I'm not given to reacting on a daily basis to every nasty and negative thing in U.S. politics. That's because there is very, very little that will surprise me in this charged, partisan, and angry political climate. There is no doubting the fact that ON BOTH SIDES of the political divide there is demeaning, petty, arrogant and pompous rhetoric that should have no place in America's political discourse. However, there are some statements that must be answered. Not because this will change political behavior I'm not holding my breadth on that but because decency and principle that exist outside of this raw and reactionary thinking, demands it.
Recently, President Donald J. Trump, without calling the names of four Democratic fresh-women U.S. Congress members, suggested, "they should go back to where they came from." Why this has stuck an angry chord in me is the fact that I've heard it before, seen it on Facebook, and many times it's the default position of many Caribbean-Americans when anyone criticizes the United States government or dares to compare it with one of the many "adversaries and enemies" that this country has an ongoing, sustained need for.
For example, any objective discourse on China, Cuba or Russia is routinely met with "you love these countries so much why don't you go and live there." I'll get into this stupid and idiotic mentality in a bit. But the POTUS's attack on the four female Black and Brown members of Congress duly elected by the residents of their respective districts is an open sepulcher and opportunistic pandering to the worse, most racist elements in the United States. The president appears to be saying that America should be only for non-Black and non-Brown people. It is a racist and revisionist statement that conveniently forgets that this country was built by immigrant labor largely Black whether those immigrants came from Europe, and other parts of the world seeking a better life, or were kidnapped and forcibly brought here in chains to work for no pay in all of America's industries.
But let me digress a bit. The spineless, genuflecting Republican Party members in the United States Congress need to stop treating New York's Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as if she's some flaky chic from loo-loo land. And they can start by calling her by her given name. And it is NOT AOC. You can tell that I admire her and her three "disruptive" colleagues. For way too long the Democratic Party in Congress has been an accommodatist, let's get along, afraid-of-its-shadow party, a kind of "Republican Lite" version of the dual Corporatist Party.
For the very first time, four elected women of color are bucking the status quo. They are taking on and speaking out on long-held taboo subjects like Israel and its awful treatment of the Palestinian people, healthcare as a right not a privilege for all Americans, and attacking climate change with a "Green New Deal," that has the fossil fuel industry, and its lackeys in the U.S. Congress bent out of shape. These are uncomfortable subjects for a pampered Congressional class long used to simply kicking the can down the road, doing little or nothing for "we the people," and relying on the handouts of corporate America in whose interest they work.
These four women has upended the comfortable, grandstanding political climate in Washington, and exposed the weaknesses and deficiencies of an aging cabal of mainly white politicians especially in the inert, supine, and "yes sir, Mr. President, sir," U.S. Senate - that is out of tough with the realities of today, and largely clueless about the real issues that confront ordinary working class Americans. In this context, President Trump's reliance on a racist meme speaks volumes about a leader unable to handle these four exceptional women. It also exposes the innate cowardice of his statement, and the way that the president has historically handled women all women - that he cannot bend or bully to his will and use as so much arm and shoulder dressing, especially if they are Black and Brown women.
I'm not going to recall his many disparaging, insulting, and condescending statements concerning women. But what I will say is that ALL politicians when confronted with FACTS and EVIDENCE oftentimes resort to subjective generalizations, character assassinations, and oblique smears, and other petty behaviors, because they just do not have answers to the burning and uncomfortable political, social and economic questions of today.
While Trump did not name the women, his tweets were almost certainly aimed at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. For the edification of our readers: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in suburban Westchester County. Pressley, the first Black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts, was born in Cincinnati. Tlaib was born in Detroit. Omar, the first Somali native elected to Congress, and one of its first Muslim women, was born in Somalia but spent much of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home country. She immigrated to the US aged 12, teaching herself English by watching American TV, and eventually settling with her family in Minneapolis.
"Unfortunately there is an American tradition of telling people to go back where they came from," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democratic presidential contender, told CNN. ''It's a very bad tradition that we need to weed out of our nation because we are a nation of immigrants, that is who we are by our nature for hundreds of years. But you don't expect to hear it from the president."
Ditto. So finally to my Caribbean-American brethren who are also guilty of telling this to others who offer a dissenting view of American politics or juxtapose what is happening here with other countries, and/or drawing comparisons. You must stop this. Pseudo-patriotism, triumphalist, flag-hugging, and faux-self-righteousness is the comfortable refuge of cowards that want to "identify as good, assimilated patriotic Americans," afraid to offend others by espousing a different and differing principled position. That is an embrace of the most banal racist tendencies and, for immigrants from the Caribbean, an unacceptable, and untenable political position.
If you ever doubt that Caribbean immigrants have a right to be in the United States, get a copy of a calypso written and sung by the great Mighty Chalkdust: "Ah want me grandfather back pay." These days there is talk about Black reparations. Dr. Hollis Liverpool was out front on this many, many years ago.