Tag Archives: shirley sherrod

2 sides to every story

There are two sides to every story, or so the conventional wisdom goes. And if you watch or read or listen to my colleagues for any length of time, you’d think that was exactly true.

But the second side to that story — that there are always two sides — is that there rarely is. Most of the time, there are multiple sides to every story, and sometimes — more often than you’d think — there really is just one.

For example, when TeaPublicans started clamoring about “death panels” in the health care reform bill, my colleagues dutifully reported it. And then they dutifully pitted a TeaPublican up against a Democrat to argue the point. Presto, two sides to the story. But you and I know there is just one side to that story — the TeaPublicans lied because there are no death panels.

Shirley Sherrod — there’s another one. One side. Shirley Sherrod told an inspiring story aimed at getting people to see they needed to get over their own racism. The rest of it? Bullshit, pure and simple. In her very nuanced tale — and we all know how nuance goes over in the black and white world of the TeaPublicans — Sherrod admitted that there is racism in the black community, otherwise why would she need to tell a story about overcoming her own?

That’s not something you see among the TeaPublicans. Nope. They busy denying the very existence of racism in their movement. All those signs and hurled epithets, they say, are from infiltrators trying to give them a bad name. According to them, not one single person in the movement is opposed to Barack Obama because of the color of his skin. It’s just his policies. That’s why they have to lie about the policies, y’know. Because they can’t argue rationally about the policies and programs and bill and such on their own merit, and they can’t admit to any racism. Lying is all that’s left. Socialism! Death panels! Fascism!

Yeah, they get confused too, because you can’t be a socialist and a fascist at the same time, no matter that the Nazis had socialist in their name. There’s a difference between socialists and national socialists, you see, but the TeaPublicans are fixated on that word “socialist,” probably because it contain the word “social,” which reminds them of the contract with “society” that we all have that they don’t want to honor.

Whew, that’s a buncha sides. Over in Europe, and a lot of other places, they understand that idea. But here in America all we’ve got are Republicans and traitors. All those other parties — the Green Party and such — they’re big liberal jokes, because only conservatives can have more than one party and still be serious in politics.

The conservatives are stuck in a really rigid dualism with absolutely no room for the slightest variation. Marriage must be between a man and a woman. The United States is a Christian nation. Republicans must vote “no” on every bill Obama and the Democrats put forward.

And the really funny thing is, if you put any stock into such things, that the source of their dualism is written right into the bible. It is. In Genesis. That whole eating the apple thing. This serpent tells Adam and Eve that if they go ahead and eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that they’ll be like god and that that’s why god doesn’t want them to do that — he’s threatened by the idea of humans having knowledge of the difference between good and evil. So they eat, but there was one thing that the serpent failed to mention: Puny little humans just aren’t capable to understanding the world the way god can. Trapped in physical bodies on a physical earth, they just can’t see anywhere near enough of the big picture to comprehend the nuance involved in detecting the sometimes minute differences between good and evil. God wasn’t threatened at all — he just knew what would happen, what did happen.

Humans who bought into this monotheistic thing think they know what god wants. They arrogantly believe that they know what’s right and what’s wrong for everyone in the world. Dualism. Black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. Two sides to every story. Oh, how wrong they are.

And right there it is in that book they swear was inspired by god, despite all the contradictions and just plain ugliness. Humans ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but, without the ability to see the universe from god’s perspective, they had nothing more than a perverted sense of right and wrong, and they went about applying to everyone because their arrogance told them that they and only they knew the way.

Sad, isn’t it? For millennia, these folks have tortured and killed and imprisoned their way around the planet, convinced of their own righteousness even though the bible they claim as the word of god tells them plainly they don’t have a clue. How many millions have died and suffered because of this?

And it still goes on today — I’m right, you’re wrong. Two sides. No room for variation.

If I were of their ideology, I’d be scared shitless, wondering just when god is gonna have enough and wipe this place clean to start again.

That’s the other side to the biblical story of creation — that the monotheists got it wrong, and we’re stuck with the ramifications.

But I don’t share that ideology, although it does seem to me there’s a bit of truth in the idea that the god followers blinded themselves to the great variety that is this life on earth. I sure see very little evidence these days that they have any comprehension at all that two sides is just too limiting.

If you have a choice to make, and the choice is between two things, you really don’t have much of a choice. You have a dilemma.

It’s not the color of your skin

Dear white people

First of all, I want to assure you that my dislike of you isn’t because of the color of you skin. It’s the “people” part. I really don’t care much for people, regardless of the skin color, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religious or economic background or national origin. Most of you are just too predictable, too willing to believe anything as long as it fits your preconceived notions. And you wear those preconceived notions on your sleeves, telegraph them with your eyes and reveal them in the patterns of your speech.

And yes, I have noticed that I am a people too. If I weren’t me, I probably wouldn’t like me either. But I’ve been with me for several decades now, and while I don’t always trust myself, I have come to an understanding that keeps me from shuffling off this mortal coil for some trivial reason.

How I came to that understanding was simple, although it took a fair number of those decades to really comprehend. It’s just this: I ask myself every day, several times a day, one little question: What if I’m wrong?

It keeps me humble, this realization that I could be wrong. It also keeps me from buying into everything that’s thrown my way, even if it agrees with my way of thinking, my ideology, if you will.

Ew. That’s a Darth Cheney phrase. And by the way, I’m well aware that I’m generalizing here. But I’m trying to make a point. If none of this describes you, terrific. If any of it does — or if you find you’re getting angry with me for saying it — take a deep breath and think long and hard before you respond.

Anyway, because I know that I could be wrong, I want to check out everything I read, see or hear because I’d like to minimize the chance that I am wrong. I don’t like to be wrong, but sometimes I am, and when I am, I want the harsh truth shoved into my face so I can admit it and go on about my business.

Too many people — and white people, you are some of the most egregious offenders — can’t conceive of the possibility you might be wrong. But I suspect that way deep in your minds, you fear you might be, but can’t ask the question. So you surround yourself with other people who believe what you believe and will assure you of your correctness.

I gotta tell ya, that ain’t no way to live.

Look what happens when you live like that. You listen to bloviators, watch news shows with a clear agenda, read blogs and books and newspapers that offer no space for an open mind. So when Fox News tells you that a guy named Van Jones, who is the White House “green jobs czar,” is a convicted felon who spent six months in jail for something vague having to do with the Rodney King riots, you look at Van Jones and you believe it. You don’t question it, not for a moment, and you join the rowdy cacophony calling for his head. And, Van Jones — who has never been convicted of a crime or spent a day in jail and is imminently qualified to guide the administration’s strategy to create environmentally sound jobs — loses his. And you cry “Victory!”

And when your news sources tell you that an organization called ACORN is involved in massive voter fraud and even stole the Minnesota Senate election from Norm Coleman for that socialist comedian Al Franken, you look at the leaders of ACORN and call for their heads. And when your news sources play videos that seem to show an man and a woman outrageously dressed as a pimp and a prostitute getting advice on running an underaged whore house, you look at ACORN’s employees and you go absolutely berserk. And ACORN — which has never been charged with felony voter fraud (some of its registrars, generally poor people they hire in various locals to register people to vote, have been charged with voter registration fraud) — loses its federal funding and is forced to shut down. And again, you cry “Victory!” even though the videos you saw were heavily edited, the couple never appeared to ACORN employees dressed as a pimp and prostitute and every single investigation of the matter completely exonerated the group.

Then your news sources tell you about the very scary New Black Panther Party, which was charged with voter intimidation in Philadelphia only to see the charges dropped by the Justice Department, which is, of course, absolute proof that the Obama administration won’t pursue charges against black people. You looked at the New Black Panther Party and screamed “Racism!” and your news sources pour it on. But they don’t tell you the truth about the New Black Panther Party, the charges against them or the Justice Department. The New Black Panther Party, which has no connection to the original Black Panther Party (whose members have strongly condemned it and even sued it), is an offshoot of the Nation of Islam. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, which monitor such things, have labeled it a hate group. And the voter intimidation? One armed member of the group showed up at a polling station in a heavily black precinct in Philadelphia and was escorted away by the police. Because the incident was videotaped, the Justice Department filed charges and investigated, finding that no one filed a complaint charging voter intimidation and the deluded idiot thought he was there to “protect” the black voters. A career attorney — not a political appointee — made the decision to drop the charges. But you look at Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama and keep crying “Racism!” because there’s no way Fox News could possibly be wrong.

And then there was Shirley Sherrod, the state director for rural development for the Department of Agriculture in Georgia. Your news sources showed you a two minute video tape in which Sherrod says she didn’t give a white farmer her “full” help. They tell you this is what the Obama Agriculture Department is doing — discriminating against white people. You look at Shirley Sherrod and scream “Racism!” and Shirley Sherrod loses her job, even though the rest of her 45 minutes speech shows clearly that she was using her personal experience to share a life lesson — that we must move beyond racism, that poverty is colorblind — and that the incident took place 24 years ago, long before she started working at USDA. And you cry “Victory!” even as the administration delivers mea culpa after mea culpa. And you believe it when your news sources tell you that this heavily edited video shows members of the NAACP applauded racism (it doesn’t — but since you didn’t watch the tape you don’t know that) and that it wasn’t about Shirley Sherrod, who lost her job, but about that racist NAACP.

You are angry with the NAACP because your news sources told you that the organization condemned the entire Tea Party as racist. You look at the Tea Party and scream “It’s the NAACP that’s racist!” and you nod and shout some more when your news sources tell you there’s no proof whatsoever that the Tea Party is racist. But the NAACP didn’t do what your news sources told you. They passed a resolution calling on the Tea Party to divest itself of racist elements, to go further than media statements condemning racism and actually remove those elements. But because your news sources have told you that the “racist elements” so visible at Tea Party rallies are liberal plants, you ignore what’s actually been said and keep screaming “Racism!”

That’s what you do, white people. But here’s the thing. Your leaders and your news sources have snookered you, just like they snookered the NAACP and the administration with that heavily edited video of Shirley Sherrod. They are playing on your fears, your distrust of “the other” that comes from both an eternity of human history and a more recent history of America.

And they’ve been doing this same thing for years. Lying to you. They tell you black people get everything and you get nothing. They tell you a gay couple getting married will destroy your own marriage. They tell you the liberals are going to make it impossible for you to worship in your church and possibly make it illegal. They tell you Barack Obama and all liberals are socialists, that illegal immigrants are taking away your jobs and your health care, clogging up the schools and ruining America because they’re all drug smugglers.

They have made you believe that you are a victim. But you’re not. None of those things are true. Oh, there’s a kernel of truth in each one, but it’s nothing like what you’re told.

Black people are hundreds of years behind you, having spent hundreds of years as slaves to your ancestors. No, it’s not your fault. But what little comes to them to help erase centuries of discrimination takes nothing away from you. It is not a zero sum game. A gay marriage changes your marriage only in that it becomes more inclusive, and no, not including marriages between man and beasts or man and children (that belongs to fundamentalist Mormons) or man and man and man and woman and woman and woman. Liberals don’t care how you worship, or that you do, only that you don’t use your religious beliefs to tie the hands of the rest of us. That you see abortion as murder does not make it so. Don’t have one, but leave the rest of us out of it. And we’re not socialists. Well, some of us are. Frankly, a little socialism would do us some good. It’s unbridled capitalism that has cost you your jobs and your bank accounts, not illegal immigrants or black people. And illegal immigrants are illegal because we’ve lost what we once were and it’s too damn hard to be legal. Yes, some of them are drug smugglers, but they’re not the ones mowing your lawn or trying to get their children a decent education so they can earn enough money to live, something that is awfully hard where they come from.

You, white people, you look at all these millions of people and don’t see people. You see “not me.” But you’re wrong. And all the people telling you you’re not are lying to you.

We’re all you. You’re all us.

I’d like you all — white, black, Muslim, Christian, etc. — a helluva lot more if you just realized that and stopped listening to the power-mad deceivers who have your ear. I’d even like me better if you did that, because I’d have much less reason to be angry, to worry about our future.

And so would you.

Calling bullshit

I’ve been laughing for two days. That conservative nimrod Andrew Breitbart and the PR wing of the Teapublicans, Fox News, got caught with their pants down on this Shirley Sherrod thing.

They ran with an edited video, a specialty of Breitbart’s, and then, alluva sudden, it turned out their “interpretation” of the edits was spectacularly wrong.

Of course, the NAACP and the Obama administration get black marks for this too. In typical, knee-jerk, liberal fashion, they caved to the great conserverati and blasted poor Shirley to kingdom come. Cost her her job, one she was imminently qualified for.

Ben Jealous, the NAACP president — to his credit — called Sherrod and apologized. The Obama administration? Well, the president agrees with his Agriculture Secretary’s boneheaded decision to force Sherrod out, proving once and for all that it is led by the nose by the conservati.

Here’s the thing: what Sherrod was doing in that video was having the conversation about race that we all need to be having. The one the administration can’t be bothered with, and the one the conservarati don’t think is necessary. Unless you’re a minority. White people, of course, are just the poor, downtrodden victims of the liberal drive to destroy the true American (read white) culture.

Honestly, man, there is no white culture, unless you count collecting guns and whining that they pay too much taxes in a country with one of the lowest tax rates in the world. Just about everything else about white “culture” came from somewhere else, somebody else, some other culture.

But this is not rocket science. The conservarati and their deluded followers would have us believe there is no racism anywhere. They’d have to be trying to convince us of that if they have the gall to say there’s no racism in the Tea Party.

That’s why Breitbart and Fox are after the NAACP, pretty much the same way they went after ACORN and killed it (although every investigation exonerated ACORN and we learned that Breitbart’s pimp video was bullshit too).

They’re all pissed off because the NAACP passed a resolution (which, incidentally, won’t be completely official until and unless its board passes it in October) that condemned racist elements in the Tea Party and called on its leaders to do so as well.

As usual, the conservarati lied about what the resolution said, thus creating a false controversy that my colleagues have dutifully kept in the spotlight. Contrary to what you may have heard, the NAACP did not call the Tea Party racist. It simply pointed out racist elements, you know, like the Tea Partiers who carry big posters of the president with a bone through his nose.

I’m beginning to believe, though, that these throwbacks to the Jim Crow era may really believe that the things they do and say aren’t racist. Take Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams and his ridiculously stupid “letter” from Jealous to Abe Lincoln, in which he has Jealous complaining that emancipation means the “coloreds” actually have to work to get their wide screen TVs in every room.

Williams thought he was being cute. But he was really just being a jackass. And now this Sherrod thing — damn, even RedState’s Erick Erickson says it’s a load of crap.

But not the president. He’s behind AgSec Tom Vilsack and his uninformed decision to have his people force Sherrod to resign.

Chalk up another wasted opportunity. Here’s what Sherrod was doing. In her speech, one she’s actually delivered several times, she talks about the first time she had to work with a white farmer who was in danger of losing his farm. Now, Shirley and her husband Charles are also farmers, and back in the 1960s, they joined with a bunch of other black farmers to create a land trust called New Communities to help black farmers do what they do — farming. So Sherrod had a lot of experience, several decades worth, helping black farmers in rural area (in her case Georgia) deal with the institutional racism that kept them from getting the help they needed and that white farmers and corporations got all the time.

But one day 24 years ago, she was assigned to a white farmer, Roger Spooner. In her speech, she talks honestly about her own racism — and how it nearly derailed her efforts to help the Spooners. But she wised up and got them the help they needed, saving the farm.

What she’s doing in this speech is using personal experience to teach about changing attitudes, about stepping outside ourselves and looking at a much larger picture, in this case, once that included a white farmer in rural Georgia. It’s called a “teaching moment,” and Shirley Sherrod uses that moment well.

But then come the racists who don’t think they are, bound and determined to soil the NAACP and wrecking Shirley Sherrod’s career in the process. “This isn’t about Shirley Sherrod,” whined Breitbart on CNN.

Yeah, it is, Andy, you fucker. You made it about her by presenting what she was doing in a way you damn well knew was wrong. But that didn’t stop you, because you have made it your life’s goal to obliterate humanity from the United States of America. What a pitiful, despicable goal that is.

And how much better you’d be — we’d all be — if you realized this was another teaching moment, one in which you’d learn something.

But he won’t. None of those assholes will. Erickson, while admitting Breitbart had screwed up, nevertheless defended what the jackass was trying to do — prove that black people are racists too and that those aforementioned poor, downtrodden white people are constantly being called racist simply because they are angry that black people get all the breaks.

Like hell.

Here’s what I’m hoping for — I’m hoping that my colleagues finally get it this time that we need to be calling bullshit on this crap. We cannot continue to give these fools precious airtime to spread their vicious lies, and it doesn’t matter if they’re self-styled conservative website publishers like Breitbart, batshit insane congresscritters like Michelle Bachman or Fox Fucking News, which has been beating the racism drum for months now with no one daring to call them on it.

That needs to be all over. Conservatives have good ideas. But they don’t bother with that. Instead they instill fear and loathing in the populace by promoting complete distortions like the tale of Shirley Sherrod. It’s time my colleagues let go of the idea they have to present “both sides” to be fair. When one side believes completely insane things, you’re not being fair. You’re stupidly elevating insanity to the level of reason.

This country used to know that. But since my colleagues have, for the most part, abandoned their obligation to get to the truth and tell that out of some fear of offending the lunatics, very few of us know it now. Instead, when we turn on the television or read a newspaper we hear Jon Kyl, the other crazy senator from Arizona (what is it with that state anyway?) saying that cutting taxes for the rich isn’t spending money so it’s OK if that increases the deficit that the conservarati are absolutely apoplectic about if it has anything about helping people who need help.

I am so fucking sick of hearing the talking heads blather on with their spin-laden talking points on every goddamn cable television show. They don’t say a damn thing that means anything, and yet, there they are, again and again and again and again.

And Shirley Sherrod lost her job. But it’s not about her. It’s about killing real freedom and hitting the knees of this country with iron bars.

Oh, right. It’s the people we should be concerned with. The white people. Particularly the rich ones. And they must be Christian, and no gays allowed.

Shirley isn’t one of the “real” Americans, you know. She’s just a lazy black woman who’s worked her whole live for justice and learned somewhere along the way that justice for all really means all.

That’s something the conservati can’t accept. Damn them for it. They need to get their heads out of their own asses and live up to their (for now) false creed of being “for the people.”