Columnist Lori Gregory says Americans abdicated responsibility on democracy. Now it’s time to become “ as emboldened as the first person who decided to toss some tea into a harbor.”
Photo by Arielle Dreher.
During Beyonce's performance at the Grammys on Sunday night, my kid snuck two extra cupcakes when I wasn't paying attention. I gave her the standard talking-to because she knows better. But she is 7 years old, and she loves sugar. And I am her mother, and I was not paying attention. So I talked to her but then took my own blame in that situation. Thankfully, the sugar only made her do six laps around the coffee table and added an extra 30 minutes until bedtime.
Sugar, like unfettered power, is a hell of a drug.
When Donald Trump was campaigning, I used to joke that his campaign slogan really was, "Embolden the Ignorance." His rhetoric gave permission for everybody that ever had a strong "-ism" to come out of the woodwork and think that viewpoint was OK to have, again. Unfortunately—or fortunately—I see it as having properties of both; these people were originally shamed post-Civil Rights Movement into at least keeping this crap low-key. Now they are all up in our face with it. I say good.
We shouldn't be acting surprised. This system has been working toward this for 200 years. If we systematically oppress factions of a population, it is only privilege that makes us think it will never happen to us. It's that same privilege in us that is causing this to actually happen. And that might be the best thing that's happened in this country for years.
Our current administrations—state and federal—are emboldened. They feel no weight of checks and balances. As soon as one party seems to have all power, all compromise stops, and it becomes about party—not people. It is not in service of our brother that these men in office are working. It is of service to themselves and no one else. We should be both ashamed that we allowed this to happen but understand that this is a reckoning we have also created. It is up to us to fix it.
We have a president who does not respect the judicial branch and a governor who does not respect the legislative one. This separation of powers is fundamental to our process—to both our federal and state constitutions. It is beyond me why the Mississippi Legislature would ever vote to abdicate its own role in our checks and balances, effectively relinquishing control to the governor. The branches are in place to provide against the power grab both our governor and president are currently making. Make no mistake, it is the same thing. They are emboldened. And we were not paying attention. But we are the last check—the people. We the people. We abdicated our responsibility in this process years ago. If the Legislature feels that it should also abdicate their power to a higher god, then we have failed. All of us have failed.
While we debate politics for fun, the whims of administrations are not meant to be visited upon entire populations. This is no longer about party. This is about how we will allow ourselves to be governed. We exist to right the ship when it is listing. And we are listing. Now comes the arduous task of righting ourselves. We must become emboldened. As emboldened as the first person who decided to toss some tea into a harbor.
In that we shall find the true spirit of who we are, our evolution. I will not say "again" because that would indicate no progress. And that is what will truly make us great. And maybe, in that strange way, Trump's campaign slogan was right on. To be great, we must heal. We must remove the infection. And make no mistake about it, these administrations are both very ill. If that is symbolic of who we have become, then I am due for a healing. We all due for one.
In the words of Beyonce, "If we are going to heal, let it be glorious."
Lori Gregory is a social worker from Greenville, Miss. She lives in Fondren with two ruined rescues and a 7-year-old daughter who terrorizes her.