Point of View Columns

When Age is More Than Just a Number

Perhaps it was the fact that the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1960) made up such a huge portion of the American population that the United States conveyed the energy and optimism of youth to the rest of the world. As the Baby Boomers went from adolescence to young adulthood and then to maturity, that energy and optimism continued to characterize America.

With the elections of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both in their forties, America still seemed to embrace some of that youthful energy and optimism. And then….and then the Baby Boomers started getting older and older, and at least in government and politics, the Baby Boomers haven’t figured out how to make a graceful exit and pass the baton of leadership to younger women and men who have literally waited their turn, sometimes for decades.

Of course, this must be seen within the context of President Biden announcing that he will be running for re-election in 2024. Joe Biden is 80 years old. Were he to win in 2024 he would be 82 years of age two weeks after the election. And looking forward he would be 86 years old at the end of his second term.

There are two very important perspectives to keep in mind. Assuming that he continues to defy the actuarial prognoses for octogenarians and stays in somewhat good health, it is hard to have full confidence that President Biden will be able to sustain the high energy levels needed in a 24-7-365 job for four years.

Nevertheless, as you are reading this, it is a very good bet that barring some health intervention, President Biden will be the 2024 presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. It is also a very good bet that should he be victorious in November 2024, every misstep, every halting step and every sign – no matter how faint – that Father Time is about to make it clear that immortality is left only to saints, gods and goddesses will be “breaking news” for four years.

It is important to keep in mind that Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president in 2024, will be 77 years of age on Election Day. And should he be president he would be 81 years in the final year of his presidency.

The question that should be asked by any American with an interest in the present and future of this country is how did the leadership of this nation become the province of septuagenarians and octogenarians? How did a man born during World War II and another man who was born one year after World War II become the best prospects for the presidency?

Further, how is it possible that all of the women and men between 40 and 65 with political ambition fade into the scenery? And, whatever happened to the image of energy and optimism that this country was supposed to be presenting to the rest of the world.

With all due respect to the senior citizens of America, it is hard to believe that men in their 70’s and 80’s represent the best leadership opportunities for this country. And, it should be noted that it is not only the presidency where this dissonant reality becomes apparent.

In the United States Senate there are 54 senators over the age of 65. In the United States. And it turns out that 21 of them are between the age of 70 and 80. And, parenthetically, California Senator Dianne Feinstein is 89.

In corporate America it is rare for the CEO of a Fortune 500 country to stay in office past the age of 65. The main reason for this age limit is not due to the fact that the female and male CEO’s suddenly become ineffective at 65. The reason is that the mandatory retirement age keeps a flow of younger executives coming into executive positions, bringing with them new energy, new ideas and new perspectives.

The reality of the United States government being in the hands of a gerontocracy with no real interest in grooming and guiding new leaders is a problem that is not going to get any better as long as seniority is the only coin of the realm in the Senate and the House of Representatives. And while this country continues along this hoary path of gerontocracy, the leadership of many countries is going in the opposite direction. Consider the age of these heads of state:

  • Russia – Putin – (a virtual youngster by American standards) – 70
  • United Kingdom – Sunak – 42
  • France – Macron – 45
  • China – Xi -69

The numbers don’t lie. The leadership of the world is trending younger at exactly the time that Americans are embracing the dominance of gerontocracy. And, as is the case in corporate America, it is important to continue a flow of younger women and men into senior public service instead of waiting their turn until the gerontocracy ages out or dies off.

There is probably not much that can be done about the prospects of a Biden-Trump faceoff next year.

But is definitely not too late to begin to demand a place for younger Americans in leadership.

After all, given the current state of affairs in America it isn’t as if aging Baby Boomers have done a great job of it.

Point of View Columns

Trying Times When Tomorrow Seems the Only Hope

On many days the news seems written by denizens of an insane asylum who never seem to run out of material and by not surprising, never fail to surprise. Looking back over the past few days proves the point. Consider the following….

Kansas City Blues

The good citizens of Kansas City, Missouri love their Kansas City Chiefs football team, even while knowingly and openly denigrating the culture of the indigenous people who lived their long before Europeans knew of this land. And, certainly the KC. fans, in loving their team, are keenly aware of the fact that more than half the players are Black.

So, one of the good white citizens of Kansas City while loving their team that stars multiple Black players, when he saw a young (16-year-old) Black man ring his doorbell, he shot him twice, once in the head. In doing so, the shooter never bothered to ask/find out that Ralph Yarl, looking to pick up his younger siblings, had come to the wrong address.

To make matters even worse, young Mr. Yarl had to stumble to not one, not two but three houses before anyone called for help.

The takeaway:

  1. Incredibly it appears that Ralph Yarl will recover from his physical injuries. How long he will suffer from PTSD is anybody’s guess.
  2. While anything is possible, it is hard to believe that a 16-year-old young white man would be shot by a Black homeowner just for ringing his doorbell.
  3. Finally, those neighbors who closed their doors and hearts to young Mr. Yarl, it’s a good bet that they still love their Kansas City Chiefs.

Pride Always Goes Before the Fall

There are several reports that, sometime in the second year of his second term, President Barack Obama had a private luncheon with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and gently inquired as to her considering resigning in the best interest of the causes for which she had dedicated her life. While a delicate matter, it was an important matter, as later events would reveal.

At the time of that fateful luncheon, Justice Ginsburg was in her 80’s had survived multiple cancer illnesses, and was a walking medical miracle. Further, at that point in time President Obama would have welcomed her suggestion of a successor to keep her legacy alive, both them knowing the existential importance of a liberal majority on the Court.

Justice Ginsburg deferred, presumable wanting to wait for President Hillary Clinton to replace her in a few years. And we all know how that worked out.

Justice Antonin Scalia died and Senator Mitch McConnell refused to allow President Obama to name a replacement even though the seat on the Court remained vacant for well over a year – virtually unprecedented in American history.

There never was a President Hillary Clinton. And President Donald Trump kept one of the few promises that he has ever kept in his entire life of duplicity and diversion by appointing anti-abortion judges all throughout the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

Justice Ginsburg lived long enough to see a Trump designed conservative, anti-abortion majority and she hoped to survive until Joe Biden became president so that he could name her successor.

Justice Ginsburg almost made it.

But Justice Ginsburg didn’t, and now hundreds of millions of American women will spend decades trying to avoid the tyranny of the Court that Trump Built had her legacy is being dismantled decision by decision.

Her pride went before the fall of her legacy.

Which leads to the situation involving Senator Dianne Feinstein, now 89, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her health, clearly failing, has kept her from sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee for months.

And during these several months, President Biden’s federal judiciary nominees are piling up because Senator Feinstein is not present to vote. And while she has indicated that she would go along with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to name a temporary replacement, it’s a pretty good bet that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will block that move – remember Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland?

The only viable solution is for Senator Feinstein to retire/resign, and while California Gavin Newsome appoints a temporary replacement (California Senatorial election is in November), Senator Schumer can appoint a replacement to the Judiciary Committee.

It should be clear to anyone paying attention how important the federal judiciary has become as it has been weaponized by the right wing, and especially during the Trump administration during which hundreds of incredibly conservative judges will be making decisions about the lives of Americans for decades (remember that federal judges serve for life, and the majority of the judges appointed by Trump are in their thirties and early to mid-forties).

Senator Feinstein knows this better than anyone. Her legacy is beyond approach and deserving of praise. Yet she is dooming herself (and this nation) to the fate that she will share with Justice Ginsburg.

Given an opportunity to literally save this country, she is letting her pride go before we all fall with her.

And that is sad and outrageous.

Someone has to say it.

The United States vs. Haiti – The Battle that Never Ends

CNN broadcast a recent documentary program showing the horrors and terrors endured by refugees coming from South America up through Central America with the hope of gaining refuge, asylum and a home in the United States. One interesting note is that many of the men, women and children are not from South America. Many of the men, women and children are from…Haiti.

One might ask what would motivate these Haitians to leave a Caribbean island to sail to South America and trek through jungles, mountain passes, rivers and of course, gangsters – going thousands of miles on foot? After all, how bad are conditions in Haiti? And why don’t the Haitians do something about their country rather than coming to the United States and become the burden of the American people.

The answer lies in history of Haiti and the history of the United States as the two countries have been intertwined for over two centuries and continues to this very day.

In 1804, the nation of Haiti gained its independence from France, becoming the second independent nation in this hemisphere. Haiti was also the first country to be established as the result of a successful revolt waged by Black people. This bit of news came as a great shock to the American enslavers including then President Thomas Jefferson.

There was a very real fear that a successful Black revolt was contagious and that this freedom virus would spread to the millions of enslaved Black men, women and children in the United States – men, women and children upon whom the wealth of this nation was based at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The response was to do anything and everything to destabilize Haiti, and that has been the general policy of the United States, even to the extent of occupying that country during the early part of the twentieth century. And, working in collaboration with France which is still holding the multibillion debt over Haiti and reparations for France’s loss of its enslaved assets.

And while there is no doubt that there has been more than a share of dysfunction for which the wealthier (and often lighter) Haitians have responsibility, the United States cannot deny its responsibility for the current state of affairs in that country.

And for the response of the United States to entail working more closely with Mexico to close the border the Haitians is simply cruel. And ironic.

Ironic because during this past week President Biden was in Ireland where he extolled the long and rich relationship between the United States and Ireland.

Perhaps he could have remembered that the long and rich relationship truly began with millions of poor, starving and unskilled Irish men, women and children fleeing the oppression and famine imposed on them by England. And that the children of those poor, starving and unskilled Irish men, women and children became presidents, generals, corporate executives and university presidents.

Would that this same hand of hope and hospitality could be offered to Haitian men, women and children who are reaching out to America just now.

American amnesia is certainly not color blind.

Point of View Columns

The American Stampede Towards Dystopia

“Dys-to-pi-a” …an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.

Please take a moment to re-read the definition of dystopia and think about the extent to which it applies, or will apply. to these United States in the not too distant future, if not now. And now for a few exhibits for your consideration:

Exhibit A – Travesty in Nashville

Last week the Tennessee State General Assembly revealed to the nation what the residents of Tennessee have known for a long time. Two young (under thirty) Black men, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, were expelled for going on the floor of the Assembly with a bullhorn which was deemed to be such a breach of decorum that censure was not punishment enough.

Interestingly, Representative Jones, Representative Pearson and Representative Gloria Johnson were not protesting one of any number of racial disparities in Tennessee, instead they were protesting the lack of any action regarding gun control by the legislature in the aftermath of yet another gun massacre – this time at a predominantly white religious school in Nashville. Just as interesting is the fact that Representative Johnson, a white woman, was not expelled.

The clearly racist and radical action by the Tennessee General Assembly has been condemned throughout the nation and there is a very good chance that Representative Pearson will soon be reinstated (Representative Jones was reinstated by the Metropolitan Council of Nashville as this was being written).

But what remains to be addressed is how it is that in the third decade of the twenty first century this kind of blatant racist official action can be taken by a unit of government in these United States without any recourse.

Indeed, it may be time for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice to look into the extent to which the Tennessee Legislature is doing a very poor imitation of South African legislative behavior in the 1980’s.

Exhibit B – The Louisville Gun Show

Earlier this day a disgruntled soon to be ex-employee of a local bank in Louisville walked into that bank with an AR-15 style rifle. Within minutes four people were killed, nine others were hospitalized and the shooter himself was dead.

We may never know what prompts people to engage in such suicidal carnage. But we do know that the prevalence and ease of access to high powered weapons of war makes for a clear path in completing the circle of madness. And yet, even as the families of the dead and wounded mourned and prayed and wept, it was already clear that there would be no gun control legislation in Kentucky, Tennessee or in Washington.

As long as legislators remain addicted to dollars of the gun lobby there will be no changes. Instead, we will hear more proposals that the answer to the carnage is more guns.

Presumably, if everyone in that Louisville bank had a gun, only the shooter would have died – or he would have never tried to attack knowing that everyone had a gun. And if you believe that, you are also one of the people who watched the nighttime sky on Christmas Eve waiting for a jolly fat man to fly by on his reindeer powered sleigh.

Texas Jail Break

In 2020 one Daniel Perry drove his car into a Black Lives Matter parade, driving against the direction in which the protestors were marching. When confronted by one of the protestors, Perry picked up his .357 pistol and shot one Garrett Foster five times.

Perry claimed self-defense even though Foster never fired his weapon.

Last week a jury found Perry guilty of murder. And then it was time for Texas Governor Greg Abbott to remind the nation of what an odious character he really is. Abbott immediately announced that he would approve a pardon for Perry if a request was sent to him from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Abbott is relying on the Texas “stand your ground” law which does not require a person to retreat from a threat. However, in such a case, there cannot have been provocation on the part of the shooter. And one would think that driving a car into the middle of a protest parade constitutes some kind of provocation – obviously the prosecutor and the jury think so.

But the likes of Tucker Carlson have tried to turn Daniel Perry in a martyr, victimized by the Woke Movement. And so, we have the governor of Texas indicating that he will pardon Perry even before he has been sentenced.

And that is what is known as Texas Jailbreak.

Point of View Columns

Apocalypse on the Horizon

By now the whole world knows what the people of New York City have known for decades – Donald Trump is the embodiment of a dystopian nightmare. In New York City he is known to be a liar, a cheat and perhaps the most blatantly insincere human being walking the face of Earth.

And New Yorkers are wondering how in the name of Bedlam and Bellevue could this living incarnation of megalomania manage to get 74,222,958 American adults to vote for him to be President of the United States…again? And yet we are faced with the man who brought you Trump University and Trump Steaks being the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.

And by virtue of some satanic legerdemain Trump has gotten himself embroiled in a briar patch of litigation all of which have the possibility of him receiving a prison sentence(s) and fines that would take some of the sheen off of his fake persona of being a wildly successful businessman (who has managed to turn debt and bankruptcy into an art form). Meanwhile, simultaneously, he has managed to turn his travails into the Via Dolorosa of MAGA Nation, and his followers are more ardent than ever in following their Fake Messiah.

Just the mention of his various legal troubles has his followers loading up their AR-15’s and SUV’s to go somewhere to do something against the Deep State that is, according to Trump, the source of all of their troubles. And, as we saw on 1.6.21, it is clear that a few words from Trump, uttered at the right time, become an incantation that brings about literal death and destruction.

And now, on April 4, 2023, the hold that Trump has on MAGA Nation will be on full display for the United States and the world to see. The sight of the now indicted and accused leader of MAGA Nation as a defendant in New York State Supreme Court will be too much for many to bear. They may not make it to 100 Centre Street in Manhattan, but they will let their fear and anger be known – hopefully through peaceful protest, although it would appear that a significant cohort of MAGA Nation could not spell peaceful if you spotted them a “p” and an “f”.

Donald Trump reminds us of what happen when a child learns how to light matches but is absolutely ignorant as to the damage that can occur with the resultant fire. Similarly, Trump throws around words like “Death and Destruction” not realizing that way too many of his 74 million certified followers take those words seriously. And too many members of MAGA Nation own most of the over 400 million guns in this country, including millions of AR-15 weapons.

So, when Trump talks about “Death and Destruction” and “Soon You’re Not Going to Have a Country”, there are millions of well-armed believers who will follow him straight to Hell, as he seems to be asking them to do.

It remains to be seen whether two years from now 4.4.23 will be remembered as the 55th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King or will it be remembered for something even worse – the continuation of a dystopian outcome for these United States.

And if it is the latter, the blood of America will be on the tiny hands of one Donald J. Trump.