Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Sherrod Debacle

It has been a long time since I've written here, not because I haven't had things I wanted to write about, but because I didn't want to take the time away from other things I was doing. However, I cannot be silent after the administration's allowing itself to be baited by the right wing deliberate falsifying of the taped speech Ms. Sherrod gave to the NAACP in March. And although President Obama was not directly involved, his efforts to change the tone of politics in the nation have led to an administration that goes out of its way to placate the right wing, and in so doing, gives the right wing more power. And it was this fear of the right wing that led the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Shirley Sherrod for something she did not say.

What is so appalling in this incident is the utter disrespect the Secretary of Agriculture showed Ms. Sherrod. A doctored tape of her speech is shown over and over on the Fox network, and the Secretary reacted like a Pavlovian dog. Indeed, all the media outlets reacted like Pavlovian dogs. And no one, no one had the decency to ask Ms. Sherrod directly what she said, or ask for a copy of the speech, or a copy of the videotape.

While the administration has apologized and Ms. Sherrod has been offered a promotion, that is insufficient. The president should ask for the Secretary of Agriculture's resignation for his violation of a fundamental tenet of our democracy; a person is innocent until proven guilty.

I do not understand how Democrats allow themselves to be defined by the right wing time and time again. John Kerry did not take the Swift Boaters seriously and they defined his service in Vietnam and him as a liar. The right wing came close to undermining Obama's candidacy by associating him with Bill Ayers, a Sixties radical. And now we have the teabaggers and Sarah Palin who will say anything, like defining a consultation between a doctor and a patient about end of life care a death panel. President Obama does not seem to understand that the right wing has no integrity, knows that if they repeat a lie often enough it will become the truth in the minds of millions, and, above all, it counts on the Democratic Party not to be as passionate about what it believes as the right wing is passionate about what it believes. The president does not seem to under understand that there is nothing he can do that the right wing will approve of. NOTHING!! It takes two to change the tone of politics in the nation, and it is not in the right wing's interest to make that change. Meanwhile, Obama ignores his constituency, those of us who got him elected, in favor of trying to work with people who would rather die than work with him.

I voted for Obama for many reasons, but one was his passion. That passion has been in short supply since he entered the White House. And because he has been afraid to be passionate, he has set a tone in his administration in which the only passion many of his subordinates show is weakness. I hold Obama responsible for the Secretary of Agriculture's firing of Ms. Sherrod, and I will be disappointed if he does not request the Secretary's resignation. Such poor judgment as the Secretary showed leaves me with no confidence in any decision he has made or will make.

I remember election night and the million people in Grant Park in Chicago with tears in their eyes, the millions of us in our homes looking at our televisions with tears in our eyes, and how much we believed that things were going to be different now.

If someone had told me that night that I would write what I'm about to write, I would've thought they were crazy.

I'm beginning to be sorry that Hillary didn't win the nomination.

And now I'm going to make me a soda with cream soda and vanilla ice cream, and get back to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

© 2010 by Julius Lester