans?
I mull these questions over based on my involvement in everyday America. The other day, my wife and I were shopping and when we finished and were driving away I saw a car with a bumper sticker. The car was parked so that people going in and out of a busy store could see the bumper sticker; leading me to believe that the driver of the car strategically parked his/her vehicle for impact. You could not misinterpret the meaning of the bumper sticker; it was very clear what the owner wanted his/her audience to see. The bumper sticker was white on the top and black on the bottom. On the right hand side it had a noose. The words on the other side were: “We’ll Take Care of Obama”. This is not the first time I have seen this bumper sticker in the Twin Cities Minnesota metropolitan area, just on different cars.
It is clear that the owner of the vehicle does not like President Obama. The owner expresses an extreme way to solve his/her differences of politics in America. Hate oozed from this bumper sticker. This person must long for “the good old days” when you just hung an African American because you could get away with it. “It’ll keep them in their place”. The bumper sticker most definitely puts whites above blacks in the owner’s sick belief system.
The problem, as I said in another blog, is that bumper stickers are right there in your face, whether you want those thoughts conveyed to you or not. Bumper stickers force you to take in the thought and form a response based on your belief system about what you just saw and read. My first response was wishing I was driving a tank so I could simply destroy the car. I suppose we should be grateful also because this person has totally revealed who and what they are so you do not have to spend time getting to know them. You simply know that they are white supremacists who hate African Americans and believe that white folks are the superior race. I wonder what the everyday American thinks when they see this bumper sticker.
I wonder if the owners of the bumper sticker are sitting around with their friends talking about the new Martin Luther King Memorial. I think that their conversation might go something like this:
“ I see where that sonofa… n….. Obama has put up a statue to the sonofa…. n…..King. He put right there by those good old white American presidents. It’s blasphemous, putting a n….. memorial next to white men memorials. We ought to hang Obama.”
Never mind that the MLK Memorial was in planning for 25 year and not done under Obama. I wonder what everyday Americans think about the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial?
Saturday I was having coffee with three everyday Americans. I know these folks and they are basically good, kind people who are sometimes prone to regurgitate what they have recently read or been told. The conversation went to two shootings that occurred the night before in North Minneapolis. One of the folks said, “I feel that they should just make Minneapolis and St. Paul war zones”. Another one said “Yeah we should hire more cops, maybe use the National Guard if the police can’t handle it.” Everyone was looking at me for a response since they know that I do work on social justice. I could have launched into an attack and called them idiots, but that would never change anything. Instead I talked to them about needing to seriously work on the problems in the segregated ghettos of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I talked about needing better programs to help folks in poverty, getting better mass transit to the segregated places so that they would have a means to get to the jobs in the suburbs, about the need to address our prison system that locks up a majority of young black males living in white made ghettoes across the United States. I talked about the time America locked up Japanese Americans in WWII. I talked about social systems and how most Americans were socialized to believe that white was good and black was bad. I talked about trying to solve problems rather than create new one by declaring places war zones. They listened to me talk and they heard a different point of view. I hope that they listened straight since I spoke straight. I wonder what everyday Americans would say about this conversation?
I was watching TV the other day and listened to Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachman of Minnesota and Republican Governor Perry of Texas talk about what their presidencies would be like if they won the election. Bachman started with having the audience sing Happy Birthday to Elvis Presley, never mind that it was the anniversary of his death. Bachman went on to proclaim that under her presidency gasoline would be below $2 a gallon – she promised this. Governor Perry was attacking President Obama about his stimulus plans not working and being a waste of tax payer’s money and time. Never mind that the reason Texas under Perry has a low unemployment rate because the received billions of stimulus money and hires many public employees taking them off the unemployment rolls. Now that the stimulus monies are gone Texas’ unemployment has risen to 8.4 percent. Never mind that Perry touts all the new businesses in Texas; mostly defense jobs and companies based on two wars. Perry also wants to have Ben Bernanke labeled as a traitor and says global warming is not manmade. I wonder if everyday Americans will vote for these folks.
I read a Letter to the Editor the other day in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The writer was talking about poverty in America and quoted The Heritage Foundation. I wasn’t sure if The Heritage Foundation was real so I looked it up and there it was a legitimate organization and the writer lifted word by word from their website. The writer said that people think of people living in poverty as living in shacks and people destitute. The he quotes The Heritage Foundation as having proof that all Americans in poverty have air conditioning, cable television, owned a car (one third of which owned two cars), had two color TV’s a DVD player, a VCR, Xbox, Play Station, a microwave, refrigerator, oven, clothes washer and dryer, ceiling fans, cordless phone, and a coffee maker. The writer went on to state, another statement lifted from The Heritage Foundation website, that one of the main problems with for people on poverty is that they eat too much and are obese. The writer said that many people were in poverty because they made poor choices and their culture supports poverty – it is their fault not ours. I may have to bring this topic up over coffee next Saturday; I hope that their vision of poverty in America isn’t an African American single mother with children. I think a lot about poor folks and I wonder what everyday Americans think about people in poverty.
I read about hate groups in America. Groups that hate Muslims, groups that hate GLBT’s, groups that hate illegal aliens and most immigrants, groups that hate religions other than their own, groups that celebrate Hitler and say he did not go far enough, groups that hate big government and taxes, groups that hate Americans who don’t belong to their cause, groups that hate just to hate. I wonder what everyday Americans think about the hate in America.
So I sit and think, walk and think, drive in my car and think, sit in on conversations and think and talk to others to find out their beliefs. I think that everyday Americans are complicated and it depends on how you approach them and how you ask them a question. I think that many everyday Americans are not a silent majority any more. I think that everyday Americans are being forced to take stands that they may not be comfortable with just because they belong to political parties and organizations. I think everyday Americans are being told what to think by media, politicians, churches, friends and neighbors. I think that everyday Americans are being told that they are Un-American if they don’t believe what they are being told and this scares the everyday American.
When I was 24 I was offered a job by the Firestone Tire Company; it would have been a good job in salary and benefits. It was the opportunity for a kid from poverty. When I went to sign the contract they told me I also had to sign their company requirement to uphold America and require me to be a good American and support America no matter what the issue might be. I told them I could not sigh the paper in good faith because I was an anti war protestor during the Vietnam War and that I did not support all things in America especially Richard Nixon lying to the country. I did not get the job; I was judged to be Un-American. I wonder what my life would have been like if I had just shut up and signed the pledge just to get a job. I wonder what everyday Americans would think about me and my actions.
Timothy A. Bess
August 22, 2011