As long as we have wee
GREGORY FLOYD President, Teamsters Local 237 and vice president at-large on the General Board of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters | 12/10/2020, midnight
In 1974, during the Watergate scandal, renowned children’s book writer Dr. Seuss sent a copy of his book, “Marvin K. Mooney” to newspaper columnist Art Buchwald, in which “Marvin K. Mooney” had been crossed out and replaced with “Richard M. Nixon.” In the book, Mooney had been asked repeatedly to leave—possibly by his father or granddad. He was given many ways to go, such as leaving by boat, balloon, bike or elephant. He chose none of them. The exasperated narrator tells Marvin: “You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!” Finally, he just went. And just like Mooney, after Buchwald used the altered version for his column on July 30, President Nixon resigned on August 9th.
Current political frustrations in America are not so much about one individual, but about the collective identity of the American people: Our values, our traditions, things we thought mattered and the things we thought were a given. Of course, the devastating impact of the coronavirus has ripped our senses raw and shattered our sensitivities. But through it all––the injustices the pandemic revealed, the lack of preparedness and leadership––the American flag, albeit at half-mast, still flew over every government building throughout the nation.
After President Clinton took the oath of office, waiting for him on his desk at the Oval Office was a letter from the outgoing President George H. W. Bush, which read in part: “You will be our president when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good Luck, George.” From a Republican president, to a Democratic one, one could ask, is this a remarkable gesture? In light of the fact that a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll, which indicated that 70% of Republicans do not believe that the presidential election was fair––which is a slightly better finding than another poll taken shortly after the official count that was called in Joe Biden’s favor, in which 77% of Republicans surveyed disputed the results, and claimed Donald Trump was actually the winner—it’s not so much a remarkable gesture, as it is a sign of the times. Now, we wonder, what kind of note, if any, will be left for President-elect Biden?
More important than a presidential note is the assault on our time-honored practices and policies that we are experiencing. Adding insult to injury: where is the commitment to ensure that our democratic way of life continues with a smooth transition from one administration to the next?—a transition that should have no political party, just government staffers at work for the good of all Americans. A cornerstone of our democracy has always been the peaceful transfer of power. No chaos, just continuity. Where is the outrage from our leaders who should decry placing party over people––especially as this nation is in the grip of a pandemic? Has our international role as the leader of the free world become a mockery…an outdated standard we no longer strive to uphold? Worse yet is that perhaps some might question, despite the current administration’s campaign to “Make American Great Again,” was America ever really that great?
Back to Dr. Seuss, he may have some answers. In his famous book, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” the last several lines spoken by the Grinch at a Christmas gathering––the first one he ever attended after years of hating the holiday because he was deprived of them as a young man––he declares: “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas means a little more…..Christmas Day will always be as long as we have we.” The principles of the American democracy may derive from documents like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but the values of the American people derive from a much deeper source. 73 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. 79 million voted for Joe Biden. The key word here is: voted. 15 million people felt the duty, the obligation, the right to make their opinion known. No, democracy is not a glitz gift. It’s not an empty promise to be ignored nor is it a sign on a bumper sticker that peels off in time. It’s much more. It will live on as long as we have we.
Gregory Floyd is president, Teamsters Local 237 and vice president at-large on the general board of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.