Point of View Columns

When a Sham Becomes a Shame

The only thing surprising about the Trump presidency is how consistently awful he is and how there seem to be no redeeming factors with which he can be associated. At times the only redemptive feature of President Trump is that, no matter what, he cannot be president after January of 2025. And that is a poverty stricken gossamer thread of hope for anyone who cares about this country and its people.

One would think that insulting the entire NATO alliance, tossing candy at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, endorsing British Prime Minister Theresa May’s political nemesis and walking in front of Queen Elizabeth would have been enough chaos for Hurricane Donald. But there was more, much more. Virtually fawning over his bromantic partner Vladimir Putin, Trump actually denigrated the American justice and intelligence communities while stating that America was at fault for the differences between Russia and the United States, managing to also turn the evidence-laden proof of Russian meddling in the 2016 election into just more “fake news”.

It will be up to historians in the future to fully comprehend the amount of damage that this man has caused in just 18 months of being president. Trade wars around the world, engaging in a futile pas de deux with North Korea, inhuman treatment of immigrants at the American border with Mexico and the demonization of the American news media (or were the recent shootings in the Annapolis newsroom too long ago for anyone to remember) – these are actions which have current repercussions. But it is the turmoil that is still incubating which is even more worrisome.

While Americans wake up every morning literally wondering what outrageous statement will spew from the White House, so much more is going on right below the surface. It is hard to keep pace with the termite-like attacks that the Trump Administration is pursuing, attacks that are just below the surface and will not become apparent until the edifice starts to splinter, crack and crash.

As you are reading this, the Trump Department of Education and the Trump Department of Justice are looking to virtually outlaw affirmative action in higher education. If his minions are successful, and with the likely installment of Brett Kavanaugh insuring an iron conservative majority on the Supreme Court for the next 10-15 years they almost certainly will succeed, diversity will no longer be a reality on many college campuses – it will only be a word found in a dictionary in a library, if anyone can find a library.

Meanwhile departure of Scott Pruitt as Executive Director of the EPA was a cause for only momentary celebration for those of us who think that clear air and clean water are like………important. That is because his replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is a coal industry executive and destroying the environment is a key element of his professional resume.

The Trump/Sessions Department of Justice tries to make people think that reopening the Emmett Till case is an example of the shell game also known as benevolent ivory justice. One can only assume that we should forget Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and all of the other black men and women who have been “lawfully” lynched by the system that has reneged on a promise of “justice for all”.

The point of course, is that while we continue to be focused on the Trump Clown Show, Trump and his minions are engaged in the serious and serial and systematic dismantling of so much of the infrastructure of hope and promise (as imperfect as it has been) that has made many of us believe that this country worth saving. And every day that Donald Trump is president is another day that hope and promise fade just a little bit more.

And that may be The True Tragedy That is Trump.

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Point of View Columns

Penance for Our Sins

It is said that pride goes before the fall. And so, as the 4th of July holiday appears on the calendar this is a good time to remember that the concept of penance is as ancient as civilization itself. Upon the commission of a serious transgression, the sinner is granted forgiveness upon the condition of performing some act of contrition – or penance – and only then is the sin truly forgiven. And now, here in the second decade of the 21st century, those of us who possess progressive beliefs are now forced to realize that we have committed a great transgression – we believed that the rights and privileges that we enjoyed were permanent and therefore we did not take the necessary steps to safeguard them. The penance is that now many of these rights and privileges are in grave danger of being taken away – for now or possibly for a lifetime.

The loss and denial of rights does not represent alarmist or fantastic thought. Throughout modern history there are too many instances of entire groups of people who enjoyed rights and privileges associated with citizenship and acceptance losing it all within an historical blink of the eye. Just ask the Armenians in Turkey at the turn of the last century, or the Jews in post-World War I Germany, or the Japanese Americans in 1942 after Pearl Harbor. Or you can ask the Tutsis in Rwanda when the Hutus came for them.

And now, we can ask each other, what is happening in America?

People formerly marginalized to the extreme – black Americans, Latinos, women and girls, members of the LBGTQ community, Asians have seen some of the barriers to full citizenship – visible and invisible – begin the fade away during the past 50 years. And as progress, however incomplete, has shed light into the many dark corners of America it has become easy for everyone, even those with the best of memories and the deepest knowledge of history, to remember to and understand the sustained struggles and ongoing battles that resulted in so many changes. Changes that so many of us have taken for granted.

And while the fruits of the labors of so many forgotten men and women were being enjoyed, the forces of racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia never went away. Having been vanquished on the field of public opinion they sought other ways to impose their will on those who were emerging from the shadows of American Marginalism. Those other ways included changing the electoral landscape of this country through gerrymandering and voter suppression so that as you are reading this a knee-jerk conservative Supreme Court justice is about to be nominated to a lifetime term by a President who was not elected by the popular vote and will be confirmed by a majority of the United States Senate who do not represent a majority of the American people. And we will have to live with the reality of this new right wing of the right wing Supreme Court for perhaps as long as a generation.

And as aspects of American socio-political life like affirmative action and gender equality and proscriptions against discrimination based on race or gender or sexual preference are stripped away, it will be helpful to realize what has happened. Because what has happened is that too many beneficiaries of progressive change have taken that change for granted, not realizing (or forgetting) that the foundations of this country – racism, slavery, sexism, genocide – continue to define too much of what this country is about.

The penance for the transgressions of forgetfulness and complacency is having to endure the very real reversal of what so many men and women fought and died for in this country. The penance for these transgressions will entail realizing that battles for equality and equity in this country never end. Those who believe in progress and progressive thought will have to return to strategies of resistance, organization, protest and rebellion against the regressive forces who would keep us from the light once more.

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