(To my family and friends: What follows is not my normal post, nor does it represent my intent for this trip. But this extraordinary time and unprecedented election has not left room for norms or my intentions)
I think I was about 12 years old when I saw the original ‘Jackie Robinson Story’. You might remember that Jackie Robinson played himself and even though it was filmed in 1950, it represented a significant attempt to record the bigotry and challenges he faced as first black major league baseball player. It would have been a Sunday. We only had over-air TV and the Sunday Matinee Movie started at two o’clock.
What I remember was what you would expect. The scenes when this dignified and stoic man was verbally accosted from the stands. But as I recall, my 12 year old reaction was not directed at the bullies. I understood bullies. I had recently moved from California to Michigan and was a particularly awkward adolescent, who, if my new classmates were to be believed, resembled something of a primate. No, what I remember wondering about were the other grown ups. The ones who stood in the stands with the bullies. Weren’t they just as bad? Wasn’t their silence an indictment of the whole stadium?
So today I received two emails from two family members. One explained, along with poignant photos of soldiers embracing their families, that the ACLU had filed suit to eliminate prayer from the military. Involuntary eye roll, debunk on Snopes, copy, paste, send. Then came another one explaining that, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, ‘little Shakiel’ answered, a ‘welfare recipient’. The email went on to present reams of data, by state, of welfare benefits to be had (you can make over $60,000 a year in Hawaii and not work a day). For an added kicker, it listed all the pension money and benefits that Nancy Pelosi and others will be enjoying ‘for life’, It took a little more than Snopes on this one (suffice it to say, the Cato Institute featured heavily), but debunk1, debunk2, copy, paste, send.
Ah, technology. It is the final irony that the easier it is to research information, the more people cling to concepts and beliefs that validate their worse instincts. I used to think that the correct response was simply to supply data, apply logic and engage in discourse. It may not be that simple. For three national elections in a row, I have travelled across this country and recorded the fears that brought me these two emails. Christians convinced that their religion is under attack. People tired of their tax money supporting immigrants and lazy people who simply want not to work. Feelings so deep that facts cannot and do not impede.
Yesterday I wrote about the lifelong pattern of cruelty that defines Donald Trump for me. Applying the same measure to Hillary reveals a lifetime of unrelenting public service. Imperfect. Flawed. But consistent and dogged.
So I ask you this. When do we stop sitting quietly in the stands? We have watched Hillary for over 30 years in this game of politics. We have watched as investigation after investigation have revealed little or no wrong doing. It is clear the scrutiny has resulted in a defensiveness that we all might agree is understandable, if not prudent. The emails reveal that Hillary has behaved like a politician and we collectively clutch our pearls. When do we give full voice to what we see in front of us?
Our silence risks giving this election to a bully who has shown a willingness to not only destroy his competitors, but the game itself. Stand up. Stand up for Hillary, the ACLU and little Shakiel’s everywhere.