Action vs. Distraction
The president pitched a budget that would hurt a lot of people. He’s proposed deep cuts to education, health care, efforts to curb pollution … on and on. Here in Maine, where our biggest issue is poverty and the cold can be deadly, we would lose the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Even if it’s just a negotiating tactic, threatening to kill elderly and impoverished Mainers isn’t the place to start bargaining.
Now, with all this Russia business, it looks like our president’s days could be numbered (like, in the double or even single digits), and that prospect actually scares me more than the idea of him keeping his job. As with most news stories about his presidency, the president himself is a distraction from which we just can’t seem to break focus. The thing is, the president is not the problem. He is most definitely a problem — he’s just not the problem.
The problem is the system that rewards wealthy, white, male inheritors, no matter how stupid, careless, transparently false or destructive they are. The problem is the system in a country that has enough wealth and ability to virtually eliminate conflict within itself, yet continues to promote its own annihilation. The problem is a system that was built on the backs of one race and the corpses of another, but won’t shut up about “freedom.” We live within a system that prefers we lie, and now the personification of falsehood itself is pretending to be in charge of the system. We all know hair doesn’t look like that. We all know that’s not a skin color. We all know tough guys don’t whine. But the system wants us to lie, so we do.
The point is, this motherfucker ain’t shit. And if he’s gone tomorrow, the hole he crawled out of is still wide open and there are plenty more like him slithering around down there.
A lot of people say the problem is that the political left is too divided, that we let some of our issues get in the way of the greater goal. To those people I say this: nope. That is an illusion. What we often think of as “the left” is actually many different groups whose rights have been legislated away by the same group of pale-faced plutocrats (and a couple rich orange guys). It gives us a common enemy, but it doesn’t put us all on the same side.
Some of us on the left have been heard our whole lives, but many of us have been silenced from the beginning. And now those who are used to being heard are hearing about the issues of the silenced for the first time, and many of them don’t like it.
Here’s something many of you won’t like: If I were a single-issue voter and that issue was race, I would not have voted in the last presidential election. I obviously wouldn’t have voted for our current president, but I sure as hell wouldn’t have voted for Hillary. Her record is worse than his! She was all about her husband’s ’94 crime bill that disproportionately affected black people. She referred to black kids as “superpredators” who need to be “brought to heel.” So the choice was between two candidates who I know don’t give a damn about me, and the one on the left has actually brought harm to my community. That’s not a choice worth making. Some may insist that racial issues are a distraction from, say, the economy. Well, I can tell you that when I’m in fear for my life during a traffic stop, the condition of the economy couldn’t matter less.
How can you tell if an issue is a distraction or not? Start by asking yourself this: Will it hurt people? If the answer is no, then it’s a distraction and someone is trying to sell you something. If the answer is yes, then even if the people who stand to be harmed aren’t like you, it’s a real issue.
For example, Obama wire-tapping Trump. Anyone getting hurt? No. It’s a distraction. Example #2: Repealing transgender bathroom rights. Anyone getting hurt? Absolutely. Not a distraction.
It can get tricky. Susan Collins says the president owes us an explanation for these wire-tapping allegations. She’s trying to sell us on the idea that she’s a “moderate.” But thus far Collins has voted the president’s party line 90 percent of the time. Peanut butter disagrees with jelly more often than she disagrees with that man, so don’t be fooled.
Ignore the White House’s gaffs and photo ops and microwave cameras exclusively available at Nordstrom’s. Keep focused on the people — that’s what this whole thing is supposed to be about.
Samuel James is an internationally renowned bluesman and storyteller, as well as a locally known filmmaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.