As an elementary school-age child, I spent a lot of time listening to the conversations of my grandmother and her circle of friends. I guess the average age of that group was between 65 and 70 years old. Few of them had much formal education. My grandmother had none.
Let’s be clear: I could not join in the conversation under any circumstances, even if they were discussing me. Interference in grown folks' talk was a risk certain to end suddenly and painfully for the younger interloper.
Through observation, I found that all of them could look at something, discuss the matter and reach a unanimous assessment. And, you could, pretty much, take their conclusions to the bank.
There was one major assessment that my grandmother would make that always got my attention. She would say, “You know he is worse than terrible.” That was the epitome of bad. Terrible, all by itself, is horrible, so what is worse than that?
After the election for president of the United States, I declared that Donald Trump is worse than terrible. To be honest, I thought that before the votes were cast. I saw no redeeming value in much he had said, some of which was proved to be outright lies or fabrications. But, his supporters, at least 2 million fewer at last count than Hillary Clinton’s, were OK with that, so what was I to do?
As someone who has lived through the Civil Rights Movement (still ongoing), Vietnam War, Watergate, presidential impeachment, the arms-for-hostages deal, and so on, I have seen a lot of despicable things involving presidents, some of which lead me to believe “He’s worse than terrible.”
After having several conversations with a friend whom I respect who supported Trump, I have come to realize that I have to step back and see where this man will take the country. And, yes, I am afraid.
One person I respect dearly said she just couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances. At the same time, she said she had to overlook Trump’s association with bigots, racists and white nationalists. He, she said, had not proven to be racist so that gave her cover to support him.
I hope beyond hope that she is right. But I do worry where we are headed. So, I will wait and trust in faith until something happens and I can’t.
But there is something else that has given people like me hope. In the recent race for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish, I feel voters stepped up to the plate and voted for someone who is the antithesis of the Trump movement.
It was a welcomed sight on television when the cameras panned the audience at Mayor-President-elect Sharon Weston Broome’s postelection party where we could see a multiracial and multiethnic group, a true picture of parish where I live.
That was not so much the case at her opponent Bodi White’s event. While White is an honorable state senator and person, his support seemed almost Trump-like, with very few people of color or varied ethnicities. This does not mean White would not have been a great and inclusive mayor.
Then, just as I was feeling good again about an inclusive group of citizens supporting a mayoral candidate, talk resurfaced about a renewed move for a St. George breakaway city in Baton Rouge. In its first effort, a segment of the huge, mostly white and upper-income community had failed to get enough petition signatures of those who would be residents of St. George to get a vote on whether it could become its own city. Some people believe the reason for the breakaway effort has overtones of race and class. Group organizers have said it’s about getting better schools for their community.
Everyone agrees that the consequences of a breakaway would be bad for the city of Baton Rouge and the parish. And, where does this lead? Is Baton Rouge to become a parish of breakaway cities of people who don’t want rub elbows with the other?
Here’s hoping that the melting pot of various races I saw last Saturday night at Broome’s victory party carries over into the governing of East Baton Rouge Parish. After all, Baton Rouge is stronger together. Anything else would be “worse than terrible.”
Email Edward Pratt, a south Louisiana freelance writer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.