Point of View Columns

The Two Faces of America

The United States was founded while suffering from moral schizophrenia. While words of freedom and liberty and human rights were being written into the Declaration of Independence in 1776 the systematic genocide campaign against the indigenous people of this continent (erroneously and carelessly labeled as Indians) continued at an horrific pace. And as the Constitution was written in 1787, the unspeakable peculiar institution of race-based slavery was literally written into that national founding document.

This bizarre compulsion on the part of Americans to deny and/or ignore this country’s history is clearly a part of the DNA of these United States. And this chasm that separates noble ideals from sad reality is on display in so many ways every single day.

A recent news report described a settlement between a Dutch railroad company (NS) and the families of Holocaust survivors which will result in payments to those families in recognition of the fact that NS transported Dutch Jews to concentration camps. While no amount of money could ever erase that singular evil, the attempt at justice is noteworthy.

What is also noteworthy is that this same news report stated that the Dutch company was pressured by U.S. lawmakers to arrive at a reparations settlement. Those would be lawmakers from the same United States that has yet to reconcile the genocidal near destruction of the lives, property and culture of the indigenous peoples of North America. And that would be the same United States that has yet to fully reconcile or recognize the virtually permanent damage that race-based slavery has caused along with its spawn of discrimination, bias and prejudice that lasts to this very day.

And the two-faced nature of America was seen again in Mississippi this week as we witnessed the election of a white woman named Cindy Hyde-Smith who proudly wears the hat of a confederate soldier and brags about being willing to accompany a supporter to a “public hanging”. And it should be understood that the confederate states fought to maintain the so-called peculiar institution of slavery and that the public hanging and assassination of black Americans has been a blood sport in Mississippi for almost two centuries.

Yet, this woman was elected by a large margin in Mississippi, the so-called Magnolia State. And yet, this woman will be sworn in and admitted to the United States and she will be counted as one of 24 women in the Senate – an historic high that will be celebrated even though Number 24 is a clear and present and unrepentant racist masquerading as a family values conservative. And while the presence of 24 women in the Senate could be the cause for celebration it is worthwhile to note that there have only been seven black American Senators in the entire 229 year history of that institution.

And yet business as usual will continue in these United States. And the accompaniment to that business as usual will be the continued moral schizophrenia that is so perfectly American that rarely is the dichotomy pointed out in polite company.

It is that dichotomy which results in a black security guard being gunned down by police as he tried to apprehend an offender while white perpetrators of mass shootings are “talked down” by the police. It is a sign of American schizophrenia that when with all deliberate slime Trump singles out several black female reporters by name for insult and disdain his actions merit a passing commentary in the news. But when Trump attacks Jim Acosta, a white man, CNN and every major news organization in America takes him to court. Did someone say “double standard”?

And it the two faces of America are there for all the world to see in this most recent instance of U.S. lawmakers pressuring a Dutch company to pay reparations to the families of Holocaust survivors (which is the least that NS should do as an accomplice to horror). All the while these same U.S. lawmakers will not even consider any kind of reparations for the families of survivors of the Holocaust suffered by the indigenous people of North America or for the black American families of the victims of slavery.

The dichotomy, the two faces, the schizophrenia of America needs to come to an end. And it begins with realizing the deep-seated and race-based hypocrisy that enables the daily injustice that arises from such hypocrisy.

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Point of View Columns

Always a Time for Thanksgiving

This is the time of the year when friends and family gather to give thanks for blessings seen and unseen. There are blessings of health and shelter and food that many enjoy and too many do not. But for those who are so blessed, giving thanks can and should be just the first step – a prelude before taking some kind of action to share those blessings.

There are those who enjoy the blessings of family, the blessings of love, the blessings of friendship and the blessings of companionship. And again, there are many for whom these blessings are unknown. Again, for those who are so blessed it is time to remember those blessings and to find ways to share them with those who are not so blessed.

And then, of course, there are the blessings that we don’t know about. The illness that never occurred, the accident that was avoided without our ever being aware of the danger – the avoidance of the loss of a job, home or other creature comforts because some unknown and unseen power shielded us from such calamities. And for those of us who have received the gift of such blessings, we can share them by comforting and caring those who have not been blessed in such a fashion.

In these days and times of strife and turmoil, when the border between fake and real is easily obscured and hard to find, it is best to take a moment of pause from the resilient resistance and the resistant resilience in order to remember the blessings that we enjoy and the blessings that we should share. For just as the sunshine that warms our very souls can be hidden by the sudden appearance of obscuring clouds, so can each and every blessing that we enjoy vanish for reasons that we will never completely comprehend.

This Thanksgiving celebration is important because despite the turmoil and turbulence that seems to accompany us all every step of every day, of all the blessings that we enjoy and can share, the blessing of hope is of the greatest value. Hope, along with its constant companion Faith, gives us the strength and the power to embrace the challenges of today so that we can make the promises of tomorrow come true.

And so….we can give thanks every day for friendship and companionship and love and family.

And personally, I give thanks for YOU, the readers of Point of View who are in every corner of this world – You inspire me and I appreciate you – Every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Point of View Columns

No Fun and No Popcorn at This Circus

From the time that Donald Trump oozed into the public consciousness of New Yorkers who were addicted to lite news, he has been the master of distraction. Even as his multiple business ventures lumbered and careened into failure (remember Trump Airlines? Trump University? Trump Casinos?) he proclaimed himself to be one of the wealthiest men in the world. And some of the world believed it and rest of the world didn’t care (except for his ex-wives and legions of debtors who have not and will never be paid). His ability to dangle bright shiny objects of controversy, publicity or just noise are reminiscent of the basic protocols for a three ring circus.

Even though Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has gone the way of the passenger pigeon, there are still enough circuses around for the analogy to have meaning in these days and times. The basic principle being that whether the circus has one, two or three rings, there are enough attractions and distractions so that the audience cannot really focus on the fact that the lady on the flying trapeze is barely flying through the air and the lions and elephants parading around are long past their prime and, in many instances, are seriously sedated. But with multiple distractions and attractions spinning, flying, marching and clowning around, the audience goes home entertained and satisfied.

And it clear that Trump has brought his well-worn and perfectly polished circus act to the White House. And that is how the nation focused upon the profound insult visited upon American and Allied soldiers who died in World War I by Trump while plans were in place to replace the despicable Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a wannabe hack nobody named Mark Whitaker.

And while we focused on the expected abrupt departure of Sessions and wondered ant the incredible lack of qualifications that can best describe Whitaker, in his last and final dastardly act as Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended the Obama era policy that called for the Justice Department to investigate police shootings of unarmed civilians. This was the policy that was the basis for supervision and consent decrees to control and eliminate racist police policies in Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri.

But while we were watching this particular high wire act we learned that the senior deputy to John Bolton (a Neanderthal Cold Warrior if there ever was one), the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, was fired by Donald Trump because his wife did not like the deputy. And because our senses are virtually overwhelmed by the spinning plates and dancing clowns and piano-playing monkeys in the Trump circus, we actually lose sight of the fact that the individuals who are supposed to be responsible for national security policy in a world that includes ISIS, North Korea and Russia are subject to the piques and tantrums of the wife of the President of the United States despite the fact that her knowledge of foreign affairs and foreign policy would not overflow a thimble similar in size to the thimble that contains Trump’s foreign policy expertise.

And while we are distracted by that bit of business Trump embarks on an historic attack on the American press and the First Amendment, banning a reporter from the White House because he does not like Jim Acosta, while seeming to single out black female reporters for extra insult and opprobrium. His assault on the Fourth Estate has been so dangerous and the seeming prelude to even more dictatorial actions, that Trump has managed to get CNN and Fox News to join forces in a lawsuit against him creating such an impossible union that Americans are searching the sky for pigs flying past a blue moon.

And while a Trump-appointed federal judge presides over what may be an historic test of the strength of the First Amendment and the Constitution (and with a Trump majority on the Supreme Court waiting in the wings), Trump is stomping one tweet closer to ending the Robert Mueller Russia investigation. That singular rash act would seem to bring about a constitutional crisis that would make the Nixon era seem like a dispute over parking tickets. And the brief and sordid history of the Trump presidency tells us that not only is Trump’s naked obstruction of justice possible – it is probable.

And what that same history also tells us is that another circus act is waiting in the wings – it might be military action in Venezuela, it might be a much needed reform of the criminal justice system, it might be the firing of his Chief of Staff John Kelly, or it could just be another Trump insultathon while attending the upcoming G-20 Summit. What we do know is that is that as long as Trump is president the circus will continue.

All that is missing is a calliope.

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Point of View Columns

The True Disaster That Is Trump

From the time that Donald Trump’s horror show of a presidential campaign began with a poetically appropriate descent down his own personal escalator to nowhere even though the political opponents, political observers and his battalions of true believing sycophants never believed that he would actually become President of the United States. This disbelief made it possible for many to ignore, excuse or laugh at the Buffoon Who Would Be King. And it can be seriously argued that it was this disbelief that established the foundation for his improbable victory and historically disastrous presidency.

Future historians will be awestruck at the fact that virtually the same population of Americans who elected Barack Obama twice would then elect Donald J. Trump. And historians will be dumbstruck at the amount of damage one man could do to institutions that were established and refined (albeit imperfectly) over the course of more than two hundred years. And yet, in November of 2018, with the second anniversary of his inauguration approaching, Donald Trump may not have a Soviet-style military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue but his thoughts, words, actions, enablers and true believers are responsible for the potential degradation and decline of the United States.

Lest such rhetoric seem a bit extreme, it will be important to consider facts that are irrefutable. While there has always been a natural and therefore healthy tension between the presidency and the press, there has simply never been a president that referred to the press and journalists as “enemies of the people”. This cartoonish, playground epithet might be dismissed as ignorant lunatic ranting except that the history of dictatorships over the past 100 years almost always featured the demonization of the press so that the only truth is the truth uttered by the fearless leader/savior/messiah.

Whether it involves insulting reporters (“stupid” is a curiously favorite word in Trump’s truly limited vocabulary), turning “fake news” into a serious discussion point or banning journalists from the White House press briefings, the 45th president goes lower every day in his attacks on the press. And once the dissenting press becomes the acknowledged enemy, we are only a few goose steps from the dissent of any citizen becoming a message from “the enemy of the people”. And history tells us quite clearly what happens next.

And even though Trump’s vocabulary is limited by his almost non-existent reading and even more microscopic attention span, his increased use of the term “nationalistic” is reminiscent of the same kind of danger we easily recognize when we see a child racing through a gas station with a flaming tiki torch in hand. Yet, while we recognize the tiki torch toting tot as a danger, we get tangled in rhetorical nuances when it is obvious that white nationalists hear the Trump dog whistle as loud and as clear as Klan klaxon horn.

This call to arms has left people dead in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and California in just the past two weeks and no matter how much Trump may deny it, there is blood on his hands. And as long as he continues spewing presidential hate speech disguised as ignorant ramblings of a megalomaniac, there will be more blood.

And as bad and as dangerous as Trump’s domestic destruction is –and it is bad and dangerous – his behavior on the international stage may prove to be even more terrible. Using a word like “nationalism” in regions of the world, where millions of people died as a consequence of such rhetoric, is more than stupid. Trump has not only inspired mini-Trump-wannabees in Italy, Poland, France, Egypt, and Turkey and in other countries where the road to fascistic perdition was only paved over in recent memory. The consequences of Trumpspeak are too horrific to contemplate, but a smoldering globe needs only a few more flamethrowers before conflagrations become common place.

And lest an apocalyptic vision seem too extreme, consider the irreversible damage to the environment that have been occasioned by the Trump administration. The removal of “job-killing” regulations have given rise to “people-killing” environmental danger zones across this country. The damage that can take place over the few years of a Trump presidency can result in near-permanent damage for decades, no matter who becomes president. But when the President of the United States ignores science and refutes facts with hoots and catcalls, there are too many Americans believe that he is actually making sense.

This country has never seen a president with such obviously malign intentions. His racism is there for all the world to see. His misogyny is part of his DNA. His ignorance fuels his disdain for intelligence and logic. And his cavalier attitude towards potential disasters – nuclear, climate, environmental, infrastructure, economic – should give pause even to the most ardent of his Republican enablers, because Republicans have children and grandchildren too and because Republicans cannot possibly wish to bequeath a dystopian future to those children and grandchildren.

It should be clear by now that the nightmare that is Trump is not a dream – he is a reality, as are his supporters. But everyone has the ability to determine what tomorrow can be and Trump does not have the power to control that future unless that power is granted to him by those who sit by idly, hoping that he will change or hoping that he really cannot be as bad as he seems to be.

Last words – Trump really is that bad.

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Point of View Columns

Rebirth of a Nation

It is rare that we recognize history being made as it happens. Times of great stress and tragedy – Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and 9/11 were all moments that were etched in history in real time. And then there are days like November 6, 2018. While there is the very real hope that some cataclysmic event will not occur, it is also quite clear that there is a very real opportunity for the citizens of this country to begin to divert the United States from what has seemed to be an inexorable slide into permanent division and hopeless conflict inflamed by racism, hate and lies.

When Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, there was a feeling that seeped into the national consciousness that the circus act that resulted in his improbable election was not going to end. And it became clear that the word “circus” was not going to be the benign cavalcade of clown shows, trapeze artists and somnolent lions. The Trump “circus” has turned out to be an affair of which Caligula would have been proud with damage and destruction and mindless outrage being the main events. The Trump Circus has provided very little bread for any but the very rich, but the circus act has entertained and inflamed his base to the point where a Trump-led victory in the midterm elections would certainly send this nation careening into something that would look very much like chaos.

And that is where the opportunity for historic action comes in. There is no way that Donald Trump will not be president on November 7th. But if enough Americans vote, and are allowed to vote, and are able to overcome vile Republican efforts at voter suppression – then Donald Trump will not be able to use the United States Congress as his personal sock puppet. If enough Americans see November 6th as an opportunity to bring some sanity and clarity and minimal decency into the political and governmental processes in Washington, then he will be rudely disabused of his very clear belief that his real title is “king”, and that as “president” he will have to contend with constitutional checks and balances that will occasion the rebirth of this nation.

It is not an exaggeration to state that the current condition of this country, anesthetized by lies, terrorized by presidentially-inspired hate without even a fig leaf of an attempt to be decent could have lasting effects long after Donald Trump is lost on the trash heap of history as a failed president and the miserable human being that he has always been and will always be. However, the rebirth of the nation begins with voting – not necessarily for the perfect candidate, but certainly for the possibility of rebirth and renewal.

This country has always been a nation of second chances. Voters will determine if this is also a country capable of rebirth.

 

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