All for You to be Heard

By Bill Mefford

When the current occupant of the White House was elected I remember hearing that his unexpected electoral college win came as a result of large numbers of people - mostly white middle class middle America folks - who did not feel heard. I kept hearing that the unheard were the flyover states, tired of the coasts getting all of the attention and that this was their reaction to being ignored.

Thus, as all post-election analysis and reactions go, the losing side spends the next four years trying to correct it’s last mistake. The Democratic establishment has been consistently trying to find ways to make sure that the mostly white middle class middle America supposedly forgotten masses are being courted; that they are being heard.

And hey, as an organizer and activist, I am all for people being heard. To credibly achieve change you need to build as broad a coalition as possible, so the more the merrier. Creating just policies that work for people, particularly those who are often ignored, takes the voices of all people. Nothing wrong with that.

But let’s face it, the collateral damage of ensuring that one group gets heard has come at the expense of other groups of people, people that have historically been far more ostracized and ignored than have the white middle class middle American trump voters. Even more, I would argue that the group of people that are being fought over right now between Republicans and Democrats - that being white middle class middle Americans - have never been not heard. But now, more than at any time I can remember, there are people who are being left out. There are people not just being ignored; they have been targeted for abuse, punishment, and even removal.

And that has come about so that white middle class middle America can feel heard.

Just so that you, my white middle class middle American brothers (and a few sisters), can be heard, here is some of what has happened:

  • A Muslim ban, albeit somewhat watered down after numerous failed attempts, has been put in place, making reunification of Muslim families all but impossible from a number of Muslim-dominant countries,

  • A corporate welfare tax cut bill was passed which forces low income and poor families to pay more so that corporations and affluent families - like the one that has seized power of this country - can prosper even more,

  • An increase in hate crimes against immigrants, refugees, and people of color as the current occupant of the Oval Office has governed through hate and spite, and has initiated racist policies that demonize black and brown people and that split up families and dehumanize people seeking to better the lives of their families,

  • A decimation of needed policies that protect the environment as his original EPA chief was not only corrupt, but did all that he could to protect polluters and exploit God’s creation,

  • Speaking of corruption, there have been dozens of investigations of the first family and this entire administration that marks this administration as the most corrupt administration in the history of this country (and more investigations are looming),

  • The devolution of values and civility as the White House politicizes every single issue, refuses to hold itself accountable for any of its actions, and they have helped corrupt the evangelical movement (though evangelical leaders needed little help) through appealing to the most racist and nationalistic tendencies among his largely white middle class middle America evangelical base.

And there is oh so much more. These are just a few of the headlines.

But I can say for me, and perhaps for some others that I know, we are tired of listening to white middle class middle America. If listening to you brings about these results, then let’s go back to ignoring you. It is simply not worth it.

You know who the so-called “forgotten” white middle class middle Americans remind me of? They remind me of the older son in the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15, though I will limit the analogy as I do not believe that like the older son in the story, white middle class middle America has lived their lives without blemish; far from it.

But there is one intriguing similarity. In this story, the Prodigal Son demands his inheritance from his father and goes and squanders it with “riotous” living. Then, in poverty, he comes home and while still a ways off, the father sees the son and goes to embrace him and welcome him home.

Here is where it gets interesting. The older son is envious of the love and embrace poured out to the younger son and demands to know why his father does not give him the same. His father reminds him that everything the father owns has been the older son’s this entire time so there is no need for him to be envious. The father invites him to join in welcoming his younger brother and to take joy out of his return. But, the older son is angry and demands to be the center of attention, even after he has had access to everything he wants or could wish for. Jealousy, envy, anger, and bitterness characterize the older son. These same characteristics describe white middle class middle America as well.

Perhaps the saddest thing about the story of the older son in the Luke 15 passage is that we never know what becomes of the older son. The younger son is welcomed back into his father’s kin-dom, but we do not know if the father’s reminder to the older son is is taken to heart.

Thus, in a rush by all of the Democratic strategists to make sure that white middle class middle America is “being heard,” I suggest we quit placating bad behavior.

When the older son of today wants even more tax cuts on top of those they have been receiving for years, I suggest we simply tell them that paying taxes to provide for a strong safety net for others and a workable infrastructure for this country is an invitation to be civically involved in our country’s upkeep and the caring for our sisters and brothers in need. Besides, God is the Creator and Owner of all that is good and exists on the earth and God’s gifts to us are not ours to horde.

When they scream about so-called “illegal” immigration, I suggest we tell them that citizenship is not fully experienced until it is shared and to keep it from others who are not white or not middle class really is only a means of keeping white people captive to racism and classism.

And when they scream about “America First” we might want to tell those white middle class middle Americans who are Christian (which is a lot of them), that we have been grafted into a higher citizenship; that of being a citizen in the Kin-dom of God. America First is simply the sin of nationalism and as followers of Jesus we cannot serve two masters.

Love demands that we do listen to those who are hurt and have been marginalized. But loving those on the margins does not marginalize those in the center. It simply provides them with the opportunity to live out what they claim they believe. And if they refuse to live that out and they demand to be heard above how they have already been listened to, then it is time to ignore them.

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