Today we listened to a lecture given by the Reverend William J Barber and discussed it afterward. The lecture was in celebration of Black History Month and was titled America, America, whats going on?
Rev. Barber covered a lot and we had a very interesting discussion about it afterward, but, as with many of Rev. Barber's talks, it is very hard for me to distill it down to a summary here. He drew a sharp parallel between historical events and the world we have in America today. Specifically, he said that following the American Civil War (1861-1865) the state legislatures of the Southern states were no longer dominated by the landed elites. The political power was suddenly in the hands of less well-to-do whites and newly freed black men. These same newly empowered people were being elected to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives with profound implications.
In Washington, these new Southern representatives gave us the first civil rights act. In the state legislatures, they changed the state constitutions to provide for the poor, the sick and the uneducated. North Carolina provided guaranteed public education for the first time. The established labor rights, and they guaranteed access to the ballot for all (well, all men anyway. Rights for women were still in the future.) So, it turns out that if you take power away from the monied classes, legislators from the middle class and poorer classed did a pretty good job of governing the states. But, with the election of 1876, reconstruction ended. The redeemers movement put the wealthy back in charge. They lowered the taxes so that the states couldn't pay for all of the education and welfare programs, and then ended the programs. Not unlike what politicians do today when they start off by promising to lower taxes, and then start cutting out the programs that those taxed paid for.
Reverend Barber also criticised Donald Trump directly for his campaign tactics that were just like the ones the Redeemers movement used to gain power in the 1870's. Donald Trump claimed that everything in the nation was bad without explaining what was bad. He claimed that he alone could fix it, and he did not say what it was that he alone could fix, and did not say how he would fix it. And he pointed out that justice requires everyone in the community to participate in justice, no one acting alone can bring justice. He further pointed out that the President promises to pursue a more perfect union, to ensure domestic tranquility, neither of which has this president done. And, he pointed out, that improving the nation's welfare is in the constitution (Article 1 Section 8 for those of you who are still paying attention.)
Rev Barber concluded: we must never give up our moral beliefs. We must refuse to allow our government to act immorally in our name. We can work together, as we have in the past.
There was lots to unpack today. if you would like to participate in the discussion, please stop by occasionally. Up next week is the delayed presentation of the retrospective remembrance of what it was like to be on the Pettis bridge in Selma Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King.