Guest Essay: It’s The Right Question

My friend Ed Gurowitz is an insightful guy. He recently had something to say that connects Black History Month with a larger picture. His post speaks to how easily we can lose our democracy or, harder, keep it and spread it to all we men/women whom we long ago declared are created equal.

Ed gave me permission to share his essay with you. Read it and be prepared to nod your head in agreement. Then do what he says to do.


Black History Month: Who is an American?
by Ed Gurowitz

Published February 1, 2022

As you probably know by now, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the following in defense of his party’s stand against the John Lewis voting rights bill:

“The concern is misplaced because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

While McConnell attempted to walk the statement back the next day, what he said is what he said and, I believe, what he meant.

Many thanks to JN for this

For opponents of voting rights, African-Americans are not “real” Americans. Neither are Native Americans, and for some on the Right, neither are Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Asian-Americans…the list goes on and on.

For me, having participated in the civil rights battles of the 1960’s and since, this is profoundly disheartening. For a while there, it looked like things were moving, however slowly, in the right direction – the direction of Dr. King’s famous statement that “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

So what happened? I believe that the election and presidency of Barack Obama, with a Black man at the head of the government and a beautiful Black family in the White House uncovered the racism that every Black person knows was always there, and the execution of George Floyd and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and so many other Black men and women exposed the structural or systemic nature of that racism.

In a recent article in Medium [required reading – JA], Peter Burns talked about a centuries-old theory first articulated by a 2nd Century Greek historian called Polybius. The theory, called anacyclosis, says that societies go through a cycle of stages:







So, the United States was established under the British monarchy. As detailed in the Declaration of Independence, the monarchy became tyranny, and a group of men, all white and mostly enslavers, got together and, from their position of profound white male privilege, created an aristocracy – rule by an elite few – which became abusive in its own right, so (white) people demanded and got a kind of democracy. Democracy in the United States in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries was still largely restricted to white men, but there was some evolution as women and Black people exercised the right to vote. (It’s worth noting that even US “democracy” was based in the Constitution on protecting the rights of white men and, until the Civil War, enslavers.)

The abolition of government-sanctioned enslavement after the Civil War began a process of degradation of democracy, a degeneration that culminated in the naked racism of the reaction to the Obama presidency, the “populism” of the Right (which was thinly disguised mobocracy), and the full-blown mobocracy of the past five or six years. What, after all, were Charlottesville, MAGA rallies, the Mother Emanuel murders, synagogue and mosque bombings and desecration but mob rule.

The danger of anacyclosis is that it is cyclical – mobocracy is unstable and leads back to monarchy (rule by one person) and then tyranny and there we go. Trump and his followers are angling for a monarchic second term for their leader in the 2024 elections.

Here is hope: If Dr. King was right, then each time through the anacyclosis cycle moves us along the moral arc of the universe toward greater justice, but the cost in lives lost and people’s suffering is too high. The alternative is to rededicate ourselves in this Black History Month to breaking the cycle of anacyclosis and moving the US toward a democracy that is sufficiently stable to not degenerate into mobocracy. This will require all the tools we have – speaking out, demonstrating, demanding justice, and the most powerful tool – the vote, starting with this year’s mid-term elections. So here is how to honor those who, like John Lewis, dedicated their lives and sacrificed for democracy:


Master Coach, Diversity and Inclusion (DEI) Specialist, Strategy Consultant, Executive and Leadership Consultant & Coach

Final Comments

Ours is the current iteration of our schizophrenic national story, the one that both embraces and rejects whomever and whatever is not exactly the same as “us.”

Quoting Lincoln,
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation
so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

Many thanks to AT for this

I submit to you that Ed is right about what needs to be done. And if we are to keep our democracy, if we are to answer Ed’s question properly, and if we are to pass Lincoln’s test, then Ed’s direction needs a couple more steps.
We must both make it possible for all voting age Americans to vote (Read: eliminate voting suppression laws and practices) and then provide the motivation that gets people to show up and vote. That’s on all of us, because we want to – we must – long endure.


The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
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Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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One Response to Guest Essay: It’s The Right Question
  1. Jim Altschuler Reply

    I have accepted that I will not live long enough to see the equality of humankind. Like Dr. King, “I may not be with you when you reach the top of the mountain” but I truly believe it can and will be done. Judgment for all by the content of their character not the color of their skin … or their country of origin, or their religious beliefs, or their sex or orientation. It CAN be done. Believe, vote, participate. You can’t leave it up to the next person. Be responsible for the future of all life on this planet. Get involved, one way or another, to make certain that what needs to be done gets done.