Back in the not-so-distance past, when racism in the Republican Party was covert and cloaked in code words and dog whistles, I’d have conversations with proud party members who would attempt to convince me that I was seeing things that weren’t there.
Theirs was the party of Abraham Lincoln, limited government, judicial restraint, the rule of law, lower taxes, balanced budgets, free trade, lower or no tariffs, pure entrepreneurism;
Unfettered capitalism, less regulatory oversight of business and industry, rugged individualism, free trade and politicians who operate within the bounds of the Constitution.
Being a knowledgeable and informed liberal kind of guy, it was easy for me to successfully counter their alleged conservative beliefs and remind them that the majority of the gains that favored the poor, the non-white and middle classes came about because of the efforts of liberal, progressive and, yes, socialist-minded activists.
While it was easy for them to see the negatives associated with left-wing ideals, they were always reluctant to acknowledge the dark underpinnings of their Grand Ole Party, even when it was hiding in plain sight.
Barry Goldwater’s siding with Southern segregationists in opposing civil rights legislation wasn’t racist, neither was Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, nor was Ronald Reagan talking states rights in Philadelphia, Miss., or his description of welfare cheats always being black.
During the 1988 presidential election, when people associated with the George H.W. Bush campaign ran the infamous Willie Horton ad to show that Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis was soft on crime, Republicans told me that it was just shrewd and tough campaigning, not racism.
I lost count of the number of Republicans who for eight years looked me in the eye and told me that their objections to President Barack Obama had everything to do with his politics, his policies and his desire to be an imperial president, not the color of his skin.
I’d smile and say that if that was the case, then I fully expected them to feel the same way when a Republican president comes along that shattered the established norm for how a president is supposed to behave and operate.
Most assured me they would, and went into the voting booth on Nov. 9, 2016, and voted for Donald Trump.
And despite all the detrimental things that have occurred on his watch in the last three years, his approval rating among Republican voters remains about 90 percent. But they digress.
During these conversations, if I was getting the best of them or making them feel uncomfortable, more than a few had a go-to reason for why they voted Republican.
With the most sincere, deep-felt look they could conjure from the depth of their soul, they would tell me that regardless of how beneficial to them personally and financially any policies put forth by a Democratic politician, they could not vote for them if they supported abortion.
Ever prepared, I had a counter. I’d ask them if they had any concerns about children who die after they enter the world, especially in the first year of life.
To a person, they would say something along the lines of, “Of course, all life is precious.”
Then I would point out that because of the lack of available and quality prenatal care, combined with the continuous right-wing assault on social welfare programs, in some urban and rural areas of these United States, the infant mortality rate for black, brown and poor white is three times as high as the national average and higher than some third-world nations.
These are the same countries the current occupant of the White House ingloriously called “s---hole” nations.
I could spout percentages and statistics at them for hours, but numbers lack the impact of hundreds of crosses in a churchyard or on a billboard, or carrying a sign or yelling from a bullhorn on the sidewalk at a family planning clinic.
As much as I disagreed with them, I respected their passion for their position and beliefs — so much so that I have adopted their zeal:
I can never vote for a political candidate who has no problem condoning and supporting policies that lead to children dying on our southern border trying to enter the country, while being held in concentration-like detention camps, babies being ripped from the arms of their mothers, while children who are old enough to know what’s going on are placed in cages like animals.
Raise your hand if you believe that, in the aftermath of the latest three mass shootings in this country that resulted in 34 people killed and 69 wounded and a couple dozen more injured trying to flee the scenes bought about by the horrific incidents.
In addition to providing the usual thoughts and prayers, President Donald Trump, his chief enabler in the Senate Mitch McConnell and a few other Republican politicians are saying they might be ready to enact some type of law that will do something to address the issue of mass shootings that plague our country.
Yeah, right. But, the blame most of them found was with violent video games and Hollywood movies, not guns.
The only gun bill these Republicans will ever support will be one that limits the rights of black and brown people to bear arms.
Hey, if they can curtail the right for some of us to vote without any blow-back, why stop there?
As I’ve said before, Republicans will never do more than give lip service to any legitimate, common-sense, gun control measure; the body count will have to be more than 125 killed and another hundred wounded.
In addition to that, the shooting will have to directly impact Republican politicians in a place that matters to them — their campaign funding.
That means that a mass shooting or three will have to occur at exclusive private country clubs as they are hosting a Republican fundraiser, and a majority of the victims will have to be family and friends of top GOP donors.
Until that happens, the events in Gilroy Calif.; El Paso Texas; and Dayton, Ohio, and the people who were killed, wounded or had their lives altered forever are just numbers on that ever-growing list of what we do to each other in these United States.
HCHS CLASS OF 1979 REUNION
Hey, member of Henry County High School’s Class of 1979, the date of our 40th reunion is fast approaching, Sept. 13-14.
Go check out the information about the upcoming festivities on our Facebook page or say something to Susan Jones, Catherine and Rusty Culley, Mark Chandler, Timmy Williams, Tracy Turner or me, if you see us.
We’d love to see as many of you there as can make it.
Hi, Momma Lois.
TONY KENDALL of Hazel is a writer, teacher, actor, playwright and sports fanatic. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.