Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Right Vs. The Left (How We Treat Our Heroes)

Say what you want about the Republicans, the Right Wing and the Conservatives. But they take care of thier own, and they make sure that others in the movement know what these people did for the movement. It rarely matters what the crime/scandal/embarrassing moment was it doesn't matter:
  •  If you are G. Gordon Liddy and were an integral part of the Watergate scandal, and went to jail.
  •  If you are Lt. Col. Oliver North and you took a proverbial bullet for Ronald Reagan for the Iran Contra scandal. 
  • If you  Scooter Libby, and you work for the Vice President, and you lie under oath about outing a CIA operative.
  •  If you are the Governor of Alaska and quit your job halfway through, 
  • or if you are the Governor of Arkansas and you fail at your bid to become your parties nominee for the President of the United States. 
  • Or if you were Newt Gingrich  Speaker of the House, and led the attempt to impeach Bill Clinton for cheating on his wife, while you were at the time ..CHEATING ON YOUR WIFE
It  does not matter, the right wing will take care of you. They will put you on the lecture circuit, or give you a talk show on Fox, or make you a Fox News contributer. They will find some way to repay your years of service to the cause, no matter how repugnant that cause may be, how much death it caused, or  who's lives it ruined.

But on the left, we often let our standard bearers fall on their swords and leave them to bleed on the battle field. There are countless number of heroes, and activists, who's families ended up penniless, who's names were tarnished and drug through the mud and whose lives were ruined. I bring this up because I look at the case of Tommie Smith. When I first saw Tommie Smith, it was at a poster shop in Maryland, I was 15 it was a picture of him & Juan Carlos, at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. I had to have that poster, it stirred something in me, I saw two black men in a foreign land, representing their country, and then showing the world that they wanted their country to be something better, in an extraordinary show of solidarity and power.

Then a couple of year ago I saw an HBO special called "Fists of Freedom", which chronicled the story of both these men, gave some interesting back story, and talked about what happened once they came home. They were largely blackballed, and shunned, it was hard for them to get jobs and be productive, because of the backlash. Then I read an article last week saying that Tommie Smith was selling his gold medal, now I'm sure the day he won is burning into his memory, and that the medal is just a small representation of that day for him. But a part of me was extremely sad, that he needed to do this. That people and  organizations, that benefits/honored his sacrifice had not stepped up to help "take care of one of their own". I would love to see a group of grass roots, professional athletes, and organizations get together, and make sure that medal gets to the Schomburg, Moorland-Springard Research Center, or the Smithsonian, somewhere where it would get the proper respect it deserves, and at the same time give some financial support to someone whose image is burned into the national consciousness.

I would like the Left, to start taking care of it's icons, as much as the Right does. And we have a long history of letting those who mean so much to us fall by the wayside, or we stuff them in corners dust covered and forgotten. There's the story of Jesse Owens resorting to racing horses at the end of his career because "you can't eat gold medals", or Rosa Parks almost getting evicted from her apartment in her old age, or letting others control the images, and legacy of the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X, and so many others.

If you cannot protect your heroes, your legends, if you cannot control how their story will be told, what does that say about us. Now these heroes do not do what they do in order to get rich, in order to make a buck. They do it because they have a calling, a feeling, a reason to rise above. And thats to be commended, thats to be treasured, and like they do on the Right, it should be rewarded, with more than empty accolades.


  1. I think one of the fundamental differences between the Right and the Left is the significance of money. The Right values, celebrates and uses its money to make power moves. The Left tends to downplay the significance of financial power to making things happen opting to stand on democratic ideals. Is there money flowing on the Left? If so, how can it be centralized/organized to do things that you articulated in the above posting? We all know money isn't everything but it's hard to tell someone that when they don't have it. Great post.

  2. I think there is definably money flowing on the Left... you have the Huffington Post,, the NAACP, The National Action Network, The Rainbow Push Coalition, The National Urban League, The National Pan-Hellenic Council, MsNbc. There are large amounts of money flowing, it's about application. I almost wonder if the Left likes it Heroes it's easier to canonize them.

  3. Excellent essay! And too true!
    I was reading with interest and agreement all the way through and then I came to the mention of Jesse Owens... damn!
    I cannot honestly say that the 1968 Olympics scene was a milestone for me (for obvious and maybe not so obvious reason). But one of my most vivid memories of my primary education was the report I researched and wrote on Jesse Owens for the "Ohio Hero's" project.
    Talk about a Hero! Jesse was a true Hero. He quietly overcame so many obstacles and villaians and still remained a good, grounded decent man.
    And sure, there is a monument to him, engraved with his words (btw, if anyone is not familiar with the quotes of Jesse Owens then they should rectify that pronto) standing in front of Ohio Stadium on the OSU campus, but what about Jesse?... How did we treat such a great man who was also a great icon?
    the answer; we treated him like a prop. Drug out to accent a point from time to time and then shoved back into the closet.
    I hope that we do not repeat this over and over again.
    Tommie Smith, like Jesse deserves so much more.
    Maybe the difference is that on the right, their hero's seek out the lime light and fame while on the left we just cannot hear those questions that are never asked.

  4. The amazing thing is I am currently watching Fox News and seeing them circle the wagons over Juan Williams as we speak.....

    Bill O'Reilly is talking about him guest hosting the factor, getting him book deals, shutting down NPR.... all out in the open.. The Right protects their own....
    It is currently 8:30pm, and they have talked only abut Juan Williams.