In summer 2012 I wrote an essay proclaiming that America-the-diverse had prevailed over America-the-white-supremacist. I don’t know any more if that was right. Here’s the essay…

Fearing the Change That Has Already Happened

By Maurice Harris

June 2012

Recently I saw Romney on TV warning that Obama is on a mission to change America into a country that we hardly recognize, and that this election represents our last chance to stop him before we lose “the America we know. Echoing this message of cultural paranoia, last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC provided a platform for the most extreme versions of this thought, including panelists associated with white nationalist and anti-immigrant groups. The GOP’s core campaign message so far appears to be “Obama is dangerous because he isn’t really one of us.

In the first couple years of Obama’s presidency, the right promoted this message in the form of “birtherism” and the “he’s a Muslim” claim. Now they’re pushing it in the form of the he’s a European socialist” canard. In the space of three years, right wing paranoia has moved the geographic location of Obama’s Otherness from Kenya, where he wasn’t born, to Mecca, towards which he doesn’t pray, to Western Europe, whose fully socialized medicine he didn’t promote. Republicans are going to need a GPS navigation system to keep the American people up to date on the geography of their fictional portrayals of Obama.

The truth, however, is not that Obama is trying to change America into a country we won’t recognize, but rather that the GOP’s leaders don’t recognize the country that America has already become. America has already changed into, and will continue to become, an ever-more-diverse nation of many cultures, religions, and ideas. Before anybody knew who Barack Obama was, this change had already taken root. Obama is an American with mixed racial heritage and family ties to Kansas, Hawaii, Kenya, and Indonesia. He also has Muslim, Christian, and even Jewish relatives. He is a walking American melting pot who could only have become president long after the death of Jim Crow America. What the fearful right doesn’t see is that Obama is an awful lot like most people in this country – mixed heritage, ties to different strands of the weave of this nation, and a values system that has tolerance and respect for all these different cultural elements. Continue reading “In summer 2012 I wrote an essay proclaiming that America-the-diverse had prevailed over America-the-white-supremacist. I don’t know any more if that was right. Here’s the essay…”

What I’ve learned so far as a HRC campaign volunteer in Philly

So, I got a job just outside of Philadelphia, and one small but important reason I’m glad to be a Pennsylvania resident at this time is that I get to vote in a meaningful swing state in the election next month. I’ve also been volunteering with HRC’s campaign, mostly doing voter registration shifts with one of the campaign’s 7 offices in the greater Philly era. (Side note: Trump campaign has 2 offices in the same area.) I’ve also done a little bit of phone banking and participated in my first ever text-a-thon last Wednesday night (more on that later).

hrc7
Two of my co-campaigners registering voters outside a Wal-Mart in NE Philly. On the left is an intern for HRC’s campaign who has been working for a few months. She’s 14 and was the seasoned expert volunteer. Next to her is a retail store manager who decided to respond to her fear of a Trumpocalypse by joining a campaign for the first time in her life.

Doing this work has been inspiring and emotionally grounding for me during a campaign that, thanks to Trump & the accompanying cray cray, has managed to freak out huge portions of the population unlike anything in my lifetime.

First of all, HRC’s ground game – at least as I’ve experienced working with it – is organized, friendly, and fast. Beginning with my initial visit to http://www.hillaryclinton.com and navigating to their very user-friendly web page for volunteering, I’ve been repeatedly impressed.

When I started looking into volunteering, I thought I’d do two things: register voters in Philly, and then fly to Florida to do GOTV the last few days before the election. At the time I was thinking this way the race was pretty much a tie and I figured FL was the place where I could have the most impact. So I followed their interface, which made it very easy for me to input my preferences to do the voter reg in Philly and the GOTV in Florida.

Within a couple days, I’d received calls and emails from the Bustleton Ave HRC campaign office in Philly, which was the one I had selected even though it isn’t the closest one to where I live. (What inspired me was shopping at a Ross in that part of town and seeing the overwhelming diversity of the folks there, and thinking “we should be doing voter reg right here”). I also received a personal email from a campaign office in Orlando, FL, which was the place in FL I had indicated I wanted to work (I’d read that there were large #’s of newly arrived residents from Puerto Rico in Orlando, and because they’re already U.S. citizens, they’re able to vote in FL as soon as they establish residency). The FL person

pa-offices
Source: http://billypenn.com/2016/10/05/hillarys-dominating-trump-in-pennsylvania-from-cash-to-campaign-offices/

warmly encouraged me to come take part in GOTV there. She also asked if I needed a place to stay (!) and whether I might be able to bring a friend along.

So, get this. Back in Philly, when I go out for my first voter reg shift, I have a great time. They pair me with an affable 40-something white guy who it turns out is an osteopathic doctor, is Jewish, and is every bit as extroverted as I am shy. We only registered a couple new voters outside a Shop Rite, but probably 200 people or more saw us with our Hillary gear as we called out “Registered to vote?” to passers-by. We had lots of conversations, which I enjoyed a lot. I’d say about half the people who came by were Black, maybe a quarter Latino, a tenth Asian, and the rest White. Probably 2/3 were women. Occasionally women wearing hijabs came by. Most people who responded to our barkers’ call told us they were already registered. This neighborhood is solid D, so there were only a few Trumpsters, and in fact they were, at least by appearances, young or middle-aged white men.

Ok, so after enjoying my first venture, I re-up and return the following week for another shift. This time they pair me with the two women in the photo above. When we arrive at hrc2the Wal-Mart, we find this guy already there with a clipboard, asking everyone who passes him if they’ve registered. Is he with the Trump campaign? was my first thought, admittedly based on a kind of profiling that I found myself having to actively resist in this toxic and hateful climate (which yes I frankly blame fully on Trump and the GOP’s long years of promoting racist memes and giving succor to extremists). Well, turns out he was also with HRC’s campaign – from another campaign office – a duplication of efforts that I took as a sign of health in the ground game. I mean, you want the left hand to know what the right hand is doing in a campaign, but this is the kind of inadvertent inefficiency that is borne out of having lots of offices, lots of staff, and lots of volunteers. He was a long-time union guy, with a Philly working class accent (“Who sent youz guys?”) The white woman who was part of the crew I showed up with also had a working class Philly accent. The black young woman – a high school frosh – was from the Philly suburbs, her accent and presentation reflecting suburban middle class life. And then there was me, the middle-aged Jewish white guy who has lived a bunch of places.

Continue reading “What I’ve learned so far as a HRC campaign volunteer in Philly”

What Must Be Admitted about the War on Christmas

You may have noticed recent news stories describing the latest salvo in our nation’s ongoing War on Christmas – Starbucks Corp has been enlisted to de-Santa-fy its Christmas themed red/green holiday season beverage containers, and has launched a shock and awe campaign designed to place nothing but plain red cups with green trim into the hands of tens of millions of customers. As the War on Christmas enters its second decade, I fear this latest attempt to turn the tide in this ill-conceived war is doomed to fail before it even begins.

Facebook is buzzing with memes claiming that the West is finally starting to win the War on Christmas, but we're not fooled. How many more lives will be lost in this campaign, launched hastily by the Bush Administration and continuing on in various guises through the current Administration?
Facebook is buzzing with memes claiming that the West is finally starting to win the War on Christmas, but we’re not fooled. How many more lives will be lost in this campaign, launched hastily by the Bush Administration and continuing on in various guises through the current Administration?

What concerns me most is that we should have won this war long ago, but we went in without enough troops, and the illegal POW camp we set up at the North Pole betrayed our values and weakened our international credibility. Too many politicians and war profiteers have lied us into this quagmire of an endless and unfinished war on Christmas.

And our traumatized troops, when they come home, what do we give them? Jobs and trauma support? No! We give them shopping malls filled with so called holiday music and decorations. But these brave men and women who’ve faced the wrath of Santa’s terrorist elves, they KNOW this holiday stuff is really just Christmas stuff in disguise.

Enemy agents from Santa's network of terror frequently sneak post cards with terrifying images like this attack cat. These cards are left in elementary schools and on playgrounds, where young American kids are frightened into thinking they not only have to say "Merry Christmas" all the time, but that they must misspell it as well.
Enemy agents from Santa’s network of terror frequently sneak post cards with terrifying images like this attack cat. These cards are left in elementary schools and on playgrounds, where young American kids are frightened into thinking they not only have to say “Merry Christmas” all the time, but that they must misspell it as well.

We should either have gone into the war on Christmas with overwhelming force and the will to win decisively, or we shouldn’t have gone in at all.

At best we’ll leave the North Pole in a leaderless mess. I know that Santa is a brutal tyrant, and that the people of the Arctic circle deserve freedom, but even if we did oust him, what kind of crazies might take over there? Everyone knows you should never get into a land war in the Arctic. Even Putin wasn’t dumb enough to make that mistake, and he’s got Siberian trained cold weather shock troops. You know who is really the winner of this endless war? The weapons manufacturers, as always. The war on Christmas will be remembered as the great foreign policy debacle of the American 21st century.