The Mason Missile, The E-Newsletter of John Oliver Mason, December 29, 2013
Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
I honor the life and work of Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years during the fight against the Apartheid regime in South Africa; then, after his release from prison and his election to the Presidency of his country, worked to reconcile the racial groups of South Africa-Black, White, Colored (mixed-race) and Asian-into a rainbow nation. Much work still needs to be done; there is still a great economic gap in that country (like here is the US of A) between a wealthy elite and workers and other low-income people, due to a reliance on the free market , along with a grave crime rate, also like here.
Still the fact that the Apartheid system has been overturned is amazing, due to the perseverance of brave and dedicated activists. I have been impressed by the mile-long lines of people of all races getting ready to vote in the first multiracial election in 1994.
Alas–Our own government has done whatever it could to prop up the Apartheid state. There is evidence that the CIA helped the South African police to capture Mandela and other ANC activists. The Reagan administrations policy of constructive engagement meant that there would be no pressure on the Apartheid state to change or end the system, or to release Mandela and other ANC leaders.
Conservative journalists and activists in this country worked to make excuses for the regime, acting like the only alternative to the Apartheid system would be a Communist takeover. Plus there was the attitude, sounding like Tarzan movies and Donald Duck comics, that the Africans were not ready for democratic self-government-as if the regime would allow them to be! The government and the conservative movement in this country refused to take seriously the horrors of Apartheid, with a What’s the big deal? attitude.
Thus, with the fall of the Apartheid system, conservatives have been, once more, on the wrong side of history, siding with a regime that did nothing but hold off the inevitable. William F. Buckley described a conservative as a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling Stop! Well, conservatives have proven to be no more than speed bumps, slowing down the advance of freedom for downtrodden people (maybe), but the conservatives get run over anyway.
Case in point-so far 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. This is almost a decade after the 2004 election, and the strategy of George W. Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove to have ballot initiatives in certain states concerning gay marriage, which brought out the religious conservatives to vote against them and for Bush, thereby proving that the US of A is a conservative nation where people are only motivated to vote on moral issues. Still, same-sex marriage is now being acknowledged as a civil and human right, with even conservative states like Idaho, Utah, and New Mexico legalizing them.
However in Utah, it has been a federal court that struck down Utah’s laws against gay marriage, and the conservative argument has been to have the public, rather than the courts, decide the issue; but do people really need other people’s permission to have equal access to public facilities, education, housing, veterans’ benefits, health care, etc.? How is the existence of a gay-lesbian-transgender-bisexual-whatever-else person working with you, or shopping at your local store, a danger to you?
Once again I performed at PhillyCAM, on the show Conversations Across Time; this time I portrayed George C. Wallace, the legendary segregationist Governor of Alabama. From my reading of his career, as a judge he was moderate on racial issues, speaking respectfully to African-American attorneys; but after losing election as Governor to a hard-core segregationist, Wallace vowed, Ill never be out n—-red again!
It was out of political opportunism that Wallace became the symbol of racial animus he is remembered as now, with the image of him standing at the entrance of the University of Alabama to prevent Black students from attending-which was a big show, since he had no power to stop them. Still, his fame as a segregationist hero grew, and in 1968 he ran for President under the American Independent Party, and there was the possibility that his candidacy would put the election into the House of Representatives, since he could have had some Electoral College votes.
But after the attempt on his life in 1972, which put him in a wheelchair and in great pain for the rest of his life, he had a change of heart, becoming moderate again and even appointing Blacks to his cabinet. Still, the damage was done to our politics; Richard Nixon saw Wallace’s appeal to racist whites, and played into those sentiments during the 1972 election.
How it affected the running of government, and to whose benefit, it didn’t matter to Nixon or Wallace; instead of trying to govern for the benefit of all the people, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, whatever, the idea was to rile up one group against another, not using racial slurs-they could not even do that, which in itself was a victory for liberals-but the tactic was to use such phrases as welfare bums, crime in the streets, excessive government spending, while knowing their core constituents would, in their minds, associate minorities with these things. (At this writing, I recall how Newt Gingrich referred to President Obama as a fried chicken President and a Food Stamp President.)
I believe the tide is turning in progressives’ favor; rolling over and playing dead, or even trying to meet the Republicans half way or trying to reason with them, is no longer an option. In this new year, I myself will continue the good fight, and I know you will too.
Happy New Year!