Updated: Jan 10, 2019
It appears that some newly elected members of the House of Representatives believe that simply winning an election is worthy of applause across the media networks.
While I personally congratulate these young people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds (including Whites) for their achievement, I expect they will find that running for office was the easy part. Sure, some have overcome fierce discrimination and considerable economic barriers to get their names on the ballot, never mind actually winning a seat in the Congress. But in my universe, it’s their constituents who deserve the praise for recognizing merit and making informed choices. Being of a particular religion, a certain color, or having good looks counts for nothing.
When I tweeted that there were expectations attached to winning an election, here is what came back:
Okay...point taken. I now understand that performance is secondary. And that's the real point. Apparently, there will be little difference between Democrats and Republicans in the reconstituted Congress; adding yet more media star wannabes to a game of musical chairs. Not a good start.
I wonder if these freshman politicians realize that they are expected to represent everyone in their constituencies, not just those of the same skin color, gender orientation, religion, or even political views? But then, who am I to criticize?
I’m a child of immigrants. I was born on Chicago’s South Side in the 1940’s (Little Italy at 24th and Wentworth). My parents struggled against the same pressures faced by today’s immigrants and worse. My father fought in WWII (MIA 1945) and my mother worked for the US Army, despite the fact that thousands of our community leaders were arrested and interned in camps for the duration (yes, like the Japanese, many first-generation Italians were locked up in USA and Canada). In parts of the South, Sicilians (us) were not allowed to use Whites-Only washrooms and many restaurants denied service. Job opportunities were closed to Dagos. As President Trump likes to say, “A lot of people didn’t know that…”
This is not to claim that Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans didn't face even worse treatment during that era. The same discrimination is still with us today. America has always been about racism, violence, intolerance and greed. We've all experienced it. My parents worked hard to live up to expectations without adopting the least attractive characteristics of other 'real' Americans, regardless of the economic or social advantages it might have afforded them. In the end, these hard-working immigrants built this country and defended it without applause from the mass media.
Most of all, I believe in role models. And that brings me to the next question. Do we really think that name-calling and mud-slinging is the proper way to address any of the many serious problems the country faces today, including an out-of-control President with dictatorial aspirations? As Martin Luther King pointed out, you can't fight darkness with darkness.
So here's newly elected Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib's first publicly televised statement:
“When your son looks at you and says, ‘Mamma, look you won, bullies don't win,' and I said, 'Baby, they don't,' because we’re gonna go in there and we're gonna impeach the muthafucka."
If my own Mamma ever heard me utter those same words, she'd have washed my mouth out with soap. She was against vulgarity and bullying. And she was a good role model. While I agree with Congresswoman Tlaib that this President is a muthaf%*&a, I don't think it's the proper way for the first Muslim woman elected to Congress - or anyone, for that matter - to announce herself on camera, even in a bar. And judging from a flood of media articles and similarly worded Tweets, other Americans too disagree with the use of foul language, and when you represent the people, even a bar becomes a public forum. Way to go Congresswoman - shoot yourself in the foot on the very first day.
Nonetheless, on Twitter, she immediately shrugged off judgments about her speech.
Another point missed. Newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez jumped to defend Tlaib's poor choice of words, giving further ammunition to GOP mudslingers and another media opportunity in which Donald Trump publicly chastised Tlaib in front of millions. You can't win a pissing match with this President. And it's not a good way to get people on side with immigration, race, and gender inequality issues in the coming Congress. Ocasio-Cortez knows better. She should have remained silent in the interest of damage control.
So, I have to ask: what's happened to the America our immigrant parents struggled to build and defend? We can erect a huge wall around the place to keep new immigrants out, as the POTUS 45 wishes, but that won't fix what's broken inside. Perhaps it's DT's own bad example that's convinced our new young legislators that decorum no longer matters. But I beg to differ.
I'm sure that Representatives Underwood, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez will endeavour to do a good job in their new roles. At least, I hope so. The country has already seen what damage a praise-hungry, name-calling, mud-slingling, compromised politician in high office can do. I just hope the more experienced Nancy Pelosi can keep these wunderkinder in check long enough to effect some real change.
As Anthony Zurcher of the BBC put it:
"This will only be the first test of her [Pelosi] ability to bridge the generational, strategic and stylistic divides within her party. The reality, however, is that the civility ship has long since sailed in American politics. Donald Trump did not win the presidency by following the rules and norms of discourse, and the new Democrats appear more than ready to join the fray on his terms, whether Ms Pelosi wants them to or not."
Go ahead, America. Brand me a misogynist, a racist, and anti-immigration. Your comments and criticisms are welcomed so long as we still have free speech in this country. Or do we?