NAACP

Follow the Leader

This here’s my Stepford Wife pose…please make a note of it…

What I’ve always loved about the news business is the chances that it’s given me to use what I picked up in the Sociology classes that I took both in high school and college.

Now what do I mean by that? I mean that when big, sort of cataclysmic things happen in news, stuff like the Sept. 11 Terrorist Attacks, the election of Barack Obama as our nation’s first President of color, the school shootings in places like Columbine and Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon bombings, we find out where we are as a society. Not the window dressing that we put on daily just to get around, but the stuff behind the curtain.

In other words, the Wizard of Oz comes out from behind the curtain when we’re hit with a national disturbance or a change that we didn’t see coming.

Last Saturday, we had one of those national disturbance things happen in the form of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

In case you were in a cave somewhere last weekend, and I don’t think that being in a cave could have even kept you from getting this information, Zimmerman was found not guilty on all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, a unarmed teen whose only crimes as far as I can see were (a) being a Black teen in a neighborhood that wasn’t his own and (b) being a Black teen in a neighborhood that wasn’t his own, wearing a hoodie, and defending himself when some dude with a gun decided to come at him.

As I said at the beginning of this post, stuff like the Zimmerman verdict, stuff that everyone in the country has taken a position of some sort on, tends to show us where we are as a country. Social Media has become the mother of all GPS systems and has really given us a pinpointed location in this regard.

So here’s where the Post-Zimmerman verdict GPS seems to be pointing.

One, I’ve noticed that a lot of folks, most of them White, all of them Conservative, think that Trayvon Martin deserved to get shot.

I have heard from a lot of the Conservatives that I let populate my Social Media life that Trayvon was a thug, he wore a hoodie, he was up to no good, and he sucker punched Zimmerman, so he deserved to be shot.

I surmised that these folks got their butts kicked a lot in high school because the only people who would think that it’s okay to shoot someone because they’re kicking your butt in a fight that YOU started are folks who got their butts kicked a lot in high school.

Under the Stand Your Ground law in Florida it’s perfectly legal to do this. I can’t change that as much as I’d like to. But folks, don’t try and justify it. While it’s legal, it doesn’t make it any less wrong. And it doesn’t make George Zimmerman any less of a punk because he decided to end a fight with a gun that he couldn’t end with his hands.

The GPS has also pointed me to this conclusion: Many of the same folks who think that Trayvon Martin deserved to get shot also believe that African Americans are incapable of something that we’re actually pretty good at.

Multitasking.

They believe that African Americans are not allowed to speak out about the injustice they perceive the Zimmerman verdict to be because they’re not paying enough attention to Black on Black crime.

(*cracking my knuckles because my fingers are gonna need to be really nimble for this*)

Now do I start at the section where this insults the intelligence of an entire race of people or do I go directly to the part where I use the word hypocrite a lot?

I think I’ll start at the insult because the ignorance implied in it burns and I’d like to put it out.

Because I’ve had times where I’ve had to remind certain White folks that I was not only as smart as they were, but in many cases smarter in my sleep, I’m sort of used to having to battle the perception that Blacks don’t know their heads from their asses.

So while having the folks who think that Trayvon Martin Deserved To Get Shot camp tell me that they find it impossible for Blacks to work for justice on both the Trayvon front and, for want of a better way to put it, The Children of the Corn front, is an annoyance, it’s a familiar one.

It was the Black folks, especially the College Educated Black Folks, that I found disappointing. When people of color with college educations start buying into this mess, I feel the Earth vibrating because the Talented Tenth are once again making W.E.B DuBois do double-back somersaults in his grave.

I didn’t see every piece of video in this particular vein, but I did see NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley’s interview with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo. In case you didn’t, here it is:

Now people were more than a little mean to the Round Mound of Rebound on this, and I have a problem with people advocating that someone not be allowed to speak. But while I don’t believe that Black folks are a monolith, that Barkley is going along with something that was disproven in court, namely the whole “Trayvon had none of Zimmerman’s DNA on him, so how could he have hit him?” thing is a little troubling.

(Editor’s Note: I know that some of you want me to start calling people Uncle Toms here, but I won’t. If you call a Black person who bashes other Black people an Uncle Tom, you are insulting a noble literary character who allowed himself to be beaten to death rather than sell out his fellow slaves. Maybe we need to put “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe back on scholastic reading lists…many folks need to re-read it…)

I’ll end this section by pointing out that it’s more than a little disingenuous for people who have had no real concern about Black on Black Crime in the past to try and use this case to deflect that lack of concern onto Blacks themselves. Let’s be honest here. Your sudden concern is more about neutralization than anything else. You’re hoping that if you shout “Well, what about Black on Black Crime?!” loud enough that you’ll distract people from working toward the goal of decriminalizing the very existence of Black men.

Because let’s again be honest here: if being a Black man suddenly becomes decriminalized: meaning the ability to wear anything you want to without getting shot; the end of the assumption of criminality because one is Black On Thursday; and the right to self-defense without fear, what will you do with all of that prison space?

First of all, if I had a nickel for every press release, invitation to visit, and request to mentor that I get from groups in the Black community that are working their asses off on less-than-shoestring budgets to try and keep Black children from killing each other, I’d be sitting off the coast of Barcelona in a really nice villa writing books about baseball and coming back to the States during the summer just to catch a few games.

And secondly, let’s get down to the hypocrisy part.

One of my Facebook friends felt the need to post this picture to my timeline a couple of nights ago.

Oooh…It’s Al and Jesse…Let’s use this to try and scare ’em off…!

In case you don’t know who these gentlemen are, they are the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Or as I like to call them, The Straw Men That Folks Pull Out Whenever A Discussion of Racism or Civil Rights Comes Up.

As you can see, it’s a picture with some statistics about Black on Black crime and a demand that either of these gentlemen, or anyone else in the Black community, be able to name a Black person that’s been killed. When this was slapped on my page, it was done so with the belief that it would shame people into no longer talking about Trayvon.

Since I can name a couple of Black folks who were killed by other Blacks since Trayvon Martin’s death, mostly because they were former Children of the Corn, it was all I could do not to break out the bag of hammers.

But instead, my Significant Other The Sportswriter With The African American Studies Degree pointed out something else to me that I hadn’t thought of.

He asked, “When are we gonna start talking about White on White crime?”

Since Feb. 26, 2012, the day that Trayvon Martin was shot, there’s been more than a few mass murders.

Let’s start with the latest one: June 9, 2013: John Zawahri, 23, was shot and killed by police at Santa Monica College, but not before killing his brother and father at home three other people at school, carjacking someone, and shooting at passersby.

But here’s some more thanks to our friends at Mother Jones and USA Today and they all have one thing in common: They were perpetrated by White people:

  • July 20, 2012: James Holmes, a graduate student at a Colorado University, went into the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and started shooting. He killed 12 people and injured 70. He is about to go on trial.   
  • August 2012: White supremacist Wade Michael Page shot and killed six people worshipping in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in what police branded a hate crime. He shot himself after being shot by a police officer responding to the incident.
  • December 2012, Adam Lanza walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and gunned down 20 children and six adults.
  • Sept. 2012: Andrew Engeldinger, 36, handled his being fired from his job at a Minneapolis sign company by shooting and killing five people and then killing himself.
  • Later that month, Kurt Myers, 64, of Herkimer, N.Y. shot killed two men and wounded two others at a car wash in the town and held police at bay in a standoff overnight before they eventually killed him.   

I could go on, but I think you get my point. And this is only a partial list…

Now I know that the words “mental health issue” are going to come up, and in the cases of most of these folks, they probably should. Some of the Black on Black crime that folks are suddenly so concerned about should also be looked at from a mental health context, but never is.

But while we’re looking at mental health as a precursor for the crimes I just mentioned, and we should, we should also call them what they are: White on White crimes…

And the first march calling for an end to this is….when?

Finally, I need to explain the caption under the picture of myself I put on the top of this post because, you see, the only way that Blacks could truly be angry about the whole Zimmerman Verdict, at least according to this heading on my sociological GPS, they are instructed to be.

In other words, it’s kind of like my Dad used to say to me when I was doing something that I wanted to do, but that he didn’t want to recognize that I wanted to do like, say, journalism. He used to accuse me of following behind people, when what I was actually doing in some cases was leading.

(Now if I was doing what he wanted, I was leading. I never understood that.)

For being angry over the Zimmerman verdict, Blacks are being equated with robots in some quarters. This rage isn’t independent thought, it’s doing what you’re told by Al, Jesse, or “fill in the blank with whatever civil rights leader you can come up with here”. You shouldn’t do that, the critics say. How can you say that this was about racism? It was a man defending himself from a thug with traces of marijuana in his system.

(Sorry, but I have to cut in here because one of the things that’s bugged me about this case is that it shows there are a lot of people in Sanford, Fla. smoking some weed that they need to leave alone. Actual weed doesn’t make you want to attack anything but a plate of food. That you believe that Trayvon Martin got a hold of some weed that made him want to fight people tells me all that I need to know about the weed in Central Florida. We’ll be leaving that mess alone!)

As I usually do when I hear stuff like this, I call, you guessed it, Shenanigans!

I say this because you can’t get Black folks to agree on what kind of sandwiches to have for lunch, much less come to an across-the-board consensus on any issue. Black folks are also pretty hard to lead. That things like The March on Washington and The Million Man March even happened is more than a little significant if you know anything at all about Black folks.

Thus despite what some may think, the rage over the Zimmerman verdict isn’t about being told what to do as much as it is people combining it with the dismantling of parts of the Voting Rights Act and determining that America is up to some shenanigans when it comes to Black people and their agency again.

The rage is also a lot more multicultural than people want to admit. I’ve had more than a few of my White friends put up profile pics of themselves in hoodies, participate in marches, write their Congressmen, and otherwise say, and this is a direct quote from one of my White friends “That verdict was some bullshit!”

In the world of the People Who Believe That Trayvon Martin Deserved To Get Shot this kind of thinking makes them sheep as well.

But in the world where Justice isn’t just a hollow word, it’s beautiful.

Because of the places my sociological GPS has taken me on this issue, I’m kind of weary right now.

So I’ll leave you with the perspective of a Black Man on this issue. I think he can hit what I missed.


And because I’m feeling the need for some old-school hip-hop, I’ll also leave you with Eric B and Rakim…

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For the Children of the Corn, Part II

“Oh, I’m so happy! I can get my gun back, go back to my house, and look for another Skittle-toting kid in a hoodie to shoot! Yay me!”


I was sitting in a booth at the Melrose Diner in South Philadelphia when the Associated Press alert on my I-Phone went off, informing me that the jury had reached a verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman had been on trial in Sanford, Fla. for second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Briefly, the story goes like this: Zimmerman saw Trayvon as he walked home from a convenience store where he had gone to buy a snack for his little brother. He finds the teen suspicious and calls the cops. Saying, “These assholes always get away..,” Zimmerman decides to pursue Trayvon despite the Sanford Police telling him not to. He shoots the teen in the chest and Trayvon dies. Zimmerman claims self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

(Editor’s note: Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, you’re allowed to shoot someone if you perceive that they’re about to harm you. They don’t have to actually harm you, however. They just have to look like they would.)

The trial had gone on for three weeks and people were sitting anxiously by their computers, television sets and smartphones waiting for the verdict. If the jury of six women, none of whom was Black, believed he was in a fight for his life, Zimmerman would go home, a free man. If not, he was looking at 25 years.

Shortly after 10, the verdict came: Not Guilty. On all counts. The jury believed Zimmerman’s self-defense claim and now he not only gets to go home, he gets the gun he used to shoot Trayvon back. 

Lovely.

What made me feel sort of hopeful was the reaction. I expected my Black friends to be ticked off. But a lot of my White friends were too. Disgusted was the most commonly used word.

Many folks weighed in via Twitter. Ben Jealous of the NAACP said he was “outraged and heartbroken” over the verdict and vowed to get the Department of Justice involved. Diddy took some time out from promoting his vodka brand to Tweet “I’m hurt and mad as hell! My heart goes out to the family.” My friend Albert Butler of WURD 900AM radio here in Philly reminded us to “Set our clocks back 400 years before going to bed…”

But my favorite Tweet came from the gentleman known as The Field Negro, whose blog you should be reading if you’re not. He said “Maybe Paula Deen will cook Sunday dinner for him tomorrow!”

(I ain’t mad at Paula Deen, but that shit was funny!)

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s parents, also took to Twitter, thanking everyone for their support.

Not to be outdone, folks who believed that Zimmerman was being railroaded for killing an unarmed kid after being told to let police handle things and not get involved also weighed in. Most notably Ann Coulter, who is someone I can always count on to say the most vile shit on occasions like this. Her Tweet: “Hallelujah!”

(If you ever hear about my going to jail, it is most likely because I have, finally, decided to go to wherever Ann Coulter is, and give her the “People Who Need To Be Punched In The Face Award” for Lifetime Achievement.)

And my Significant Other was so angry that he nearly left the baseball game he was covering because he was to angry to stay. As I have mentioned before, he’s not just a sportswriter. He’s a sportswriter with a masters degree in African American Studies.

Certainly, a lot went on. As I was writing this, a group of African American fraternities and sororities were gathering in front of the White House in protest. Since First Lady Michelle Obama was given honorary membership to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority shortly before her husband assumed the presidency in 2009, she might have decided to join her clan.

But as I looked at my Facebook and Twitter pages, and heard people debate the verdict in the Melrose Diner, I was relieved by one thing.

I wasn’t teaching. I’m not in school. I don’t have to try and make sense of the Zimmerman Verdict  for The Children of the Corn.

Because, frankly, I couldn’t. They’d say I was full of shit. And in this case, I’d have to agree.

I mean, how can I look in the faces of my kids, kids who have already had a few interactions with the Criminal Justice system or have parents who have, and tell them that justice is equal under the law after a verdict like this?

How do I get them to tell the police what’s going on in their neighborhoods and testify in court when they look at how Rachel Jeantel was treated on the witness stand…and on social media? How do I get them to understand that if they pull out the guns that they want to carry that they’ll get 25 to life if they kill someone?

There are conversations that all parents have to have with their kids. There’s the “Don’t violate curfew” conversation. The “Learn how to clean up after yourself” conversation. And the one that occasionally gets passed off to me by friends who don’t want to deal with their kids getting their freak on, the “You can’t trust a big butt and a smile” conversation.

But for young Black men, there’s a few other conversations that are unique to their experience. Conversations like the “Don’t put your hands in your pockets when you’re standing in front of the Police” conversation. The “Make sure you have all of your ID where the officer can see it” conversation. The “Don’t argue with the Police” conversation…

However, the Zimmerman Verdict gives us one more mandatory conversation to have.

The “Your life as a Black man isn’t worth a plug nickel to folks so act accordingly” conversation.

When Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was playing for the Atlanta Falcons, he was arrested, tried and convicted for having a dogfighting ring and brutally disposing of the losers. He spent two years in federal prison for his crime.

A woman named Marissa Alexander is doing 20 years in a Florida prison for firing a warning shot_—not hitting him, just firing a warning shot—at her abusive ex-husband. She wasn’t allowed to use Stand Your Ground despite having a credible threat posed to her.

But you can shoot a young, Black man for being “perceived” as a threat to you, and walk out of court a free man.

How do I explain that to a group of people who have already been thrown away at least once? How do my friends who are parents figure that out? And why, for that matter, do we have to?

My friend Tracy sent out a Tweet saying that calling Zimmerman, who copped to no Latino heritage until he shot Trayvon Martin, a Hispanic man and asking when all of the talk about the role race plays in stuff like this was going to stop.

I told her that it would stop when my kids could walk down the street with a hooded sweatshirt pulled over their head, and be assumed to be shooting hoops, not guns.

And that day, was not Saturday. July 13.

My Left Foot

Oops…we did it again…

While most folks had their eyes trained on Houston and Mitt Romney’s appearance before the NAACP Convention, I was paying attention to what was going on in Congress.

The Tea Party Republican House (Don’t get it twisted folks. John Boehner no more runs this place than I do) voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or as some of us call it Obamacare, or as others of us call it, Romneycare. Depends on where you are in the country and how you feel about it, I guess.

It was the 33rd time that the House had decided to vote for repeal. Granted, it probably won’t even come to the floor in the Senate, and even if it did it would probably be vetoed by the White House (and there’d be no override because the votes aren’t there…) but they felt they had to do it. This time, they had five Democrats join them in the “repeal Obamacare” fun…

You’ve gotta admire these folks. Their single-minded focus is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s also one of the best manifestations of the definition of “insanity” I’ve seen in awhile. They keep doing this whole “repeal Obamacare” thing the exact same way, yet they’re probably wondering why the result is never different.

Especially since the U.S. Supreme Court took time out of of it’s busy schedule of giving corporations personhood rights while taking away the rights of unions to politically organize to decide that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional by a vote of 5-4. While Chief Justice John Roberts did no one any favors by using the legislature’s power to tax as a means of justifying the individual mandate that’s needed to pay for much of the ACA, he voted to uphold it.

Usually, a Supreme Court ruling on something means It’s a Wrap!

But not when it comes to the ACA.

As my eloquent friend Dr. Germaine Edwards put it yesterday, the Tea Party Republicans are acting like a little kid who can’t accept no for an answer on this one. They’ve gone to Mom and Dad (voting for repeal), and they’ve said no. They’ve gone to both sets of grandparents (the Supreme Court), and they’ve said no. But they just keep asking….

And now it’s up to 33 times.

From the moment that the decision was announced, folks bandied it about. Reactions from some of my friends ranged from “This is going to bring down the republic” to “This is going to screw the Middle Class”, to “It’s an unfair tax!”

(Granted, the penalty included in the ACA is only directed to those who don’t get insurance, but I’m tired of telling that to folks…The oxygen I’ve expended on this could have gone to just about anything else…”)

But after hearing a hour or so of this shouting, renting of clothes and gnashing of teeth (Yes, it did get kind of Biblical to me after a while), I decided that I had seen and heard quite enough of this.

So I grabbed my I-Phone, went into my bathroom, hit the camera app, and took the following picture:

Yeah, I know. Kinda gross. Don’t have to tell me…

I then put the following caption on it…

“Under normal circumstances, I would never put a picture this personal on my Facebook page. But I think that it’s about time that some of you saw what happens when a person has no access to healthcare. This is my left foot. You know, the left foot that kept me in the hospital for 39 days and nearly caused me to die from an infection? My foot is gonna look like this for the rest of my life. And it could have been prevented by the simple act of allowing me to buy health insurance. Now ask yourself: Should I have to die so that you could make a friggin’ point?”

I guess that I should explain.

To say that 2011 was a monumentally bad year for me would be a cosmic understatement. I found out just what it means to be poor…but not poor enough…in the good ‘ole United States of America. Now I won’t get into all of what happened to me because I don’t really feel like returning to that place, but one of the things that happened to me is that I ended up homeless. As a freelance writer, I have to hustle a lot to get the money I need to survive. I still have $1,700 outstanding from 2011…

When you’re homeless, you sometimes find yourself sleeping in cars, at extended stay hotels, and at other places that increase your costs of day to day living because you don’t have a home base.

When you don’t have a lot of money, and yet have a lot of overhead, something has to give.

Unfortunately, that something was my diabetes medication. While I could afford one of the prescriptions because it was generic, the other was $285. So I couldn’t always get it. In fact, for three months straight, I couldn’t get it at all.

And don’t even get me started on trying to get health insurance. Whenever I’d call an insurance company trying to get help, the minute I’d say “I’m a diabetic”, the phone would go dead.

I knew that eventually it would all come to a head. And in October, around two weeks after my Mom died, it finally did.

My Significant Other and I were on our way out when I got my foot stuck in his car. I pulled it out, we went where we were going, and everything seemed fine. But when I got up the next day, something wasn’t right because my foot really started to hurt.

Then it began to swell. A lot. Eventually it got so big and so painful that the simple act of going to the bathroom required taking painkillers. But I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I didn’t have health insurance, and thus couldn’t afford it.

But once blisters showed up on my foot, and one of them burst, my Significant Other decided that I was going to the hospital, whether I liked it or not.

When the doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room looked at my foot, they looked at me as if to say “You know you’re not going anywhere, right?”

I probably would have laughed at that if it weren’t for the fact that I was rushed into the Intensive Care unit, hooked up to an insulin pump, and given some serious IV drugs. But the blood tests showed that the drugs weren’t working and the reason was that an abscess was keeping the medicine from getting through.

So they had to operate on my foot. And as you can see by the picture, the abscess must have been a real humdinger because they had to cut a big bunch of tissue out. I got to see what the inside of my foot looked like as a result, and it wasn’t pretty. Trust me on this.

I was then given more serious IV drugs with the aid of a PIC line, physical therapy to make sure my other foot didn’t atrophy, was attached to something called a WoundVac that helped get rid of excess moisture in my wound while helping new skin develop, discovered a serious new (for me) painkiller called Dilaudid, given a skin graft (you should see my left thigh), and wound up developing a new appreciation for the show Animal Cops on Animal Planet.

And I wound up getting all of this care in the hospital because if I had tried to do this at home, it would have cost me the equivalent of what it would cost to produce a small independent film…The WoundVac alone was $500 a day to rent without insurance.

I was able to go home 39 days later a now insulin-dependent diabetic who was hit with a nearly $500 bill for medication that I was able to pay thanks to an inheritance.

(Thanks Mom…)

While I was in the hospital, I was cared for by a group of really good doctors and nurses. Among those folks was a group of residents from my alma mater (Temple Owls are indeed everywhere…) who were budding podiatrists.

They were also the most honest with me. One of the residents told me as he changed my WoundVac dressing and marveled at my recovery, that he was glad that I was doing okay now, because I really wasn’t when he first saw me.

To be exact, he said, “If you had waited another day or two to come in here, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything for you. The infection would have traveled through your blood stream and you would have died. We’re glad that you’re grateful that we were able to save your foot, but that wasn’t our concern. We didn’t care as much about saving your foot as we were about saving your life.”

My life.

Over an infection?!

Ain’t that some shit?!

Now you might think that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen here, but in the good ‘ole United States of America, where there’s a difference between poor and not poor enough, it happens more than it ought to. A Cincinnati man who had lost his job and didn’t have health insurance, died last year when a abscessed tooth became infected and the infection spread through his body.

Death.

Over something that could have been cured by pulling a tooth and giving someone some antibiotics?!

In the richest nation in the world?!

Again, ain’t that some shit?!

But it happened.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand why there was so much screaming, renting of garments and gnashing of teeth on the part of my conservative friends when ACA was upheld by the Supreme Court. The beautiful thing about America is that you can be loud and wrong (or right if you agree) and no one can take away your space on the floor.

But when it comes to whether or not people have access to affordable health care, and whether or not they live or die, your philosophical bent should be put to the side in favor of compassion for your fellow man.

This became an issue during the 57-post discussion that was the result of my slapping my left foot up on my Facebook page. I had one friend suggest that I could have gotten health insurance with a $5,000 to $10,000 deductible, something that wouldn’t have helped me even a little bit. This same friend also went on to tell me that perhaps my lack of health insurance and my illness were my own fault because I haven’t abandoned journalism in favor or something more lucrative that would make me less of a drain on society.

(No, I’m not kidding. And mind you, this is a friend…)

But I also had friends who called me, of all things, brave for doing this.

But that wasn’t why I did it.

“I put my story out there not as a means of garnering sympathy or compliments or anything like that,” I said. “I did it because I felt like this discussion needed a recognizable human face, and I figured mine would be as good as any. I understand where everyone is coming from here. But the bottom line is that you’re dealing with PEOPLE. Not ideology. Not theory. People. So the next time that someone tells you that those of us without healthcare are expendable, remember who they’re talking about.”

“They’re talking about me.”

Which is why in some ways I was hurt by some of the rigamarole when ACA was upheld in the Supreme Court. You’re my friend. You think I’m an okay person. You know I need what this act provides. And you care so much about your ideology that you don’t see that if we cling to your ideological bonafides, I could die? Really?!

In my last post, I said that while I could understand why folks might think it was kind of rude on the part of the NAACP to boo Mitt Romney for saying he’d repeal the Affordable Care Act, I understood why they did it because these folks are on the front lines of the healthcare disparity issue on a daily basis. If they’re not the person in need of health insurance, they’re a relative of someone who needs it and saying that you’re gonna tear a safety net that they really need apart might make them more than a little pissed at you.

And they’re also gonna show it.

So while I don’t condone booing a speaker at a convention, in the case of the NAACP and Mitt Romney, I understand.

Now if we could only help the Tea Party Republicans understand that the ACA is law…and that they might want to apply their laser focus to bills that truly create jobs…I’m just sayin’…

Gotta have a sense of humor. Especially if you’re in the hospital, have a hole in your foot, and haven’t seen your hairdresser in weeks!

Letter from a Philadelphia Jail…

My friend Vince, working to get out the vote…

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t lead off my column with a picture of one of my friends.

But in this case, leading off with a picture of my friend Vincent Thompson makes sense because in the 20-plus years that I’ve known him, I’ve never heard of any issue that he’s felt passionately enough about to commit an act of civil disobedience.

Now what issue has made my friend, a Democratic committee person in South Philadelphia, willing to go all the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on us?

The right to vote in Pennsylvania.

I’ll explain.

As I often say here at The Mad (political) Scientist, I love Philadephia, but Pennsylvania makes me scratch my head so hard sometimes that I’m surprised I haven’t scraped up some of my brain.

A big part of that is because I’ve never seen a state so willing to take on everyone else’s really, really bad ideas. If there’s an idea that shouldn’t be tried anywhere ranging from hyper-restrictive abortion laws to lawsuits filed to fight for your right to not have health insurance (this chestnut filed by our former Attorney General, now Governor Tom Corbett), we’re not only going to try it here, but we’re going to follow the True Definition Of Insanity when we apply it.

(For those of you who don’t know what the True Definition of Insanity is, it’s doing the same thing, the exact same way, and yet expecting a different result.)

This week’s Really Bad Idea That Will Soon Become Law In Pennsylvania is the Commonwealth’s new Voter ID law. Under this law, which is modeled after Voter ID laws in places even more backward than Pennsylvania like Texas, Indiana and Alabama, people who come out to the polls will not be able to vote…and have their votes counted that day…unless they produce a state-sanctioned photo ID, such as a driver’s license or a state ID card. Now you can vote if you don’t have a state-sponsored ID, but that vote won’t count unless you come to your county’s Board of Elections with a state-sponsored picture ID within six days.

The reason why this law is on its way to being put on the books is because Gov. Corbett, like most good Republicans these days, believes that there’s serious voter fraud going on. Otherwise, how else would a Black Man From Chicago With A Funny Name have ever become President Of The United States?

The only way that Barack Obama could have succeeded in becoming the first Kenyan-born, Secret Muslim, Manchurian Candidate Sent To Ruin America to become President is by people going to the polls and impersonating other people, voting, and influencing the outcome. Or at least, that’s the logic at work here.

The Commonwealth has pledged $4 million to implement this law, including $1 million that’s supposed to go toward getting people these state-sponsored IDs.

(Now, we could talk about how Philadelphia alone will burn through this $1 million in a week, and also about how I really wish that people cared enough about voting to want to go around committing identity fraud in order to do it, but I would be bringing logic into a situation that has, thus far, steadfastly resisted it….and Lord knows that we can’t have that!)

Needless to say, folks are losing their minds over this.

The American Association of Retired Persons, otherwise know as AARP, is saying that it’s going to make it harder for senior citizens, some of whom may have been born in a house and don’t have the birth certificate needed to get the ID. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, otherwise known as the NAACP, is saying that this is designed to keep people of color out of the voting booth, just in time for the November elections. And the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, says it’s just plain unconstitutional.

Even the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, a group that’s notorious for not even  being able to agree on what to have for lunch during a meeting, have agreed that the law is a very bad idea.

Add to this that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to get anything like a birth certificate or state ID request processed quickly in Pennsylvania and that this Really Bad Idea That’s About To Become Law In Pennsylvania won’t officially take effect until November (just in time for the 2012 Presidential Elections if you’re keeping score at home), and you might understand why these groups are sounding the alarm.

From the moment that these laws started dotting the national landscape, or put more succinctly, dotting the landscape in places where Republicans control all phases of government, it’s been kind of hard not to notice at where they’re aimed.

Statistically, cities, college towns, and other places similar to this are places where state-sponsored ID isn’t necessarily the Coin of the Realm. In fact, when I cast my first vote in my South Philadelphia polling place, the only ID I needed was a copy of my electric bill to prove that I lived where I said I lived.

But since cities, college towns, and other places similar to these came out in droves for President Obama during the 2008 elections and turned states like Pennsylvania so blue that they could be mistaken for the Atlantic Ocean, folks have decided to put the clamps down.

Now let’s be honest here. These laws aren’t as much about voter fraud as they are about voter suppression. If you keep city dwellers, people who are older, younger, and poorer from accessing the polls however possible, you keep them from voting against the interests of the True Elites, which have been trying to get their country back since the G.I. Bill was passed after World War II, giving everyone a shot at a good education.

And don’t even get me started on how dangerous it is to allow other disenfranchised groups like people of color to vote. Hell, they may vote to allow such things as letting gays and lesbians get married if they’re allowed to stay in the voting pool…and Lord knows we can’t have that!

To it’s credit, the Department of Justice has noticed, and has struck a few of these laws down. In fact, Texas’s went down via the DOJ on Monday. Also, a local coalition here in Philadelphia that includes the National Action Network, NAACP,  Radio One, a voting rights group called the Committee of Seventy, labor unions and politicians has formed to make sure that this law doesn’t pack the punch that it could.
Among the people who are a part of this coalition is my friend Vincent.  

Upon hearing about this law, and how folks could end up not being allowed to exercise the franchise, Vince, who is still the best political reporter I know despite not having done it full-time for a while, got the kind of pissed off that I’ve only seen him get when you mess with his family.  We must have talked about the Voter ID for at least two hours over dinner at the Broad Street Diner one night.  He had been watching the debate over the bill throughout the day on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, the Commonwealth’s version of C-Span.

The more he watched, the madder he got.

So he made a decision. If someone came to his polling place without a photo ID, he’d not only make sure that they got to polls, but he’d also make sure that their vote counted that day.

“I come from a people whose ancestors got water hoses turned on them, dogs sicced on them, and in some cases got murdered to give me the right to vote,” he said. “Black people have only had the right to vote for real for 40 years. I’m not going to let anyone get disenfranchised by a law that’s a solution in search of a problem.”

Then he said, “I’m willing to go to jail over this. This is about the right to vote. That’s too important to me.”

Hopefully, it won’t come down to that.

But just in case it does, I’m officially announcing the Vincent E. Thompson Bail Fund right now…

……because friends don’t let friends stay in jail overnight for fighting as the ancestors taught us…