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The Disaster of Turning the Other Cheek

High Ground Politics that Progressives Can’t Repeat

Hostage of Omaha

From our early years, many of our parents told us to play nice and be polite and we’ve all felt the pinches and heard the reprimands from them when we didn’t. But are those rational rules a detriment to us; is that crippling us from achieving everything that we need? All you have to do is look at the recent 2016 presidential election to see the answer; a big-mouthed, walking micropenis with an ego problem and Daddy issues became president. Yes, Donald Trump’s presidency is, to a large degree, a result of the turning the other cheek, playing nice, taking the high ground and taking one for the team style of politics.

Let me address this early on before any of you start whining and bemoaning the various other reasons Donald Trump won. Yes, many White supremacists and sexists heard Trump’s clarion call to arms, so they voted en mass. And yes, some of those who voted for Trump are anti-establishment and desperate-for-change protest voters who took a chance on a fool rather than a robot. Additionally, the antiquated electoral college that has now caused the popular vote to become moot two out of five elections within the past twenty years is also a big factor in Trump’s victory. I know all of this. I’m arguing another set of reasons.

Feel free to disagree, but if you’re on the verge of convulsing from “The Triggers,” are always on the verge of being offended/triggered, or are known to have little or no sense of humor, well good luck with that because I’m probably going to hurt your little feelings, and I could not care less. Benjamin Dixon said it perfectly: “We have Nazis running around America, and we’re busy trying to figure out if it’s ok to call them Nazis or if we should refer to them as the Alt-right?” You can miss me with all of that impotent parlance. When we interact with irrational actors under irrational conditions, your tactics as the rational actor have to change!

Let’s start with Former President Obama turning the other cheek to everything: the jokes, the disrespect, the under-recognition, the call to compromise, and the constant nonsensical criticism – I must make this distinction for there are still Obamabots on the prowl who will conflate worthwhile criticism of Obama with idiotic racist meanderings, but I digress. It is true that you have to pick your battles, but he needed to stand directly against the racist factions in Congress who called him and his family everything under the sun (outside of children of God) and who opposed everything he did on the basis of his race. He could have done this by calling them out on their racism. Now, the minute you mention racism, anuses start to clench and bullshit explanations start to spew, but think of the strong message it would have sent if Obama had just, for once, directly spoken about his experiences as president through the lens of being a Black figurehead atop a system of White supremacy where he was disrespected and undermined constantly, while being the token of the “post-racial” United States. Think about how monumental that would have been to all Black people, White allies to Black empowerment, and other People of Color. Instead, like many of us who have had these kinds of experiences with overt or covert racists, Obama takes the responsibility of other people’s comfort upon his shoulders.

There can be many reasons for this, but the two that come up immediately are that Obama benefits in the short term from the “take it on the chin ole sport” expectation because it does not ruffle feathers. He may be the victim of it, but many people can explain it away as a confrontation of differing ideologies from impassioned people. It keeps him as the wronged gentleman who can be easily appeased via a standard apology, and most importantly, it doesn’t challenge the status quo. Thus, Obama not challenging undercover racially motivated treatment allows people to normalize Obama’s abuse. Hell, the hashtag “Thanks, Obama,” often used ironically, still has, at its premise, a tinge of abuse to Obama. It’s a “Blame it on the Black guy” inside joke for Americans. Ultimately, not challenging it connotes a sense of acceptance and shows that he is a “good sport” who is in on the joke, even when the joke is on him exclusively.  

However, the other reason to not mention it is that once he brings up his experience in the racial context of a Black man, many people, racist or not, would get very uncomfortable, and then they would transfer that discomfort back to him and others who look like him. (Just look at all the heat Colin Kaepernick got for his protest. He and others who followed his lead were told it’s inappropriate and that they should “be polite.” Hell, even President Obama criticized him for making people feel uncomfortable, but I digress.) The “He’s playing the race card for his failures” claims would be unending. The defensive marginalization of his experiences, successes, and thoughts would be the prevailing mindset, particularly among the uneducated and the racists. Oh, wait, that happened anyway! So tell me again why he didn’t address it for what it was, fundamentalist White supremacy?

And while Obama always took the high road, taking it all in stride helped set the stage for the foul-mouthed, pussy grabbing, White supremacist “billionaire” braggart with little intellect and big insecurities. Obama had a real chance, particularly in his last term, to halt the global imperialism and colonialism of the United States and to stand as a Black man against the economic holocaust Black people face in this country through poverty and gentrification, but Thor-forbid he be seen as the first Black president who actually did things for – gasp – Black people directly and Odin only knows the criticism he would receive if he were an angry Black man! “Taking the high road” and being humble did nothing! It was a cowardly attempt to stay on an imaginary high horse, yet when it comes to the progressive movement, kneecapping, and other below-the-belt actions are totally permissible.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the enemy of the establishment, the progressive champion of the United States, damn near ignored Jill Stein during the Democratic primary and the DNC convention despite the fact that she agrees with all of his progressive ideas. He, too, fell prey to the cowardice of comfort. Now keep in mind, there are still obtuse Clintonites who blame Sanders and his supporters for the loss of their corporatist robot despite Sanders’s support, so why didn’t Sanders go with Jill Stein, who was more in line with his values? It is because he did not want to rock the boat too much. Yes, if he did that, she would not have won, so why not do what Ted Cruz did? During the convention, tell your voters to vote their consciences based on whether Hillary Clinton adopted progressive values and, if not, vote for Jill Stein instead.  That would have allowed Clinton the chance to earn Sanders voters instead of sitting back with smug entitlement, expecting Sanders voters to “eat their broccoli” and “grow up.” It also could have raised The Green Party’s presidential ticket to 5 percent which is a benchmark that would give Greens eligibility for the presidential election campaign fund. That also would have shut down the idiots who were falsely arguing that Bernie bros were a reflection of Sanders’s sexism. Instead, the anti-establishment progressive wave of the country was co-opted by a fascist, a real progressive had to shill for an establishment corporatist for “the good of the party,” and the status quo of the two party system continued to stay unchallenged. So what did Sanders’s “being a team player” actually gain us, aside from the resounding, “I told you so” of Sanders’s supporters? It got us President Trump and no viable third party choice away from the cowardly lion, I mean the maintenance crew on the Titanic, I mean the Washington Generals, I mean the Democratic Party.   

The White supremacists in the White House, pun unintended, don’t care about your comfort! Joffrey Trump’s sense of entitlement to change the rules to fit his racist and classist base shows just how American he is. He does this as he relentlessly and unapologetically attacks the things that people consider to make this the United States what it is, and all of this is within the first week! Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks would say, “That’s an open-handed slap, boy.” The question is, what are you going to do about it? Are we going to slap back with as much intensity, utilizing the same techniques and single-minded focus that are predominant within conservative ideology to win in this fight for survival, or are we going to wrestle with ourselves over our tone and politeness and ponder the feelings of the new Fourth Reich?

Until next time, you’re all on notice. Change the course!

Written by Christopher Banks

Christopher Banks

A proud Black Brooklynite who attended grad school for Rhetoric and Composition (Long Island University University Brooklyn Campus) but found his passion in teaching. He is the co-creator of the progressive site The Course Correction, writes on politics, fitness and health, movies, comics and anime. Follow Christopher on Twitter @brooklyknightE6.

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The Disaster of Turning the Other Cheek