(system) #1

I was the first voter at the polls in my precinct yesterday. My wife insisted that we get up early and brave the seasonal chilly air to avoid long lines and makeshift parking places in the unlikely event that the crowds showed up at our polling station. When we pulled up to the community center and saw that we would have won gold if this were a race, my son decided that he had enough time to get some breakfast from a local fast food restaurant. Not wishing to come back to a transformed scenario, I decided to stay behind and hold our place.

No Campaigning

Before my wife and son returned, three other men joined me and we engaged in small talk, trying our best to avoid anything political. As we chatted about family, sports and the weather, one of the election workers came out to put up a sign forbidding guns in the polling station. He casually suggested that if any of us had guns in our possession we were required by law to leave it in our vehicles. As he returned to the warm building, I noticed the standard “buffer” sign: “No Campaigning Within 30 Feet of the Polling Station.”

Although it would be thirty minutes before polling would officially start, one of the workers felt compassion for the four of us who were stuck outside in the frigid Alabama weather (I swear it must have been at least 48 degrees!) and invited us to spend the rest of our waiting time on the cushioned couches in the warm lobby. As we settled, I was the first to break the obvious tension once more by calling attention to the fresh evenly spaced lines in the recently vacuumed area mat. I know, that sounds like taking small talk to an even more diminutive level. However, it’s all I could do to stop me from saying something about the fact that in the middle of the comfort area in this campaign free zone was a television tuned to FOX News.

Southern Strategy

Only those who’ve experienced it can know how I felt at that moment. It’s the feeling I get every time I snake my way through the TSA line at the Huntsville-Decatur International Airport and am forced to stand in the shadow of the massive Jumbotron channeling the terrorizing propaganda of Hannity, O’Reilly and Carson. The very fact that government workers could promote their bias with impunity in public space is a not so subtle reminder of the Southern Strategy’s success. By feeding into the deepest reservations ofthose afflicted by ethnophobia, the purveyors of hate and mongers of fear have strategically established multiple outposts of the renewed Confederacy throughout the contiguous United States. Their unstated message is simple: “We must hold on to our White privilege at any cost!”

Just in case you’re wondering if I contradicted myself in the previous paragraph, I did not. The Carson to which I refer is the famous Dr. Benjamin Carson, who has become one of the more effective proponents of the White privilege platform. He probably would have been very comfortable in the lobby of my polling station listening to the anti-Obama vitriol as it fueled the rabid hate of the masses in my right-wing electoral district who can’t see past our President’s father.

Taking a Stand

I didn't stay in my seat for long, more people started coming and I wanted to secure my place without the latecomers accusing me of jumping the line. I called my wife and son who by that time were sitting in the parked car and they joined me. As we waited, my son and I discussed the implications of the amendments, which included one that strengthened the “rights” of gun owners. However, I could not fully concentrate on our discussion because all I could hear was the negative FOX News commentary in the background.

It was then that I made the decision to do something about it. After consulting with my wife, I made my way to the main office and found the person who appeared to be in charge. He was sitting behind a big desk watching a television that was tuned to—you guessed it—FOX News. I politely reminded him of the “No Campaigning” policy and suggested that the viewing choice they had made for voters appeared to be a form of campaigning. Fortunately, he not only listened, but also heard and changed the channel to a more neutral one—to the apparent chagrin of a fellow voter who wondered aloud why anyone would change from FOX News to “QVC”!

The American Nightmare

I have no idea if the television stayed on QVC after my departure—I would be very surprised if it did. However, I did register a formal complaint at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. In this professed land of e pluribus unum, people lining up to vote or to go through airport security should not have to feel as if they are in a state of besiegement. They should not have to endure the type of explicit propaganda that lulled a generation of Germans into an indifference so dispassionate, that they did nothing about the deprivation of the rights of fellow citizens, who just happened to have been “different.”

I don’t expect those who are drunk with the wine of White privilege to understand my fear. As Sojourner’s Jim Walls rightly pointed out in a conference I attended on Monday, those oblivious to White privilege have no idea that everyone’s America is different. The truth is, there are many genres of dreams, and for many who have been victimized by America—both historically and in the present—the “American Dream” is a living nightmare.


Before I left my house to vote yesterday, I knew that the majority of candidates for whom I would caste a vote had no chance of winning in my district. Nonetheless, I voted anyhow—if anything, to make a statement. I may live in a state of besiegement, but as long as God lends me breath I will continue to exercise my God given freedom to do the right thing, whether or not it is protected by the constitution. My fear is real, but my faith is stronger.

Indeed it is this faith that buoyed me to the polls yesterday with a song on my heart:

“Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round…,

Ain’t gonna let voter suppresion turn me ’round…,

Ain’t gonna let police brutality turn me ’round…,

Ain’t gonna let gerrymandering turn me ’round…,

Ain’t gonna let FOX News turn me ’round….

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round….

I’m gonna keep on walking, keep on walking,

Walking to freedom land!”

As you reflect on your chosen side in our besieged and increasingly hostile society, always remember that, “a tree is known by its fruit.”

Keith Augustus Burton is the Director of the Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations at Oakwood University. He is also on the Advisory Board of Adventist Peace Fellowship.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

Keith. One of your best Op-Ed pieces. Thank You. Tom Z

(Steve Mga) #3

My question is – WHY was there a TV blaring in the 1st place? ANY Tv channel or program would have been an irritation to anybody QVC or any program. That would be the same as having a Radio blasting a music station.

(efcee) #4

KAB took action to remind the site manager of the rules and then he followed up by registering a formal complaint. This sort of vigilance is the only way our system can possibly work. The system allows for “scrutineers”, one for each of the major political parties, to monitor polling places for rule violations, but I believe they mostly work on a volunteer basis, so I would suspect their presence to be rare.

(Afpanel) #5

Unbelievable racist dribble. Just because Hannity, O’Reilly and Carson don’t hold your political views you call it “terrorizing propaganda.” Spectrum magazine I am surprised this follows your constructive criticism guideline.


(Elaine Nelson) #6

No political views by anyone or any TV should be so prominently displayed at a polling place. It is against the law!

(Allen Shepherd) #7

Dear Besieged Kieth,

  1. Black voters are not suppressed by having to show ID, in fact a bit more than half of blacks support them.
  2. The thugs that attack police can expect to be shot.
  3. Are you telling me that Democrats don’t gerrymander?? Gerry (the Massachusetts politician for whom it was named) was a Democrat!
  4. FOX at least has some liberal commentators (Juan Williams etc.). But the others do have conservatives as well.

Are comparing FOX with the Nazi government?? I can’t believe it!

This piece just show your own political leanings, and is full of bias. That FOX is biased as well does not let you off (and I don’t particularly like FOX myself). The Main Stream media are biased as well, and I am unhappy that my tax dollars are used pay for liberal NPR programing. How would you like to have to pay for FOX? But I have to pay for NPR, and you don’t seem to object.

(Rohan Charlton) #8

Excellent article. Enjoyed reading so much. So brave of you to ask for the channel to be changed! Seems trivial but in such a charged atmosphere I’d say that was very brave.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #9

Thanks for your follow through at the polling station & w/ the DOJ.

(le vieux) #10

I was tempted to ignore this entirely, because as a paleface, I probably do not have a right to disagree with Dr. Burton without being accused of being a racist. He seems to have bought into the rhetoric of the so-called “reverends” Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who can find racism around nearly every corner of a story.

I happen to agree with much of what Bill Cosby (he was chastised for not toeing the Jackson/Sharpton party line) and Dr. Ben Carson have to say on issues of race relations. And they are not alone among Blacks. I’ve heard many voice similar opinions and call for an end to the race-baiting that goes on. But their voices are not often heard because the sound-bite media ignore them, in favor of the whiners. So much for “fair and balanced.”

I’m completely baffled as to why there would be any objection to verifying the ID of someone who comes to vote, especially if the State provides them free for those who can’t afford them. We don’t object to showing our ID’s for numerous other reasons: writing a check or renting a car, for example. Oh, yeah, and if Dr. Burton has ever been a constituent at his local conference, he would have had to prove his identity before being allowed to enter as a voting member of the assembly, as I did recently at our constituency meeting.

The complaint about “explicit propaganda” is also puzzling. Maybe he never listens to main stream media with their promotion of so many left wing causes, such as global warming, giving amnesty to illegal aliens (not immigrants, aliens; an immigrant is one who is here legitimately, either as a refugee, or on a valid visa, going through the proper procedures for acquiring citizenship); abortion on demand; same sex “marriage,” etc. etc.

One thing I can dispute without being labeled a racist, is the use of the term “frigid” for 48° in November. Those of us in more northern climates would find that to be quite balmy, considering what’s coming up. Cool, yes, but frigid? Come on! :slight_smile:

I also find it odd that a TV would be on in a polling place. My polling place is quiet–no TV, no radio, not even a computer. And we still use paper ballots–SHOCKING!

(Steve Mga) #11

I have a dear friend, an older woman, who writes weekly articles for the newspaper about topics of local interest. But, it seems no matter what the topic, she some way manages to insert a racial issue into it.
When I read Keith’s article, I had the feeling it was written by her. Several letters to the Editor have asked her to not do that, but to no avail. A number of her other friends have noticed the same and comment on it.

But, I am also biased. I am White. Conservative. Applaude true Justice. Do not like Jackson and Sharpton. Love Bill Cosby [even reruns]. Do not listen to Fox. Vote Independent ticket. Enjoy having Tea with friends.

(Elaine Nelson) #12

Don’t be taken in by what politicians say as it’s always to appease the audience.

After all you wrote, you DID agree that the TV program was inappropriate for a polling station, which was the entire reason for the article without bringing in favorite dislikes.

(Elaine Nelson) #13

If there was a racial issue it is because there have been politicians quoted as saying that was the very reason for the ID voting laws in their states!
It is not racist when elderly people who have difficulty producing a birth certificate or driving license to be asked to produce all sorts of ID. Do you have you birth certificate handy? A number of years ago when I needed mine for a passport it was very difficult as it is for many elderly folk even though they may have lived in the same house or town for mot of their lives.

It is the same reason (and politicians have agreed) that some of the intricate gerrymandering has been done. Never trust a politician to always tell the truth.

(le vieux) #14

Ain’t that the truth! Gerrymandering should be illegal. And I feel your pain about birth certificates. I’ve had mine for years, but suddenly, in the hysteria after Sept. 11, 2001, it wasn’t good enough. What?!! I used it to get my first passport 45 years ago, and now it’s not good enough? It took me 6 months to get a notarized copy from Calif., where I was born. Ridiculous! And somehow the powers that be must have failed to notice that those who destroyed the World Trade Center, and flew into the Pentagon, all had passports. So, how does having a passport to go to Canada or Mexico make us safer? But there does need to be a reasonable method of verifying the identity of voters. In our small town, the clerks recognize the people who come in to vote, especially if they’ve lived in the town for a long time, as I have. But, in urban areas where many people don’t even know those living in the apartments next to them (been there; done that), there needs to be a better way.

(Elaine Nelson) #15

Let’s celebrate: we agree!

(Steve Mga) #16

Every body ought to have a picture ID. There are many every day times one needs a picture ID.

  1. Driver license.
  2. At the bank
  3. Signing up for government programs.
  4. Buying a beer or a pack of cigarettes.
  5. Stopped by police for a violation.
  6. Sometimes picking up prescriptions

A true incident not long ago in Jones County, Ga, next to my Bibb Co. I had a friend in the car. I was driving down this street. He had his seat belt on. He saw something he wanted that someone had put at the roadside trash. An item to put small plants on that would look nice for his porch. He hopped out, put it my vehicle, but forgot to seat belt himself. I did not notice. BUT, this Policeman did!!!
I had to show my Picture ID. He had left his at home [it was a 2 yr old prison ID anyway]. The police man came back 3 times to ask him information about himself, the last time his social security number. Finally the cop’s computer said he was OK. and he let us go with just a warning and NOT a ticket.
If he had his ID on him, it would saved a lot of problems for the Cop, and us.

PS. When I signed up for VA benefits I needed ID materials. I now have a VA card with my PICTURE on it. AND, I have to show it EVERY TIME I go to the VA office in town for services.

(le vieux) #17

Miracles are still possible. :slight_smile:

(Frankmer7) #18

Here’s what gets me… the anti Obama vitriol heard these days, is so often portrayed by his supporters as racially fueled. I’m not saying that this is never the case…the birther fanatics are an embarrassment. But, Keith has constructed a no win situation for anyone, especially anyone who is Caucasian, and who publicly stands against President Obama. Do so, and you’re a racist. Do so in the media, and you’re even more of a racist. A neat way of trying to shut down dissenters with the dreaded label of political incorrectness, specifically the label of…racist.

What seems to be missing from Keith’s perspective is that there are many…many who even voted for Obama, who have now withdrawn their support, not because of the color of his skin (as hard as this may be for you to believe, Dr. Burton), but because of his governing record, and policies. Many see the uncontrolled southern border immigration that he has allowed, the Benghazi cover up that could very easily have resulted in impeachment, the botched roll out of national health care, with little to no accountability within his administration, a seventeen trillion dollar national debt, and much more, as signs of an incompetent presidency, and of failed leadership. Just look at the general approval numbers and how they’ve changed over the years, and see if there may be some correlation.

It is no wonder that the Democrats were soundly defeated at the polls this mid term. It wasn’t about the color of the President’s skin, or a national race based hatred for him. If it was, he would never have been elected in the first place, let alone for two terms. Rather, it was the ripple effect of his governance that was equated with the Democratic party as a whole, and as was expressed by the voters on Election Day.

The sea change that many liberal pundits had said was going to send the Republicans into older white man irrelevancy seemed to evaporate, because of this administration’s policies and their results… not because of race.



(le vieux) #19

Much of life must be ahead of me. I’ve only experienced #1 and #2 recently (actually, they all know me at the local banks, so I haven’t needed ID for years). Can’t remember the last time I experienced #5 (will avoid as long as possible). #3 will come next year when I’m eligible for Medicare. But I refuse to experiment with #4. And, at my advanced age it is unlikely that they would need an ID anyway. Of course, I can’t prove that I didn’t color my beard gray just to look like an old geezer. :wink:

(Frankmer7) #20

One more concern. I’ve noticed a pattern of Dr. Burton lobbing a racially charged bomb in the form of an article on Spectrum, and then never engaging anyone during the aftermath. Why is this so?