A few days before Oklahoma voted down a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana across the state, a friend and I discussed the issue over coffee. He said he was voting ‘yes’ to the initiative, despite the fact that he has no interest in using marijuana.
I asked him why.
“I want to stick it to The Man,” he said.
I’m right there with you, my friend.
Sticking it to The Man has become a personal avocation for me as I’ve approached my angry old man years (GET OFF MY LAWN!).
Of course, defining exactly who ‘The Man’ is can be a moving target.
In my mind, The Man is an older, wealthy white guy sitting in a corner suite in a tower office, pouring money into campaigns and candidates that promise to resist change at all costs or take America back to the 1950s.
You know, when everyone knew their place. Wink. Wink.
I am a child of the South, so I know how Jim Crow laws were enforced by The Man all over the South until the mid-1960s.
The emergence of MAGA and Red State legislators in today’s world have an eerie resemblance to their ancestors who set up a society in which white folks were guaranteed by law to be the ruling class.
Some famous examples of sticking it to The Man from the past:
Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., and helped launch the Civil Rights movement.
Clara Luper led a group of young people into a downtown Oklahoma City drug store in 1958 where they sat at the lunch counter until they were served in a time when Jim Crow laws still enforced segregation.
Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in a Major League Baseball game on April 15, 1947 when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Major League Baseball had operated as a segregated sport for almost a hundred years.
Want to see a current-day for-instance?
We can look to the Tennessee legislature to see The Man in action. Less than two weeks ago, the white Republican legislative majority was so offended that people protested lack of restraints on purchase and ownership of assault weapons that they expelled two Black legislators who participated in a protest on the floor of the House.
The two offending legislators had joined a group of young people making their voices heard after a gunman used a high powered rifle to kill six children and teachers at a Nashville elementary school.
Less than a week after they were expelled, county commissioners in Nashville and Memphis reinstated both legislators. Now that’s sticking it to The Man.
I took great pleasure in seeing their reinstatement.
Yet another example of sticking it to The Man, which in this case was an institution: Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s embraced a system of statistical analysis that turned the way of judging talent by Major League Baseball upside down.
Read the book Moneyball to see how it all went down, or watch the movie starring Brad Pitt.
Sticking it to The Man has been a common theme in movies across the years. Perhaps my favorite is the movie Office Space, which follows a group of young office workers stuck in mind-numbing jobs with an over-the-top intrusive manager and a balky printer.
They stick it to The Man in several ways, but my favorite is a scene where they load the hated printer into the trunk of a car, drive it to a remote location and take out their anger on it with a baseball bat — in slow motion.
Watch the scene here.
My attempts to stick it to The Man are more low key. For instance, I once worked in an office where we were forbidden to download any unapproved software, including my browser of choice, Google Chrome. The IT department told us it ‘did not support’ Chrome, so we were stuck with Microsoft Explorer.
Then a coworker discovered that we could download Chrome without it being blocked by the IT lockdown. I downloaded it and used it for years of software bliss and satisfaction in knowing I was sticking it to The Man in a small way.
OK, I know that’s not a society changing act like leading a group of students to a lunch-counter sit-in. My place in history is on a much, much smaller scale.
But I’ve used the power of the vote to support causes like the expansion of Medicaid in Oklahoma and medical marijuana, both of which had heavy opposition from those in power.
When both of those questions passed, I celebrated to myself, knowing that I had a small part in sticking it to The Man.