I’m a big Law And Order TV show fan. I started watching it around 2010 and since then I’ve seen every episode at least twice. It is the only TV program I watch where I know the names of all the characters and the names of the actors who portray the characters. Nowadays when I watch it, there’s a kind of surreal, nostalgic quality about it that causes me to long to go back in time. I find it interesting that ten or fifteen years ago the show explored many of the issues we are wrestling with today, and comes to many of the same conclusions we express today. However, no matter which side of the argument you rooted for, there was a sense of honesty and fair play by the police, district attorneys and judges portrayed on the show. Although the staring protagonists were both liberal and conservative, you had the sense that the police detectives were well trained and ethical and were all appropriately monitored by internal affairs, the DAs and the defense attorneys stayed within the law in their adjudications and the judges placed Constitutional law at the forefront of all their decisions. Justice was fair and swift for all concerned, especially minorities. Those shows professed to be a realistic portrayal of real life policing and the court system. In light of recent revelations regarding the innocently accused languishing in jail for sometime years awaiting trail because they can’t afford bail, for example, we now know those shows were pure fantasy.
Yet I continue to watch them as though I was addicted. I think part of the reason is that at least for the hours I watch the marathon of re-runs, I can again experience that comfortable feeling that our system of law and government, though not perfect, is being conducted by well educated competent people, motivated for the most part by the desire to do the right thing for everyone involved. It saddens me to think that as a country we are actually considering doing away with those honorable intentions forever.
This past week, I listened to a program that featured a discussion by David Brooks, a conservative journalist and a liberal journalist (who’s name escapes me right now) regarding their takeaways from the Democratic and Republican conventions. At the end of the discussion, the two guests were asked to describe in their own words what America was being asked to choose in this upcoming election. The liberal guest impressed me as more vague and subjective in his response, but David Brooks, the conservative guest was much more specific. He pointed out that Trump could make real headway by exploiting the unrest of the Black Lives Matter protests and that there was an innate anxiety among white voters around that kind of issue. But he said what it comes down to is this: America is being asked to look at the conflict, chaos and mismanagement we are now experiencing and decide if we can best address it by ending the cast system that particularly African Americans have endured since the countries inception in favor of a more inclusive and just society, or do we want to scrap democracy and the rule of law in favor of an autocratic, white supremist government and continue the conflict at the expense of our personal wellbeing. To be clear, those were not his exact words, but my interpretation of what he said.
I found it interesting that the theme of the Republican convention seemed to be that only Donald Trump can eliminate the death, disease and social unrest that his administration to a large degree created and is currently presiding over. Common sense would suggest that the first step in solving those problems is to get ride of the person who created the problem. All I can say is, God help us if the majority of the electorate buys into that bit of Republican hustle.
A Joe Biden presidency offers America a chance to hit the pause button and give us all time to reboot our society while we decide how we can most effectively proceed going forward. He’s not going to make any drastic changes and he certainly is not going to make things any worse than they are right now. I was very concerned about the shooting in Wisconsin last week. With a well armed America where many of the activists on both sides are running around with guns, if we continue on the way we are now, with the White House spewing the same rhetoric that ISIS recruiters used to instigate young Muslim men to join their cause, it’s just a matter of time before we have our Lexington and Concord moment, and the real civil war begins. As Americans, we are playing with fire if we don’t first do everything we can, whether we are Democrat or Republican, to see to it that the election is fair. Red states should take the lead in this and insist that their congressmen either restore the Post Office, or place a moratorium on all none essential mail the week before the election, to insure all ballots are received and counted. It is in neither side’s interest to cast doubt on the validity of the election. Let’s avoid a hell of our own making.
One last thing: I’m frequently asked why I bother to appeal to Trump supporters in my commentary, since chances are, very few are reading anyway. I do so because I think it is important that we all understand who we are if order is to be maintained in our society. When you think about it, all our politics, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, is motivated by fear. As a black man, the fear that motivates me resides in history and in the present. Regardless of my accomplishments professionally, economically and socially, the color of my skin inextricably ties me to the lowest achieving black person in the country in terms of how I’m treated by police and the courts. I am Democrat by default. There is no practical alternative for me. My Republican leaning white friends on the other hand, fear loss of identity – identity as Americans and as householders. They will tell you more often than not, they are only concerned with the economy (basically money). But all the things money can buy are part of their identity, a false identity manufactured by cultural conditioning almost from birth. Consequently, many of them see themselves as the pinnacle of humanity and separate and apart from everyone else in society. Their inclination is to support the status quo even though it’s built on a foundation of racism. (There is a very accomplished white educator named Jane Elliot, who provides an impressive, in depth explanation of this on Facebook). But white Republicans, unlike me, have a real choice in this election and in every election for that matter. Because regardless of the outcome, their lives won’t fundamentally change except possibly for the better. They can vote to end the practices that keep us divided and fearful or to support the status quo, which inevitably will lead to a more dreadful future, in my opinion.
If COVID has taught us nothing else it is that we are all immersed in a giant stew of humanity. Individually, we are just bits of beef scattered throughout the stock. Our fate is intimately tied to each other’s. If the broth is too hot for one of us it eventually will burn all of us.