One of the “tenets” in this Flawed American Democracy is that symbols, words, and appearances have taken precedence over what they are supposed to represent – the factual, the substantive, the reality.
The periodic open expressions of racism against African Americans, for example, do not change in the least way my level of contempt, up or down, for the people and the institutions that perpetrate, perpetuate, exacerbate, or tolerate our unfair conditions in this country. For me, the reality is worse than the expressions.
So, if you note my behavior in the face of such expressions, don’t mistake my silence for ignorance or acceptance. And, please, do not interpret as fear my refusal to engage with idiocrats who seek, by use of words, gestures, or symbols, to make me doubt the high level of value I have placed on my own eminence, or reduce my steadfastness in fulfilling my moral duty to my people, my family, and, consequently, to America.
My anguish over maltreatment of innocents has been immense and continuous from the first day I left my Black community to live, study and compete in mainstream “America” at age 17. In short order, I witnessed blatant hypocrisy on the part of leaders who verbally championed high-sounding goals about freedom, equality and justice, but acted in ways as to make such ends quite unattainable for huge percentages of the members of deprived groups. Since I could not ignore lapses in America’s promises to pursue Democratic ideals, I became an inadvertent “Gadfly.” A Gadfly, as defined by Socrates, is someone who poses questions that many in the privileged groups would like to avoid. A statement on a plaque I received for my work in one of my Air Force duty stations read: He speaks his mind before all which causes severe anxiety syndromes in superior officers.
In the main, the term Gadfly has been hurled at me in a derogatory manner. It was clear, however, that the invective was a reaction from people who were discomfited because I was fulfilling my civic responsibility as an American citizen. I have always accepted that appellation in the best Socratic interpretation and to act accordingly. To this day, I still have not been politicized, socialized or homogenized sufficiently to censure what I say, or to whom I say, what I know. The rocks would cry out if I were to hold my tongue when I note that between 2006 and 2014 Black children living in concentrated poverty increased by nearly 17%; and that 32% of Black children are now in this category.
My defining, resolute philosophy has pressed me to demand that leaders who claim commitment to redemptive causes for Black Americans and their sycophantic followers stop the ritual endorsement of debilitative actions fostered by people who hated us in the past and who do not understand us today.
The link between education and income is clear. Yet, I have been accused of outright heresy because of the questions I have asked about the sacred cows in our socio-education system on both sides of the “proverbial tracks.” When people criticize my “irreverence,” I say to them that any field that cannot tolerate one Gadfly is a field that has something to hide.
Nothing can disintegrate our character as thoroughly as the idea that one must never pass moral judgement on others, that one must be tolerant of anything and everything, that our best selves are revealed when we steadfastly refrain from distinguishing good from evil.
Real Gadflies are Transformers, not Revolutionaries. Through history, nearly all revolutions have failed and resulted in new exploiters replacing the old order because the driving force has not been focused on Creative Destruction, which requires a comprehensive plan to transfigure the target entity before the battle is initiated; and requires more work and sacrifices after the revolution than before.
As troublesome as it may be to assail the actions of openly disreputable people, it takes more courage and results in more reapproval if we rebuke purportedly good people for their behavior, question their acumen, and chastise them for their failures. Nevertheless, one of the severest tests of friendship is to tell your friends where they have fallen short. As Theodore White said: “To go against the dominant thinking of your friends and peers, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.”
Transformative Gadflies urge their fellow human beings to work more diligently on personal and community development, but real Gadflies are their own severest critics. They are under constant, self-imposed pressure for personal analysis and development and they nodify their philosophy in keeping with the changes in the real world and their experiences in that world.
“They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth…” (Howell)