ADVICE & “DISSENT”: Political Discord without Collaboration

Talking Drum: At Peace...“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.”   Mark Twain 

Socialist… Nazi… Left-wing-liberal… Marxist…  hater of white people… aloof…  Hitler-esque… stupid… un-American… non-Christian… muslim… radical… fascist… unqualified… “the-one,” “uppity” and “that N’…”

Let’s not kid ourselves; the previous hateful and visceral dribble, above, directly aimed at the head of state in America, is not just partisan political dart-throwing.  The ugly rhetoric stems from deep within the crevices of our nation’s mountain of racially oriented reasoning.  And, coupled with associated faulty conclusions, it has saturated our blood-soaked soil since the horrific Middle Passage years.   

Arguably, those were the years that some 12 million Africans were forced onto slave ships as cargo- “Black Gold” for the western hemisphere- and transported across the Atlantic. An estimated 650,000 eventually landed in the United States, commercially sold or traded.  While their battered bodies, bruised souls and ancient African languages perished on our tainted soil, their imitable spirit and cultural contributions in architecture, agriculture and art live on through the descendants of chattel slavery. And, their undeniable contributions come from many corners of Africa, although lumped into “Old Jim Crow’s” twisted, archaic “One-Drop” rule which mostly assigned an individual with “one drop” of African blood to the status of “Negro”- and 2nd class citizenship.

Making it plain, President Barrack Obama’s lineage includes “drops” of blood from the Luo people from Nyang’oma Kogelo, in Kenya’s Nyanza Province.  Yet, for perspective’s sake, according to historical documentation, the Middle Passage included many other African bloodlines:  Fon, Ewe, Allada, Mahi, Mandika, Fula, Wolof, Kru, Mande, Akan, Yoruba, Igbo, Tikar, Ibibio, Bubi, Barmileke, Macua, Malagasy and others.  Perhaps, most came from Kongo and Mbundu of the Angolan and Bantu people in West-Central Africa. 

The collective wisdom of these tenacious cultures form not only part of the missing pages or footnotes to our nation’s history but what’s absent from our nation’s understanding of what it conveniently labels as “black people.” In my opinion, since many of the offensive adjectives used to describe our president stem from ignorance of the rich mosaic of ancient African history, an appreciation for the heart and soul of this altruistic leader is missing, as well.  It stokes the disgraceful fires of racism even further.

And, the perceptual distortions of this kindly president only seem to further probe the boundaries of our constitutional rights, pertaining to free speech, as the cyber-culture’s advice and “dissent” tools- the internet, the blogs, the twitters and associated tweets- stir the nasty pot of strategic political discord, but without the desired collaboration.

On the flip side, the stinging adjectives above are really not new on the national stage of political conflict.  They’re simply freshened-up twists to archaic expressions and philosophical mindsets.  A new dimension to old politic?  Maybe… 

Or, an ideological paradigm shift?  Probably…

But, they do tend to hang around with interesting vigor.  The more advanced our society becomes, the more the shameful ignorance plays peek-a-boo from behind closed doors- and, the more the uncouth behavior is picked up by our children, our nation’s future decision makers. These classless expressions may never go away.  Instead, they’ll probably just morph into some other foggy but quantifiable dimension, on the spatial continuum from frivolous New-Age politics to shady doomsday predictions of the coming Age-of-Aquarius.  And, the socialization impacts of their grammatical significance grow weaker and weaker, then fizzle and die- again.

Yet, at some point, similar vitriolic attacks may have caused other presidents to converse with their own reflections in the mirror.

Just think of the conversations President Abraham Lincoln might have had with his own mirror when critics labeled him self-serving tyrant, “megalomaniacalwith “Caesarian” ambitions,  “moral fanatic,”  and a “moronic abolitionist” who was decidedly “flawed and wicked,” as the 16th president of the United States.

And, what about George Washington when naysayers dubbed him imposter, cheat, liar, traitor and, at times, someone who disrespected states rights, as the 1st Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and the 1st President of the United States? 

Imagine the adjectives hurled at our esteemed 3rd President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, when his conflicting views on slavery and freedom became even more complicated when historians discussed his alleged, lengthy affair with a Negro slave woman and the mixed-race children she conceived.

Perhaps, lingering adjectives still exist for Presidents #35, President John F. Kennedy, through George W. Bush, #43, in sufficient amounts to paint their collective life portraits within several books.  But, the on-going smears and smirks, relating to President Obama, appear to be tinged with different shades of rancor. 

The various appointment powers of the president, with the Advice & Consent of the Senate, didn’t become center stage the way it seems to be, until President Barack Obama, #44.  The once balance-of-power compromise, was a laudable tool which, inked in the Constitution, tended to hold our presidents more accountable, preventing abuse of authority, etc.  At least, that’s what I recall from my lessons in government.  Now, the discord seems to be Advice & “Dissent,” at every nomination or appointment!   It appears that artful use of the filibuster easily denigrates an issue to strategic holding bins or permanent deferment.  The days of the elder statesman seems to be over. 

With the approaching congressional mid-term elections, and all the hoopla concerning the gridlock of partisan politics, perhaps it’s time to remind our elected folk- who supposedly work to represent the various constituencies they serve- that political discord is actually acceptable.  In some cases, it’s even desired.  I feel that the opposite side of any argument can sometimes be very enlightening- for mature folk. 

Over the years, I’ve learned to adopt many conflict resolution strategies in hostile environments, military and civilian life.  Some of the more effective ones included the simple idea of just listening- with the heart, as well as the noggin- and keeping the voice decibels down, rather than seeing who can shout the loudest, with camouflaged ulterior motives.

It really shouldn’t matter which political party is in power, or to what party one belongs.  In my opinion, collaborative problem solving and decision by consensus is in the best interest of the general electorate- not of those elected to serve them.  It’s where the oratory should begin.  It’s the sculptured political character, stemming from those conversations, that our nation still deserves- not just the Advice & Consent of the Senate, but the “…consent of the governed…” that Thomas Jefferson so eloquently alluded to, in 1776.

What do you think?  Can we ever return to a more collaborative political discord in the United States? Please let us know within the ‘comments’ section below.  Thanks.  “Backstreet Djeli”  w.d.s.

(Previously posted @, September 27, 2010)

About William "Duke" Smither (a.k.a., "Backstreet D'jeli")

William "Duke" Smither, author of “BACKROADS TO 'BETHLEHEM': Odysseys of the Maroon Warrior, in the Shadows of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,” is a Frankfort Kentucky native; Richmond Virginia resident. Retired Public Utility Sr. Investigator and nuclear site worker, Married w/ 3 children and 6 grandchildren; U.S. Navy Viet Nam Era & Cuban Missile Crisis Veteran; Member of "Cuban Blockade Survivors" & The American Legion; B.S. Degree (Business Mgmt) w/ independent studies in Ancient African History and African-American History. Post-graduate studies in Criminal Justice Administration. Former Sports & Feature writer for the weekly Richmond Afro-American Newspaper, during Freshman year of college. Retirement activities include: Freelance writer, playwright, actor and director of faith-based community theater productions; founder of "Backstreet's Blog" ("Talking Drum Dialogues") at and former contributing writer for "BlackPast.Org," the international, on-line reference center for African American History. His debut novel, “BACKROADS TO 'BETHLEHEM': Odysseys of the Maroon Warrior…,” is the first installment of a possible historical-fiction trilogy. A second installment ["Passage(s) to Saint-Domingue...."] is pending completion.