Columns » Max Brantley

Can we get along?

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The Times production deadline fell before polls closed this week, so I'll look to the past and future.

First: Basketball, specifically the little-noticed sport of women's basketball at the University of Arkansas. Six members of the women's team created a statewide furor last week by quietly kneeling and linking arms during the playing of the National Anthem before a crowd of 1,200. They joined a national movement about police treatment of black people. One team member stood erect, hand over heart, but extended another hand to a kneeling teammate.

The fury hasn't abated.

I stand for the National Anthem. I understand those who think there are better ways to make a point. But I have less patience with those who insist that differences of opinion must be reduced to contests, with punishment for losers.

Vituperation of the players was the unsurprising dominant response. In a state in which only about one in every seven is black, there's a lack of understanding of what it means to be black — in school, driving or just walking down the street.

There were calls to revoke the players' scholarships. Some wanted to fire Coach Jimmy Dykes and Athletic Director Jeff Long for defending the players' First Amendment right to free speech at a public institution. Republican Reps. Kim Hammer and Laurie Rushing and Sen. Alan Clark called for financial punishment of the UA for allowing the demonstration.

Jimmy Dykes stood 10 feet tall. His players have "strong, well-informed, educated opinions based on their real-life experiences, their real-life emotions. I am very, very proud of them. They know I have their back 100 percent. Because we do live in a country that is the land of the free and the home of the brave." He added that he'd stand for the National Anthem and wished others would, too. But he gets it.

Do we?

We had an election Tuesday in which Donald Trump, an admirer of authoritarian leaders around the world, at least came close to winning the presidency. (God forbid that he did.) His followers beat a protester at a rally. He and his campaign rejected the findings of the Justice Department, FBI and multiple congressional investigations to insist, while offering no evidence, that Hillary Clinton was a law-breaker and should be jailed. There's a Republican movement afoot to prevent a President Hillary Clinton from filling any openings on the U.S. Supreme Court. They also want to build walls and reject immigrants fleeing war.

Is the future of either a Trump or Clinton presidency a nation of warring camps? Arkansas has entered that realm. It is not possible for our U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman to see a redeeming quality in Barack Obama, though the majority of the American people do. Democrats in state government have been relegated to useful-stooge status. The Republican powers aren't content with marginalizing dissenters, they want to punish them — take money away from maternal health care if it's provided by Planned Parenthood; erect legal protection for discrimination against LGBT people; abolish a majority black Little Rock school board and fire a competent school leader because they were not politically correct in blood-red Arkansas.

Can we get along? Hillary Clinton had a record for doing so in the U.S. Senate. But her pragmatism and political shape-shifting were a part of the Bernie Sanders movement (lefties can be intolerant, too). Still, a new study shows that women legislators are more successful at passing legislation than men.

So maybe, if Tuesday did bring a Hillary Clinton presidency, even the promised eternal investigation by Republican firebrands doesn't necessarily mean she won't find a way to get along. But where the Trump movement is hottest — and that would include Arkansas — I'm pessimistic. See the Razorback women's basketball team.

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