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More than football and hip hop, we must develop an understanding of politics and governing.  It’s a matter of life and death.  First, I am not angry at President Trump for being exactly who he said he would be nor am I ticked off at Republican voters for using him to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.  I am overwhelmingly pissed at my community for not voting in five or six pivotal states.

Oh, non-voting Blacks escorted Trump into the White House and handed him the nuclear codes.   Our Black –sses will be the first ones drafted into an ego-driven Trump war.  Being drafted by your nation puts you in an awkward situation.   My brother was in the Vietnam War while we weren’t allowed to swim in the local pool or check out books from the library—for the record, he volunteered.

We know that the victor writes history and I have fairly felt that the South in the American Civil War was the most dangerous threat to the United States—more than any power from Europe, Asia or the Middle East in history.  But, I don’t put military personal in the same category as political leaders normally (notable exception being Nazis.)

To me, General Robert E. Lee was a gentleman who strategized for a wrong cause.  Remember, Lincoln offered him command of the Army of the Potomac but his heart was with Virginia.  So, if we are talking about military skills, Robert E. Lee, World War II German General Erwin Rommel and William T. Sherman get military praise.  On the other hand, I am glad Lee and Rommel were on defeated sides and Sherman was so nasty to former slaves during his March to the Sea.  Confederate Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest was brilliant on the battlefield but helped found the Klan after the war.  Why do Black guys play football with Jeff Davis County High in Georgia?

Spending 25 years in military service could have been a great career for me but I wasn’t prepared to hear who the president or pentagon saw as the enemy—not while Mandela sat in a cell.  Much of America’s military focus was and is based on the financial interests of fat cats.  America never respected self-governing in Africa or the oil-rich Middle East.  There are some people with legitimate reasons to dislike us but terrorism isn’t the answer.  Blacks in south Georgia see the Klan as more of a concern than the ISIS.  Oh yea, why do we get upset when folks in the Middle East try to have a faith-based government but the conservatives in America seek to do the same thing with our Christian faith.

It never crossed White southerners’ minds that items honoring the Confederacy would be hella offensive to the Black population…the same Black population who built the South for free. But, I say don’t remove anything nor level any Nazi concentration camps…lest we forget.  I am writing this blog post on Lee Street in a small southern town and the street wasn’t name for Bruce Lee.  Finally, Dr. Martin Luther King is turning over in his grave about the trashy ways we carry ourselves on streets name for him…where the good weed can be scored.

To this day, I think Donald Trump is a world class opportunist who never imagined actually winning the White House (which brings forensic examination of his shady business dealings.)  But, his followers on the far Right knew what “take this nation back” meant to them.  They should hug him tightly and not let him go.  Normal Republicans have a few months to figure out how to remove him from their ranks…and when they try, it’s going to be on and popping.

Sociology: Not Politics

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Sociology and not politics should be the discussion topic first.  With secondary consideration for elected officeholders on all levels, how we function as a society and or as a culture is much more significant.  Sociology is the study of the development, structure and functioning of human society.

America is a free society and you can make several puns from that statement.  Yes, a citizen is free to select a line of work and decide when and with whom to have children.  However, the consequences of those decisions can affect employability and employability affects the ability to care for children…innocent children.  When blue-collar workers go on break, lazy rascals who are too cool to work for minimum wage is a popular topic of discussion. “….and we get taxed to feed their kids while they sit around smoking and playing video games….looking for a free check.”

In my subculture, you want to help someone who listens, is cautious and doing their best to help themselves.  Democrats support policies that provide opportunities (leveling the playing field) for working class families and that is cool.  But, those who are shady, who love struggling and who don’t even vote are getting less sympathy from me.

We can’t continue as a society that constantly looks to mayors, governors and presidents to dramatically fix what we broke in our lives.  Congressmen and senators didn’t force you to be silly in school while others applied themselves.  The police didn’t persuade you to live a life of crime.

I am a moderate/centrist Democrat who would love to hear a candidate say that officeholders are limited in their roles and missions.  The political system is broken because our society is broken.  Everyone is a victim but the real culprit is in the mirror.  We need to spend this year listening to innovative social scientists and brace ourselves for their solutions because the truth hurts.

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Hillbilly Elegy is a good read for those interested in understanding rural people.  I have always thought words like Hillbilly and Ghetto can only be used as terms of endearment by members of those groups.  Attorney and author J.D. Vance gave us a fascinating look into life in Appalachia.  For me, the parallels to the Black community in rural Georgia are: Hillbilly=Ghetto; Holler=Hood; Hew Haw=Good Times.

We all know rich kids who crumble at the first problem in adulthood but not J.D. from the holler and not the folks from the hood who stayed positive.  Hillbilly Elegy feels like Boyz in the Hood to me.  At the end of that movie Tre and Brandi left south Central Los Angeles for Morehouse College and Spelman College in Atlanta.  They were better prepared for college and corporate America than bougie classmates that grew up with money because they had that “seasoning” J.D. also had.  On a recent episode of OWN’s Queen Sugar, a nice, rich Black teen Micah was arrested for simply driving while Black; he wet himself in the local jail.  Prep school and millions didn’t teach him want we knew.

Of course, we want all children to have safe, nurturing environments.  Surprisingly, the old segregated Black community was striving and culturally rich.  This blog often complains that the inmates are running the asylum today; thugs and thug elements are glamorized over clean living in our community.

Some of my friends are concerned that the Black elite selected as leaders simply aren’t familiar with the struggle of every aspect of Black life.  Once and for all, we are happy that we have generations after generations of Blacks with higher education and wealth.  Those people and liberal Whites from New England aren’t necessarily suited to understand the plight of the hood or the holler (holler is a corruption of hollow as in Sleepy Hollow.)  Every Black person doesn’t have knowledge of  welfare, the penal system and Section 8 housing.

Blacks and Whites who are living right often have disdain for those who can’t or won’t break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

Georgia’s most famous Hillbilly might be former Governor and U.S. Senator Zell Miller.  Like J.D. Vance, Miller tested his mettle in boot camp on Paris Island, South Carolina. He wrote a book called “Corps Values” in which he said everything he needed to know about life, he learned in the Marine Corps.  Miller says, “The first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging.”

In summary, J.D. Vance’s hard youth seems like Joseph from the Bible who was sold by his brothers into slavery but rose to wealth in Egypt.  Genesis 50:20 “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”  When Joseph told Pharaoh there would be seven years of plenty then seven years of famine, the sage advice seem like J.D.’s steelworking Papaw’s wisdom.  The Rust Belt and the South saw many high school graduates earning great wages but felling to spend wisely and save.

Vance’s life from the holler to Yale Law could make him the next Obama; you must buy his book.  He should help answer this question: How much energy and resources should society and the government spend on people who insist on pulling themselves down?   That question looms over the Georgia governor’s race in 2018 and the presidential race of 2020.  What shall become of the hood and the holler?

 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of A Family and Culture in Crisis

  1. p. 4 While reality permits some degree of cynicism, the fact that hillbillies like me are more down about the future than many other groups- some of whom are clearly more destitute than we are suggests that something else is going on.
  2. p. 127 As a teacher at my high school told me recently, “They want us to be sheperds to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves.”
  3. p. 138 Working as a cashier turned me into an amateur sociologist.
  4. p. 139 I could never understand why our lives felt like a struggle while those living off of government largesse enjoyed trinkets that I only dreamed about.
  5. p. 139 At least as often,, our drug-addict neighbor would buy T-bone steaks, which I was too poor to buy for myself but was forced by Uncle Sam to buy for someone else.
  6. p. 140 …it was my first indication that the policies of Mamaw’s “party of the working man” – the Democrats – weren’t all they were cracked up to be.
  7. p. 144 William Julius Wilson’s “The Truly Disadvantaged” : As millions migrated north to factory jobs, the communities sprouted up around those factories were vibrant but fragile: When the factories shut their doors, the people left behind were trapped in towns and cities that could no longer support such large populations with high-quality work. Those who could – generally the well-educated, wealthy, or well connected – left, leaving behind communities of poor people. The same was true of Charles Murray’s seminal Losing Ground, another book about black folks that could have been written about hillbillies – which addressed the way our government encouraged social decay through the welfare state.144 It would be years before I learned that no single book, or expert, or field could explain the problems of hillbillies in modern America. Our elegy is a sociological one, yes, but it is also about psychology and community and culture and faith.
  8. p. 147 We don’t study as children, ands we don’t make our kids study when we’re parents. We might get angry with them, but we never give them the tools – like peace and quiet at home- to succeed. “I don’t care if you got into Notre Dame,” we say, “You can get a fine, cheap education at the community college.” The irony is that for poor people like us, an education at Notre Dame is both cheaper and fine.
  9. p. 150 Consider my life before I moved in with Mamaw. In the middle of the third grade, we left Middletown….’
  10. p. 177 I’m not saying ability doesn’t matter. It certainly helps. But, there’s something powerful about realizing that you’ve undersold yourself- that somehow your mind confused lack of effort for inability.
  11. p. 191 But the president feels like an alien to many Middletonians for reasons that have nothing to do with skin color. Recall that not a single one of my high school classmates attended an Ivy League school. Barrack Obama attended two of them and excelled at both.  Nothing about him bears any resemblance to the people I admired growing up: His accent – clean, perfect, neutral- is foreign; his credentials are so impressive that they’re frightening.
  12. p. 192 With little trust in the press, there’s no check on the Internet conspiracy theories that rule the digital world.
  13. p.193 If you believe that hard work pays off, then you work hard; if you think it’s hard to get ahead even when you try, then why try at all?
  14. p. 194 There is a cultural movement in the White working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.
  15. p. 214 Social capital: The network of people and institutions around us have real economic value.
  16. p. 226 Adverse childhood experiences or ACEs are traumatic childhood events, and their consequences reach far into adulthood.
  17. p. 228 By almost any measure, American working-class families experience a level of instability unseen elsewhere in the world.
  18. p. 231 How much of our lives, good and bad, should we credit to our personal decisions, and how much is just the inheritance of our culture, our families, and our parents who have failed their children? How much is Mom’s life her own fault? Where does blame stop and sympathy begin?
  19. p. 242 In places like Utah, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts, the American Dream was doing just fine – as good or better than any place in the world. It was in the South, the Rust Belt, and Appalachia where poor kids really struggled.
  20. p. 244 These programs are far from perfect, but to the degree that I nearly succumbed to my worst decisions (and I came quite close), the fault lies almost entirely with factors outside the government’s control.
  21. p. 245 But, it was there, and studies now show that working-class boys like me do much worse in school because they view schoolwork as a feminine endeavor.
  22. p. 254 People like Brian and me don’t lose contact with our parents because we don’t care; we lose contact with them to survive. We never stop loving, and we never lost hope that our loved ones will change. Rather, we are forced, either by wisdom or by the law, to take the path of self-preservation.

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Campaigning and governing requires putting policies and situations in terms people can understand.  The policy wonks and campaign advisors on Capitol Hill and in Buckhead aren’t about is life in  “G. A. red clay.”  I have a few popular culture references to explain what’s what.

In the Geto Boys’ hit “My Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” Willie D said “Or is it the one I beat for five thousand dollars.  Thought he had caine but it was Gold Medal flour.” While I am no lawyer and intent is different in different states, Donald Trump Jr. thought he was about to getg dirt from a foreign government that could change the election….intent like thinking you purchased cocaine but got flour.  You tried to do something very wrong if not illegal.  If Watergate and Bill Clinton’s drama was a pebble, this mess is a basketball sized rock.

“I make big money. I drive big cars.  Everybody know me. It’s like I’m a movie star.”  President Ronald Reagan was a movie star turned governor but we shouldn’t forget that he was head of the Screen Actors Guild, a big union.  The Trumps thought making a lateral move from the private sector to public sector fame would be simple.  Running for office is like a Madison Avenue marketing campaign but actually governing with 300 million bosses is something else.

This nation owes a collective apology to Jeb Bush.  Donald Trump saw seeking and maybe being president as another project.  Jeb knew how hard being in high office was from watching his family to being governor of a big, diverse state.  Jeb said that he wouldn’t run if it required the sneakiness and lies that basically Trump used.  And may I say, the Black community will never support Trump because of his dirty treatment of Obama and will never support anyone for any office who thinks or thought he is presidential material.

Between a Transformer movie and the Terminator franchise, characters that can morph into something else puts me in the mind of some politicians.  Yea, these Decepticons run for office under one flag and switch.  The current Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was a Democrat a few years before he switched to the GOP and became governor of Georgia.  Nathan Deal is the governor now but was a moderate Democrat congressman.

Shakespeare wrote “what’s in a name, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Matthew 7:15-20 spoke of false prophets, ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing.  You will know good leaders by the fruits they bear because a corrupt tree can’t produce good fruit.

The skill set that got the Trumps rich disqualifies them to run the White House.  It’s the White House..not the oligarch-run Kremlin.

The mid-term elections of 2018 will be the first step for Republicans and Democrats in getting back to a normal government.  Regular Republicans are having second thoughts and some folks are discovering that deep federal cuts will hit them hard.  Their minds are playing tricks on them.

Obama and Hillary Clinton were about a strong defense but when possible soft power—using goodwill and temporary foreign assistance to help nations help themselves.  The Geto Boys sang “I live by the sword. I take my boys everywhere I go, because I’m paranoid. I keep lookin’ over my shoulder and peepin’ around corners.  My mind is playin’ tricks on me.”

That sounds like Trump, his sons and son in law to me (Ivanka is cool because she is down with Chelsea Clinton).   Trump and North Korea’s Kim live by the sword but Isaiah 2:4 spoke of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks—learning war  no more.

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Scriptures and southern sayings do more for you than the government.  The roles of the federal and state governments need to be reexamined during this non-election year.   My idea is that the best life doesn’t depend on what governmental officials do and we need to hear some of them say that.

Free Milk and a Cow: The Georgia Satellites use this saying as the central theme in their hit “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.”  Beyoncé sang something similar in “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It.)”  Grandmothers once taught girls to hold “the cookie” hostage until a young gentleman (literally a gentle man) presented a long term, whole life package that included caring for future children.  America will always provide a little temporary food assistance to needy families but the government is not now nor should it be your baby’s daddy for 18 years.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-15: Paul broke that thing down in this letter.  “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.  For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all but are busybodies.  Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work and eat their own bread.  But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

And if any man obeys not our word by this epistle, note that man and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet, could him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Society wants to help the needy but how do we have young parents who are too cool to flip burgers and toss watermelons.  But, you love your kids so much.  Hogwash.  We grew up with parents who had a job and a side job.  Paul’s “Disorderly” would be current thugs but Democrats shouldn’t consider them as the enemy…just brothers who never learned the right way.

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime: You help those who help themselves.  Unfortunately, we have a large number of half-raised people in this country.  Georgia Governor Nathan Deal was surprised to discover the amount of money our state spends on corrections.  I love calling the prison system “corrections” because that is what it is.  If a fraction of that money could have been spent on better college, technical schools and K-12, we would need less funding for corrections and have fewer crime victims.

Know who you are and whose you are: Back in the day, our community had pride.  You represented yourself, your family, your community, your race and your church in everything you did.  In his first book, Secretary Colin Powell wrote that we need to bring the concept of shame back in America and I agree.  If your kids are hungry but you won’t pick tomatoes as a job, you should be ashamed.  If that same person plays Xbox all day, he should be ashamed.  If you sell dope on the corner which poisons the community and creates a violent illegal commerce, shame on you.

Look, the American way should be an equal opportunity at success for everyone..a fair shot. If you blow off your shot with your actions (playing in school, disrespecting your family, being lazy), you are messing up an opportunity slaves and sharecroppers would have died to have.

They did die to have the right to vote but too many people in our community blow off voting.  Wait a second..the same young people getting temporary assistance don’t vote. Amazing.  The Trump Presidency is reality and  his plan is simple: Reduce government assistance to needy people, they can do the work currently done by illegals…the work Americans won’t do.

Black Lives Matter: Okay, I always thought this movement should have been Black Lives Matter Also but what do I know.  It’s not saying that other lives don’t matter..they do.  As a southern moderate, I find the progressive movement to be a little aggressive with the whole “what government did and what corporate America did” thing.  But, I was hyped to see a You Tube video say Black Lives should matter to Black people.

 

Yes, sir..there it is right there.  Jesus said one of the two greatest commandments was love your neighbor as yourself but you don’t love yourself.   If we took care of our community, the government would be secondary…”defend the borders and deliver the mail” is one more southern saying.

Oh, liberals don’t want to read this blog’s year-long treatise the Best Interests Initiative.

https://bestinterestsinitiative.wordpress.com/long-term-bii/

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The term “thinning the herd” comes to mind when I think about the private discussions ultra conservatives have regarding public health and ethics.  It’s messy business to mix our faith beliefs and mores with the public policy of a diverse nation and world.

In ranching, you evaluate your cattle to determine which ones will make it and you make hard decisions about the rest.  For humans, applying this concept is similar to Darwinian evolutionary theory or Survival of the Fittest.  The best America to me would be one in which everyone has a fair shot at a nice life.  Conversely, those who don’t grind hard or make poor decisions will deal with the consequences.  Of course, we could break out Jesus teachings on caring for the poor…your brethren.

In the 1980s, I had a feeling that some hardcore conservatives saw AIDS and Crack as thinning the herd.  Today, we are in the middle of a healthcare debate and Crack is replaced by opioids addiction.  When President Obama was trying to provide healthcare for as many people as possible, some thought “let the uninsured die”….thinning the herd.

Oh, they voted for Trump to Make America Great Again…more like Make America Hate Again.  With all of her issues and warts, America is now and has always been great.

But, wait.  President Trump breaks out a budget and some folks are surprise that they too have been eating at the public trough.  “Yea, lock up the crackhead and toss away the key in the 80s but this new drug has hit my family in the heartland…time for government funded treatment.”  We should pray that everyone breaks the chains of addiction.

Regarding abortion choice, the Clintons, the Obamas and I think abortions should be safe, legal and very rare.  Obviously, they are rare if fewer unwanted pregnancies occurred in the first place and I personally hope that people would explore options as early as possible.  But, it’s hard to impose your faith’s views on the nation as a whole.  If the founding fathers wanted to declare Christianity as the official religion of this nation, they would have.

The same people who are against early abortions support zero assistance to poor “born” babies and children.  They aren’t pro-life; they are just pro-birth.  If you are deep enough to conceptualize your unborn children, you should be compassionate enough toward them to have them when you can afford them.  If you never have the money or proper situation, you never have children.  I don’t know the answers.  To me, heaven sent every baby on earth down here but I also see people and think “that person needs a baby like a fish needs a bicycle.”

We need single-payer, universal coverage healthcare in America.  Look, the uninsured use the emergency room as a doctor’s office.  They wait until an easily treated issue becomes an expensive matter… $100 to $100,000 and the government still gets the bill.

I am also guilty of a little “thinning the herd” mentality.  My favorite blog post was “Fat On Food Stamps” because how did you get fat on public assistance.  Okay, I am over simplifying the situation but we need doctors to sound the alarm during annual physicals.  And if someone insist on unhealthy behavior, they dug their own grave… my goodness, I am a conservative Democrat.  I hope the progressives don’t thin the Democrat herd of me.

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Georgia is the Empire state of the South and our next governor will help define the next version of the New South.  A region that is busy hating and a fighting family can’t strive in the global economy.  During the turbulent Civil Rights era, Atlanta was known as the city too busy to hate.

As a moderate Democrat, hate isn’t an everyday part of my life; the same can be said for most of my Republican and Democrat friends.  But, politics and elections have been poisoned by marketing.  I recently introduced a smart friend to Dr. Frank Luntz, game changer.  Dr. Luntz got in the lab for Newt Gingrich and cooked up the 10 points in the Contract With America in the early 90s.  With control groups and testing, he discovered the hot button issues Newt use to move millions of Bill Clinton supporters from the Blue Team to the Red Team.

So, a Phd from Madison Avenue used marketing to move Main Street America for Wall Street.  The 10 points were brilliantly selected.   The issues made rural blood boil but fostered division for political gain.

Yesterday over the phone, I told the dean of grassroots politics in South Georgia that the Dems need to light a fuse with Stacey Abrams, Stacey Evans or Stacy Adams.  Can Stacy Abrams add new voters in record numbers and get them to vote the whole ballot for years?  Can Stacey Evans marry core Democrat issues with working class voters’ kitchen table concerns?  As the Bible says, iron sharpens iron.  A healthy primary between these two smart women could be like Hillary and Obama.

Who or what is Stacy Adams?  If you asked that question, you don’t know the sensible center of the South.  Stacy Adams is a brand of kidskin men dress shoes.  When men dress as gentlemen for church on Sunday and relaxing on Saturday, this was their shoe.  Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio says Democrats need voters who shower after work as well as those who shower before work.  I love his thinking.

I never wore those hard bottom Stacies because the comfort of Bass Weejuns and Rockports better served me.  However, my daddy swore by his classic Black lace-ups for decades.  Morris Day and the Time floated across the floor in Purple Rain in Stacy Adams.

As kids, we learned community commitment and Black honor in Nether’s Barber Shop in Sylvester, Georgia.  Men with steel in their backs would walk in with laundry pressed khakis, tucked-in golf shirts and polished Stacy Adams…smelling of Aqua Velva and confidence.  These men worked hard during the week—making someone else rich.  On our side of the railroad tracks, they were respected and we listened to every word of knowledge and wisdom.  Some men would wear Stacies with new overalls and of course, the shoes were popular with White southerners as well.

The kids today kill me with these soccer flip flops and socks…girls in house shoes at Walmart.  They are called “house” shoes for a reason.  I don’t understand how a young person owns three pairs of $200 Jordans, no car and wear God knows what to grandad’s funeral…oh, they rather walk than drive a $1000 car and wear Walmart sneakers.  In that coffin, grandad is wearing Stacy Adams and those grandkids would be much better if they had put down those phones and controllers listened to him.  Can you imagine kids fishing with Pa Pa….getting mud on their J’s.

For Stacey Evans and Stacey Abrams, getting key rural voters energized starts with their supporters having a comfort level in beauty and barber shops from Toccoa to Thomasville.  The old native American quote says never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins… or Stacy Adams, Timberlands, Jordans, Georgia Work Boots, flip flops etc.  The GOP, using Dr. Frank Luntz marketing techniques, would have you think that all Democrats are urban thugs seeking a free ride or latte-sipping liberals.  The grassroots guru told me yesterday that Georgia actually has more people who identify as Democrats than Republicans.  However, Republicans vote every election without fail.  Nationally, the Democrats won’t win if we can’t get those helped by our policies to the polls.