They Said They’d Take The Country Back
When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States back in the 2008 elections, it didn’t take long for people totally against his very being to retaliate. Before he could even set foot in the White House as its legal resident, people were putting together political rallies promising to take their country back. I thought it was a rhetorical statement, so I rhetorically asked take the country back from whom? I also asked take the country back where? I saw a lot of people in tricorn hats with tea bags hanging off of them promising a return to old fashioned family values. I had imagined a lot of these people wanted to go back to something resembling the fifties social structure lovingly depicted in episodes of Leave It To Beaver or My Three sons where men went to work, women stayed at home, and everything that was wrong in the world could be made right again in thirty minutes with a good lecture from dad.
This was the world I imagined a lot of people wanted to go back to. It’s the type of world where black people knew their place and it wasn’t next to Wally and Beaver. Minorities existed but they were out of sight for the most part. As former Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour would say, when he was growing up back in the day everybody got along because the town leaders wouldn’t accept any trouble out of anybody. Considering he grew up in fifties Mississippi, it’s not hard to conclude that few towns had black people as leaders. Mississippi invented the term “sundown town”. It doesn’t take much imagination to wonder what those good white town leaders would do with black people who tried to buck the status quo. There’s little tolerance for black people who tried to stir things up.
Fifties Mississippi is one of those places I think of when I think of black people being denied their humanity. There was no right for black people to vote. There was no right for black people to enjoy the same quality of life white people enjoyed. And black people who didn’t know their place and stepped out of line where dealt with harshly. White people obviously loved the time of blatant black people suppression. It probably was part of their system of values. But for most black people, I imagine it was the closest thing to the days of hell when America’s institutionalized enslavement of black people was the law of the land.
People in the United States should look back at this time in our collective and hang our heads in shame. We were supposed to be the democratic model for the rest of the world and yet our white ancestors did everything they could to foster racial inequality. We often say that those days are over and that we would never allow such a thing to happen again. And yet, in twenty first century America, right after a black man had the audacity to win the highest public office in our land and people in tricorn hats promised to take their country back, we see more examples of things going back to the way it was six decades ago.
In twenty first century America individual states are suddenly passing voter identification laws that are predicted to have an adverse impact on the black community. These laws are justified under the excuse that voting fraud is becoming pandemic. Since we must do something to keep the less than one case per state per year average of voting fraud instances from getting out of hand, we have to implement new identification standards that has the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands if not millions of voters, the vast majority of which are minorities who just so happen to vote for people like Barack Obama. These people are less likely to look back on the culture of the fifties with adoration. If anything, that pre civil rights era was a nightmare of epic proportions for people of color. It was awful. And whenever somebody brings up America’s history of blatant racism and racial discrimination, many people claim that such a thing could never happen again because we have learned from our past mistakes.
But here we are just a few years after people promised they would take their country back. Now I know that they meant taking the country back to a time when people were denied their right to vote unless they paid good money to get the necessary documentation to prove that they are entitled to a free voter identification card. What is essentially a poll tax is happening right here in the twenty first century because four years ago a black man had the audacity to think that his place was in the White House, far outside the norm of acceptable behavior for people of color.
The issue of voter fraud is nothing more than a smoke screen. Voter fraud has never been proven to be widespread. It has never been used to change the outcome of an election. But the same can’t be said about all of the new voter identification laws that are being enacted across the country. The right to vote that people have died for is being taken away without much in the way of a fight. People are losing their right to vote until they can prove beyond a shadow of doubt that they in fact are so privileged. One conservative politician actually promised that the new voter identification laws in Pennsylvania was going to put Mitt Romney in the White House. People know the true intent of what’s really going on here.
The people in the tricorn hats like to say that they are all for freedom and for the preservation of the United States Constitution and are all patriotic dressing up in their red, white, and blue Uncle Sam outfits or in some New England settlers getup. They like to talk about personal rights and how important it is for them to be protected from the evil terrorists who want to destroy this country with their weapons of mass destruction. And yet, these same people can turn right around and applaud as the voting rights of their fellow Americans are taken away by our own politicians with the much more massive weapon of destruction called the pen that can take people’s rights away with a single stroke. That pen is so powerful it can turn back the hands of time and transport us all back into fifties era Mississippi. Three years ago when they said they wanted to take their country back I didn’t think they meant that literally.