• 75°

A mean spirit is on the loose

“I heard if the Republicans win the election, their first act of business was going to be sending this monkey back to his cage …” These words were posted on a website (ala.com) in response to a robo ad I sent. There is a mean spirit on the loose.

I am a history buff of sorts. I have pondered how the meanest of spirits are sometimes unleashed when people become fearful. The meanness is most often directed at those on the bottom of the totem pole, but the least responsible for the situation that gives rise to the fear. When the Great Recession hit three years ago, a lot of people became scared. People are scared of losing everything for which they have worked. They are scared for themselves, their children, and their children’s children. They are scared for the present and scared for the future. Fear is on the loose, putting meanness on the loose as well.

I referred to this mean spirit in one of my robo calls. In response to this spirit, I said, “Hell no, I am not going back to cotton fields and Jim Crow days!” That apparently incensed the above mentioned person. It is not enough for him to take me back to Jim Crow days but he wants to take me back to a monkey cage, a place neither me nor my ancestors inhabited. This response is symptomatic of the mean spirit now on the loose.

I am not surprised that someone would refer to me in monkey terms. After all, they regularly refer to the President in monkey terms. They even create pictures with his face on a monkey’s body. It reflects the mean spirit on the loose and, in my opinion, race is very much a part of it. President Obama has received five times more death threats than any President of this country in a similar time frame.

The Republican Party attacked and twisted my robo ad. They said I was “race baiting.” Their response proved my point. In their minds, I am not permitted to even say “I am not going back” to such days. On the other hand, the Tea Party constantly says they are going to “take the country back.” It’s acceptable for them to say they are going to “take the country back” but it is unacceptable for me to say “I ain’t going back.” I have not heard Republican Party leaders say one word about the Tea Party mantra. There is a mean spirit on the loose.

Each time I see the statement, “Take our country back,” I perceive a double meaning. One meaning is to “take the country back” to the so called “good old days.” These “good old days” were not so good for a whole lot of us for they meant: not being able to vote; being in constant terror of violating some unwritten rule that would bring on a vicious attack; being powerless; constant reminders of our lowly status by signs and words and facial expressions; limitations on where we could and could not go; and third class citizenship in every way. Since we African Americans were the last ones to achieve full citizenship, “take the country back” means taking us back to that oppressed condition.

The other meaning of “take our country back” is equally offensive. Take the country back from whom? We have an African American President but he does not “have” this country. Does “take our country back” mean stopping some of us from voting? Does “take our country back” mean that it will be theirs exclusively rather than ours collectively? Whatever it means, for many American citizens it does not mean anything good. There is a mean spirit on the loose.

The Republican Party, while accusing me of race baiting, is actually the one race baiting. One of the new tricks being widely employed is to accuse those fighting racism of being racists. I have worked all my life to include those left out, to lift those beaten down, and to give hope to all. I do not intend to back up one inch from my life long commitment and work.

I did not seek out the media concerning the robo ad. I would rather not have talked with them. However, when the media sought me out, I decided I would talk directly with each. When people, including reporters, don’t have the facts, they too often assume the worst.

The robo ad I recorded does not mention any individuals by name that made me “mad as hell.” This is not about individuals but the growing spirit of meanness that we must stand up to and fight. And a strong vote for people who include everyone is the best way to stop that spirit. If we do not stop it by such voting, we will have to stop it in other more challenging ways. There is a mean spirit on the loose.

Some media wanted me to back up from my statement in the robo ad. I would not back up one iota. I will not back up. I said what I meant and meant what I said. When Representative Robert Bentley, the Republican nominee for Governor, issued a statement calling on me to apologize, I said emphatically that I would not apologize. I cannot apologize because I stand by every word: I will not go back and I hope others will take a stand, refuse to go back and go forward. We do not diminish such a mean spirit by being quiet. We diminish it by fighting back. I intend to fight back.

EPILOGUE – Logic takes us only so far. Reason takes us only so far. Sometimes we perceive beyond logic and reason. When we know, we must speak even if others do not immediately receive it.

State Sen. Hank Sanders represents the 23rd Alabama Senate District.