I was called to serve my country in 1950 during the Korean War. I was 21 years old. I wasn’t really into politics at the time. I grew up during the depression and pretty much saw FDR as a hero. That was the extent of my political interest. I grew up poor, very poor. I had no attitude regarding minorities – one way or the other. There were few where I lived. Although, I always lived on the wrong side of the tracks, communities, even poor communities, were segregated. My early years were in
I had my first conversation with a black person (they were called colored then) in Basic training (there were just a few in my company). His name was Bernard Turner and he was funnier than a standup comic. He did a lot for our morale. I considered him a friend but never hung out with him. I don’t know why.
After Basic training, I was transferred to the 82nd Airborne. The 82nd was the elite of the Army and it was totally segregated. All the black troopers were in an all black unit. We were stationed at
Sometime in 1951, Truman ordered the integration of all military units. Most said it wouldn’t work. My platoon was chosen as the first white unit in the entire 82nd to be assigned a black trooper. His name was David A. Dansby. He was from
Like my black friend in basic, he was funny and personable. Gradually the guys grew to like him and the bad taste jokes pretty much stopped. We grew to respect his feelings. I was probably more his friend than anyone else. I had a car. I was driving to
Shortly after my discharge I was hired as a cop by the Anaheim Police Department. From that day forward, most of my friends were cops. I love cops. They are the best people in the world except for their attitudes about blacks; pure irrational hatred for the most part. I still wasn’t very political but I became more vocal in defending them when the civil rights movement developed. We had some heated discussions in the station house and in the local watering holes.
After the civil rights bill was passed the schools and neighborhoods were gradually integrated, people got to know them, made friends with them, played ball with them and married them. Racism, at least as it existed before, phased out and those who were unable to make the adjustment were outnumbered and learned that if they were too vociferous, they would be isolated. But their hatred continued to simmer down deep.
But we have entered into a new phase. We learned to accept our next door neighbor being black, the mixed marriages, seeing a black doctor and, in the south, letting them ride in the front of the bus. We grew to love, even worship in a sense, the black athletes who play on “our” teams. Most of us, at least more than 50% of us are even ready to have a black President; but not all.
The thin veneer of decency and tolerance of a relatively small group of our citizenry has been overcome by their reemerging and now un-controlled hatred. These people have taken over the Republican Party and have become irrationally vocal. You saw them at the Town Hall meetings where they completely blocked any dialogue.
They have kept their racism and hatred below the surface for the past thirty years or so because blatant racism became unpopular. Now the election of an African American president has brought it back to the surface. They are so blind with rage, they no longer care what decent people think. They have retreated into their own ideological commune. Of course there has always been the animosity between the right and the left that had nothing to do with race. But the re-emergence of racism has intensified that as well. Politics has become ugly and has to a large extent grown to define friendships. I can remember when you were more likely to get into a shouting match over whether your Ford was better than his Chevy than over who was running for president.
An example of this hatred can be seen in the opposition to Obama’s programs – particularly health care reform. Of course rational opposition to the health care reform that has just become law can exist. But there has been no rational debate. The opposition, aware that the status quo is not defendable, at least as it relates to the vast majority of Americans who don’t own insurance companies or who earn less than $250,000 per year, have resorted to mendacity, pure lies on the extreme and distortion as a minimum. The opposition has been fueled by hatred not logic and has resulted in the so called Tea Party. They are a potpourri of opposition and hatred. The most visible thread of commonality is their hatred of Obama.
Nothing will change these people. Obama’s programs have been weakened by intransigent Republican opposition but will, over time, improve the lot of the middle class, just as Social Security, Medicare and the banking reforms of the thirties did, but this will only be met with more hatred by the Tea Party people who would rather see our society go down the tubes than see a successful African American president.