Point of View Columns

And Then They Came For Me

Many Americans who are opposed to Donald Trump, indeed most Americans who are appalled by Donald Trump, view him as an aberrant turn in the wheel of American history. The view persists that whatever damage he inflicts upon American citizens, no matter the seeds of turmoil that he spews all over the world, America (and the world) will recover and prosper once again.

The consequence of this thinking has been too many Americans are engaging in passive aggressive behavior – on the one hand cursing his very name and turning his every misstep, misdemeanor or felony into entrees at the progressive dinner table and then moving on with their lives – earning a living, planning their next vacation and planning for the future. And I am reminded of the poem written by the German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Even though every single day, Trump reminds us that he is so intent on wreaking damage and destruction in his pursuit of Making America Great (and White) Again that the damage that he can cause to America and Americans is incalculable. Yet the protest and resistance to the Trump regime has been muted given the grave danger that he represents.

The truth is the majority of Americans cannot envision themselves as actual and direct victims of Donald Trump and his enablers. And this self-insulation did not begin on January 20, 2017 when Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States. For example, this country has the unenviable record of being Incarceration Nation with 4% of the world’s population and 40% of the world’s prison population. More than two million American citizens languish in American prisons despite a declining national crime rate. Yet most Americans believe that they do not need to speak out against mass incarceration because they are not prisoners.

The truth is that most Americans are covered by some kind of health care, either through their employer or through Medicaid or Medicare. And so even though America is the only developed country without a comprehensive national health care system, too many Americans do not see a linkage between their own lives and the tragedy of millions of Americans who do not have health care coverage. They do not speak out because they are not without health care coverage.

During the sad and sordid history of race-based slavery in this country, most white Americans did not speak out against this outrage until a constitutional crisis resulted in the Civil War. And even after the Civil War and Emancipation, most white Americans did not speak out against lynching, Jim Crow and legalized segregation because they were not black and would never be slaves, would never be lynched and would never be denied their rights at birth. And so too many white Americans (and black Americans) do not speak out because they believe they will not be treated as black Americans and have to drink from the bitter cup of racism, discrimination and the denial of basis human rights.

On this very day that you are reading this column, millions of women are being denied reproductive rights, in the process being cast into an abyss of misery, degradation and hopelessness. Of course no man can understand the full impact of the denial of reproductive rights and too many women believe that their reproductive rights will always be protected. And as a result, too many Americans do not speak out because they are not at risk of losing their reproductive rights.

Most Americans are not from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras or Mexico. So most Americans view the grim and grotesque Hell the Trump regime has created for immigrants at the Mexican border as being irrelevant to their lives because they are not from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras or Mexico. While some Americans recoil from the horror of parents being separated from their children, most Americans will not hold their elected representatives accountable for this monstrous policy. And most Americans will not speak out until this policy is stopped, because they are not from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras or Mexico.

So while most Americans view the travesty that is the Trump regime as an unfortunate moment in American history. The media, the LGBTQI community, black and Latino Americans, advocates for gun control and supporters of environmental protection and reform are already targets of the Trump regime.

Now might be good time for all of us to remember the last lines of Reverend Niemoller’s poem before it is too late:

“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

 

 

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Point of View Columns

The Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind

For those who care to see, it should be clear that with the possible exceptions of Warren G. Harding and George W. Bush, Donald J. Trump is the worst President of the United States in the past 100 years. The lies, the classless attacks on enemies – real and imagined, the ignorance, the racism, the sexism, the mindlessness and then there are the lies, all of which qualify the 45th President of the United States for all the vilification that could possibly rain down on him. And yet, Donald Trump will be president until 2025 unless Democrats and Progressives decide that rope-a-dope tactics will never defeat the monstrosity that is the Trump presidency.

The sad truth is that despite the appalling and inhumane Make America Great cruelty that is playing out at the nation’s border with Mexico, literally ripping children out of the arms of their mothers, if the presidential election was held tomorrow, Donald Trump wins. The truth is that despite the concerted and strategic efforts of his administration to despoil and befoul the environment of this country and the planet, Donald Trump is reelected president in the imaginary election of tomorrow.

The truth is that despite draconian cuts to social service programs, the frontal assault on a half-century of civil rights gains, denial of women’s rights, barely tacit support of racists and misogynists, Pyrrhic trade wars against allies and adversaries alike and the degradation of the American presidency tweet by venomous tweet – despite all of this, Donald Trump would be re-elected President of the United States tomorrow.

Donald Trump is not an enigma. He is a racist, sexist, xenophobic self-aggrandizing egotist, and he confirms this to the world every day. The mystery is what has happened to the Democratic Party and unaffiliated progressives. Having seen the damage that Donald Trump has wreaked on this country and its future in less than 18 months – did we mention the Supreme Court? – one would think that the men and women who fear for the future and despise the Trumpian present would have realized that the internecine warfare that took place between the Clinton and Sanders camps in 2016 is unsustainable given who is president.

Yet, as these words are written, there is no presumptive Democratic/progressive opponent to Donald Trump anywhere on the political horizon. Donald Trump may salivate at the notion of a Biden/Warren/Clinton (??)/Harris/Booker candidacy, but are any of the aforementioned doing what is needed to rescue American in 2020? Are Democrats waiting for Robert Mueller to rescue this country? Are they going to find out that Mueller is no more a friend than James Comey was?

And in the meantime, who is going to decide to get off the sidelines and take on this president who is only getting stronger every day as his Kool-Aid swilling supporters continue to believe in his invincibility despite the evidence that as a country we are careening towards domestic disarray and international maelstroms from which there may be no recovery. But Donald Trump cannot be defeated by Nobody, and right now Nobody is running against him.

There may be some Master Plan that is being crafted by the same Democratic geniuses that were certain that Hillary Clinton could not lose, but those who fear for this country should also fear those so-called geniuses who could not recognize disaster even when it looked them in the eye. And meantime children are held in cages, federal drug law enforcement and mass incarceration has been revived and this country is on the brink of trade wars and shooting wars around the world.

One need not be a political genius to know that right now Donald Trump has 40% of the general electorate locked up. It is clear that he is capable of cajoling, browbeating and deceiving another 11% of the electorate. Where is the Democrat/progressive who can claim even 25% if the election were held today?

That noted Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan wrote “….the answer is blowin’ in the wind”. It is not clear what that answer is, but right now the hopes and dreams of too many Americans are indeed blowin’ in the wind.

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Point of View Columns

Commencement Day at Dartmouth College – 6.14.70

Forty Eight years ago today I was honored by my Dartmouth brothers and selected to give a commencement speech. It is believed to be the first time that there had ever been a black speaker at a Dartmouth College commencement – here is the full text of that speech:

Mothers and Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, Mr. President, Faculty and Guests:

We are gathered here this morning to celebrate what is supposed to be a great day, a day of significance, and a day of meaning for all those involved. But what does this day mean for us, what does this day mean for us, the Black students who have survived the Dartmouth College experience?

This day means that we recognize ourselves as being the result of years of labor and sacrifice, the labor of fathers, the sacrifice of mothers, the encouragement and help from brothers and sisters, the support of friends. What we owe for this labor, this sacrifice, this encouragement, this help, this support, we can never pay back in material terms no matter how hard we try. For what we have been given can never be measured in terms of money, the god of fools. For what we have been given was given in the spirit of love and we must return in the same that love, otherwise we have not survived the Dartmouth experience, but rather we have been crushed by it.

If we are to make the years of labor and sacrifice meaningful, then we must dedicate ourselves to our people. We must dedicate ourselves to Black freedom and Black peace of mind, no matter what the obstacles, no matter what the barriers, no matter what the side alleys that lead to dead ends of frustration and negation. We must dedicate ourselves to putting an end to the sad humor of the contradiction of a Black man in a white man’s school trying to learn how to free himself.

We were made to be free, Black men and Black women were not meant to be anybody’s hand servants or slaves, we were meant to stand tall and proud under the sky of liberation without any clouds of oppression or injustice on the horizons of our minds. And if we are to be free once more, then we must not be surprised by whatever America tries to do to us. Three hundred years of oppression, three hundred years of blood, three hundred years of brutal and inhuman treatment should have taught us that much.

But, when we were first put in chains, our ancestors were surprised; when Reconstruction was found to be a sick white joke we were surprised; when Marcus Garvey was railroaded to prison, we were surprised; when Emmett Till and Mack Parker were murdered, we were surprised; when Malcolm X, the prince of blackness was murdered in cold blood we were surprised; when Martin Luther King, the prince of peace, was killed were still surprised; when Freed Hampton and Mark Clark were killed by the animals that masquerade as Chicago police, were we were still surprised; and even last month, when more of our brothers and sisters were shot down in August and Jackson, we were surprised.

Well, we can’t be surprised any longer. What goes around comes around, and it’s time for the other folks to be surprised.

We have been told to believe in America, to believe that there was something deep down inside America that was good. And what has happened?

Black brothers die daily in the Indochina madness that is just another example of the sickness of America spilling out all over the world, and still be try to believe; Nixon tells Black people that he doesn’t give a damn about us, that he would rather put a white man on the moon than put food into a Black (or white) child’s stomach, and still we try to believe; the Congressional Records of the United States detail the construction and planned use of concentration camps and still we are supposed to believe.

The time has now come for us to believe in ourselves. The time has come to make ourselves free. Our stars of freedom still shine and our saints of righteousness do live. You only have to look around.

The stars are in the eyes of little Black babies and children who were born destined only for freedom, the saints of righteousness are the mothers and fathers, the brother and sisters who have provided the strength for Blackness to survive in the face of the forces of evil.

The time is coming, the time has got to come, when freedom will be seen in our smiles, and our Blackness will mean freedom. We have to believe this, because this is the only reality left to us.

That is what we are about, that is what today means for us. To best sum up our feelings though, I would like to quote a poem written by Brother Herschel Johnson, of this class, as this poem speaks for the souls and spirits of all of us:

For you mothers with dirt-rough hands

For you with backs aching from bending

And flushing and scrubbing

For all you women on transit

You with brown bags under your arms

Bringing home the leavings of white folks

Bringing it to your children

For all you Black mothers and fathers

Who had to live with humility

And yet have had the pride to survive

For you Black mothers and fathers who raised up

Your men are now with you.

 

Thank you and may a beautiful Black peace always be with you.

 

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