Reclaiming Democracy


I wrote this op-ed for the September 15, 2001 edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times.


As you read this my wife, Shonnie, will finally be home. That will never be said again for thousands of our fellow citizens.

I sit here by myself early Thursday morning. Over the past two days, I have moved from shock and numbness to a place of deep sadness and grief. I mourn for those who lost their lives or were injured in the suicide attacks. I mourn for those they left behind. I mourn for our nation. I mourn for those around the world who face the violence of terrorism on a daily basis.

I am lucky. Shonnie is en route from Denver to Asheville via Greyhound (a 36-hour journey) after having been stranded there because of the FAA’s no-fly order. But she is coming home.

What happened on Tuesday was impossible for me to fully comprehend at first. I watched the 767 crash into the World Trade Center, but it was more like a rerun of some action flick than reality. Yet every time I heard a siren outside my Biltmore Avenue office, I was startled, thinking an attack might be underway in Asheville. Shonnie called from her dad’s in Denver. I called my mom in Tennessee. She had talked to my daughter who lives outside Washington, D.C. and reported that she and her family were OK. I couldn’t get through to any of my friends or relatives in the D.C. or New York City areas. I prayed they were safe. Folks in my office suite gathered to watch the tragic events unfold. Not much work got done that day. (more…)

Facing what seems like an endless stream of news about racialized conflicts and violence, many people call for us to get beyond our history and find solutions for today, concrete actions we can take immediately, ways of expressing love right now to help us cope with the pain.

This yearning is understandable, but it’s just as important that we grapple with history, realize the inadequacy of any actions we might take today, and accept the limits of love in the face of political and economic realities. Better that we start with a harsh, but honest, assessment: The United States has always been, and likely always will be, a white-supremacist country.

Start by (1) remembering that the United States is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the history of the world and (2) realizing that this wealth and power has depended on the idea of white supremacy. Recognize that the material comfort of the United States is the product of three racialized holocausts, rationalized by white supremacy.

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Well, they didn’t pry it out of my cold, dead hands. But my only remaining firearm has just left the premises.

Having grown up and lived in the South I’ve owned shotguns, .22 rifles, and an assortment of handguns. But over the years, my collection had dwindled to one old revolver that I kept in the bottom of my T-shirt drawer, a place where it would be handy if danger arose. My ability to actually use the pistol in an emergency was doubtful, however, since my wife, Shonnie, had only agreed to keep it in the house if it was unloaded.six-gun

What, you might ask, motivated me to hand over the gun to local law enforcement authorities? I got rid of it in response to a well-timed question about my possession of it by Shonnie after we saw Michael Moore’s movie Bowling for Columbine. The question: “What are you afraid of, Bruce?” (more…)

Last evening Shonnie, Gracelyn and I were in the kitchen cooking dinner and listening to This Land is Your Land: Songs of Freedom. Buffy Sainte-Marie and her rendition of “The Universal Soldier,” Bob Dylan and Joan Baez crooning “With God on Our Side,” Cisco Houston singing “This Land is Your Land,” and more. And I got to thinking about this presidential election.Trump-Hillary-Bernie

Now it’s quite clear to anyone paying attention that it’s way past due for a woman to be elected President of the United States. However, this is a highly perilous time for this nation with numerous issues that cry out for action—income inequality, lack of a living wage for many including members of the middle class, two-tiered justice system, institutional racism, militarization of police departments, world-wide militarism (800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad), and more, plus our lip service toward reining in climate change. (more…)

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